Serves 6 to 8
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.
- 6 quarts water for boiling plus a bowl of ice water
- Vegetables, 3 cups in total of any of the following: Zucchini, sliced crosswise in 1/2-inch pieces, mall broccoli florets on short stems, about 1-inch wide (slice if necessary), Green beans, trimmed and sliced on the bias in 3/4-inch lengths, frozen sweet peas, Asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces,
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup onion, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano or other Italian plum tomatoes, with their juices, crushed by hand or 1 1/2 cups of ripe cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 basil leaves, shredded
- 1/2 cup Grana Padano cheese, grated
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.
In the meantime, prepare a bowl with ice water. When the pasta water is boiling, dump the 3 cups of vegetables in the boiling water. Bring the water back to a boil, and cook uncovered for 2 minutes. Scoop out the pieces with a spider or strainer, drain briefly, and drop into the ice water. When thoroughly chilled, drain them in a colander.
In the meantime, begin making the sauce. In a wide skillet with the olive oil, scatter the onion slices and crushed garlic cloves. Cook for 2 minutes over medium heat until the onions are wilted.
Pour the crushed tomatoes and juices into the skillet. Slosh the tomato can with 1 cup of water and add to the skillet (or add the cherry tomatoes). Bring all to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes.
Drop the pasta into the boiling water while the sauce cooks.
Add the blanched vegetables to the skillet and stir them into the sauce, adding 1 cup of pasta water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring all to a simmer and cook for about 3 minutes or more, until the blanched vegetables are cooked thoroughly but still al dente. If too dry, add a little more pasta water.
Drain the pasta when cooked and add to the skillet with sauce. Toss in the shredded basil and toss all well. Drizzle the mixture with extra-virgin olive oil and let the pasta and sauce cook together for a few minutes.
When the pasta is well coated with sauce, remove from the heat. Toss in the grated cheese and serve.
Help choose their favorite vegetables; wash the vegetables; shred the basil; clean the garlic and onion; and add a little bit of freshly grated cheese before it goes to the table.