Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fresh Vegetable Pasta, Risotto Style

I've been on a bit of a pasta kick lately. I know it's summer vacation, and I should have time to cook myself elaborate dinners each night. But I just can't bring myself to turn my oven on. Our kitchen has only one window, and if our bedroom doors are closed, the hot air just hangs there and quickly heats the kitchen.

So, I've been making pasta. Big batches of pasta that I can eat for lunch and dinner for a few days. Pasta I can reheat if I have an easy-to-please guest over for a meal. Pasta that is even good cold if you don't want to unplug the one fan in the kitchen so you can plug in the microwave.

This pasta is a definite winner. It's the most fascinating cross between pasta and risotto, and it's prepared in a risotto style. The pasta is toasted in oil, wine is added and cooked until it is absorbed, and then enriched vegetable broth is added. The pasta is stirred and stirred and stirred until all the broth is absorbed. The remaining pasta is rich and creamy, without the addition of any cream, and only a bit of parmesan cheese is mixed in at the end.

The finished pasta is just loaded with lightly cooked vegetables. Leeks, asparagus and baby peas are lightly sauteed together and finished with a pinch of red pepper flakes for that perfect suggestion of heat.

And the campanelle pasta! Cook's Illustrated described it as "ruffled, bell-shaped," and I'd call it just adorable. It holds on to the sauce well, and the pieces remain separate so you can enjoy them one by one.

Although the process is much more time consuming than your typical pasta dish, it's certainly worth the extra time, and you'll be left with a rich, flavorful and unique dish.

Fresh Vegetable Pasta
recipe slightly adapted from Cook's Illustrated Magazine, May and June 2011

The vegetables used here are really spring vegetables, and I debated back and forth whether now was the time to really make this dish. I'm sure it could be re-imagined as a summer or fall pasta dish. I could imagine some slow-roasted cherry tomatoes during summer or some roasted root vegetables later in the year.

Something delightful about this dish is that almost every part of the ingredients are utilized. You don't just discard the vegetable trimmings; you use them to make a richer, more delightful broth!

3 medium leeks, white and light green parts halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick pieces (about 5 cups); 3 cups roughly chopped dark green parts reserved
1 pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off, chopped coarsely, and reserved; spears cut on bias into 1/2-inch-thick-pieces
2 cups frozen baby peas, thawed
4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
2 tablespoons scallions, minced
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest plus 2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Table salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound campanelle
1 cup dry white wine (I used a sweeter white wine, and I though the final pasta was delightful)
1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), plus extra for serving
Ground black pepper

Prepare the vegetable broth: Combine dark green leek trimmings, asparagus trimmings, 1 cup peas, 2 teaspoons garlic, vegetable broth, and water in a large saucepan. Bring it to a simmer over high heat, then lower heat to medium-low and gently simmer for 10 minutes. While broth simmers, combine lemon zest in a small bowl and set aside.

Strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer into 8-cup measuring cup, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible (you should have 5 cups broth; add water as needed to measure 5 cups). Discard solids and return broth to saucepan. Cover and keep warm over low heat.

Prepare vegetables: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven or large pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add sliced leeks and pinch salt; cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until leeks begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add asparagus pieces and cook until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Add remaining 2 teaspoons garlic and pepper flakes; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add remaining cup peas and continue to cook for 1 minute. Transfer vegetables to plate and set aside. Wipe out the pot with paper towels.

Cook pasta, risotto style: Heat remaining 4 tablespoons oil in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add pasta and cook, stirring frequently, until just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 2 minutes.

When wine is fully absorbed, add all the hot broth. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Assemble and enjoy: Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice, Parmesan, half of the herb mixture (lemon zest and scallions, prepared earlier), and vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, passing Parmesan cheese and remaining herb mixture separately.


  1. I want to try making the pasta as you did. It sounds intriguing and look oh so delicious.

  2. I agree...I make a big batch of pasta and then turn it into any number of things during the week. I love all the different shapes, this one you have chosen is a favorite of mine for pasta salads, it's just so pretty! I wish they made teeny tiny ones of this shape. Have never done a risotto type recipe with it before, should try that as it looks wonderful. Happy happy summer days!!

  3. I have also been on a pasta kick lately for the same reason. My family is getting pasta fixed every which way. This one looks delicious, Katie.