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Pasta Primavera

Serves 4

  • TIP: You can make a pasta sauce with very little fat by boiling canned chicken stock with a little olive oil, grated cheese, and some of the pasta cooking water; the sauce thickens as it reduces by virtue of the starch in the pasta.

The pasta cooks partway on its own, then finishes cooking in the skillet with the vegetables and sauce so that it picks up the flavor of both.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound standard, whole-wheat, or whole-grain penne [WE COULD USE 8 OUNCES]
  • 1 pound (1 bunch) medium asparagus, tough bottom stems broken off and discarded, remainder cut into 1 1/2-inch sections
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons [CAN CUT THIS] olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped small
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, and sliced
  • 4 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed, and cut into quarters or sixths, depending on size
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 6-ounce bag baby spinach
  • 2 scallions, chopped

Method

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.
  2. Combine the asparagus, 1/4 cup stock, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large skillet. Cover, and cook over medium heat, until al dente, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl with any remaining stock; set aside.
  3. In the same skillet, heat the oil with the garlic and onion over low heat. Cover, and cook until the vegetables soften but do not brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the red pepper flakes. Add the mushrooms, and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook until the mushrooms are lightly browned, and softened, about 5 minutes. (If mushrooms begin to stick to the bottom of the pan, add 2 tablespoons stock and stir to release.) Add the peas, the rest of the stock, and 1 tablespoon of the parsley; remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook about two-thirds of the way, about 6 minutes.
  5. Remove 1 cup pasta water, and add it to the skillet with the vegetables. Drain the pasta in a colander, and add it to the skillet. Bring liquid to a boil; cook until reduced by about one-half. Add all but about 2 tablespoons of the cheese, the asparagus, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and the spinach. Cook, tossing with tongs, until the liquid is reduced and thickened, and the spinach is wilted, 1 to 2 minutes.
  6. Divide pasta between 4 bowls, and sprinkle with scallions. Drizzle each with 1/2 teaspoon oil, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.