By Diane Rossen Worthington
This Seriously Simple vegetarian pasta dish celebrates the warm days of the season with common ingredients that should be relatively easy to procure or already in your pantry.
Picture a plate of pasta with an array of colors: green asparagus and peas, yellow sweet peppers and red tomato sauce sprinkled with straw-colored freshly grated Parmesan cheese. This is a dish that can deliver some much-needed cheer. Don’t worry if you can’t find some of the ingredients. Just use what is available.
Springtime signals the peak season for asparagus. I love to use it in dishes that show off its unique flavor. The neutrality of pasta provides a perfect backdrop that allows the delicate, slightly grassy flavored asparagus and sweet baby peas to shine through. In this recipe, bottled tomato sauce is accented by the Mexican chipotle chile pepper, which gives the pasta an Italian Mexican fusion style.
This chipotle tomato sauce adds an unexpected touch of smoky heat thanks to half of a chipotle chile. If you prefer a spicier sauce, go ahead and use a whole chile. Use canned chipotles packed in adobo sauce for the best flavor. You can also use a bit of the adobo sauce to add even more heat, but be careful; these chilies can be very hot. If you don’t have access to chipotle or chipotle hot sauce, add a touch of crushed red pepper.
Seared scallops or sliced grilled chicken breasts make this dish a substantial main course. For a pretty presentation serve this in wide, shallow soup bowls. Serve a simple green salad to begin and accompany with a spicy Zinfandel.
Pasta with Spring Vegetables and Tomato Sauce
Serves 4 to 6
- 1 pound pencil-thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
- 1 pound dried spaghetti, linguine or angel hair pasta
- 3 cups favorite store-bought tomato sauce
- 1/2 canned chipotle in adobo, coarsely chopped or bottled chipotle hot sauce
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil, optional
- 1 yellow or orange sweet pepper, cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips, optional
- 1 1/2 cups frozen petite peas, defrosted
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Place the asparagus pieces in a kitchen strainer basket with a handle, lower into the boiling water, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Immediately transfer the asparagus to a bowl of ice water.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions, or until al dente.
- Meanwhile, place the tomato sauce in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the chipotle or a few dashes of chipotle hot sauce and optional basil and bring to a simmer. Add the asparagus, peas, and optional yellow pepper; heat just until sauce is hot and the vegetables are warmed through.
- Reserve 1/4 cup of the sauce. Drain the pasta well and transfer to the tomato sauce. Use tongs and toss to coat the pasta with the sauce. Place the pasta in a serving bowl. Spoon the reserved sauce on top and sprinkle with the parsley and Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.
- When blanching the vegetables, use a kitchen strainer with a handle to make it easier to lift the vegetables out of the water.
- If you can’t find chipotles in adobo, look for chipotle bottled hot sauce and add a few drops to taste. Crushed red pepper is also a good substitute.
- Look for jarred peeled yellow peppers or use a raw yellow pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced.
Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Parties,” and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.