Serves 5 cups
You don’t have to wait for primavera–springtime–to make this quick skillet sauce. You probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry and refrigerator all year: canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, a few perennially fresh vegetables like broccoli, mushrooms, and zucchini, and sweet peas from the freezer. This recipe lists the vegetables I prefer, but don’t be afraid to use others, if that’s what you have on hand.
- Vegatable for Blanching
- 3 cups or so TOTAL of the following in any colorful combination
- Zucchini, sliced crosswise in 1/2-inch pieces
- Small broccoli florets on short stems, about 1-inch wide (slice if necessary)
- Asparagus stalks, trimmed and sliced on the bias in 3/4-inch pieces
- Green beans, trimmed and sliced on the bias in 3/4-inch lengths
- 1 cup frozen peas
- Or equivalent amounts of cut-up cauliflower, peppers, leeks
- Vegetables For The Skillet
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion , cut in 1/4-inch-thick half-moon slices (about 1/2 cup)
- 4 fat garlic cloves, sliced (about 1/4 cup)
- 1/4 teaspoon dried peperoncino (hot red pepper flakes)
- 2 cups fresh mushrooms, stems trimmed and sliced 1/4-inch thick, or a mixture of cremini, common mushrooms, and shiitake (caps only)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups (half of 35-ounce can) canned San Marzano or other Italian plum tomatoes, with juices, crushed by hand into small chunks
- Boiling salted pasta-cooking water
- For Dressing Pasta
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano
Blanching the Vegetables
Fill the pasta pot with salted water (1 tablespoon kosher salt to 6 quarts of water) and bring to a boil. Fill the large bowl with ice water.
When the pasta water is boiling vigorously, dump in the cut vegetables and peas, bring the water back to the boil, and cook uncovered for 2 minutes. Scoop out the pieces with a spider or strainer, drain briefly, and drop into the ice water to shock them. When they’re thoroughly chilled, let them drain and dry in a colander.
Making the Skillet Sauce
Pour the olive oil into the skillet, scatter the onion slices in the oil and set over medium-high heat. Cook for 1 minute, tossing to coat the onions with oil.
Strew the garlic slices and peperoncino in clear hot spots of oil and cook them until they’re sizzling, another minute or so, then stir in the with onions. Don’t let them darken; lower the heat if they start to color.
Scatter the mushroom slices in a clear part of the skillet, sprinkle on the 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook and stir them separately for 1 minute or so until sizzling, then stir them in with the onions.
Pour all the crushed tomatoes and juices into the skillet and stir in with the sautéed vegetables. Slosh 1 cup of hot pasta water around the tomato container, then stir that into the skillet. Heat the sauce so that it’s actively bubbling all over and cook at a gentle boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pasta water if the sauce is thickening or sticking.
Drop all the cut, blanched vegetable pieces into the skillet and stir them into the sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 2-3 minutes or more, until the blanched vegetables are cooked thoroughly but still al dente. If the pasta is not ready, turn off the heat so the vegetables don’t get soft. Just before adding the pasta, stir in some hot pasta water to loosen the sauce if it has thickened, and return it to a simmer.
To dress any pasta with Tomato Primavera, toss and cook them together. Remove the skillet from the heat and toss in the 2 tablespoons olive oil and the cheese just before serving.