Vegan Pasta Primavera, a simple and delicious dish made with all the freshest, newest veg of the season: think zucchini, baby peas, asparagus, green beans. But really, you can use whatever you have in the fridge.
The onset of spring, heralded by the daffodils turning their glorious gold lion’s manes heavenward to absorb as much sunlight as possible and tiny ferns uncurling like little prehistoric plants as the frosts eventually cease annoying us every morning, brings with it the promise of new season vegetables.
On the walk I take every morning, I am amazed and excited by seeing the allotments springing into life: tiny spring onion shoots delicately scenting the air, spring greens ready to pluck and sauté with just a little olive oil, the baby carrot’s fluffy green fronds waiting to be pulled from the warm soil. Not to mention new peas and broad beans. Pasta Primavera ingredients.
This first burst of greenery always brings out the cave dweller in me. I suppose it’s because we have spent all winter hibernating that we’re aching to feel alive again, to feel the warm sun on our faces. I feel like catching my own supper and sleeping amongst the ferns (if only the dog faeces, used condoms and broken glass wasn’t such an inhibitor). It always seems as though each year is greener than it ever has been before, but really, like walking around in the dark, it’s just our eyes readjusting to the newness once again.
I might seem almost evangelical about it, but spring, it seems to me, has been a long time coming. We are nearing the end of April and have only had one or two days that have seemed warm enough to sit outside. Everything is coming back to life, almost before your eyes, as the sun, at last with some heat in it, slowly coaxes and cajoles. How I envy the gardeners, so devoted to their precious vegetables. I wish that I had the patience or inclination to lovingly tend to the tiny seedlings each day as though I were nurturing a child. Unfortunately, I was born impatient (in spite of being born two weeks late), although I am slowly learning, through cookery, specifically baking, that with patience, you will be rewarded (I am learning to be more resourceful and less remorseful in the kitchen).
Each year the gardeners too are rewarded with the freshest tasting produce for their labours. Thankfully they are often generous enough (or their glut is too immense) to sell the odd bunch of carrots or freshly dug new potatoes by the side of the road. This is the true organic produce, not the green labelled stuff from the supermarkets that is always hopelessly overpriced. Yet I know of some people who trust the supermarket’s organic range rather than the dirt encrusted veg for sale by the roadside. Their loss. To find a farm shop near you, click here for this really helpful resource!
With the promise of all this good weather at a time unspecified in the future, I have a renewed desire to cook some new dishes. I feel that I am chocolated out, at least until autumn and am craving tart fruit pies and ice creams and instead of stodgy stews and roast dinners and comforting risottos, I am looking forward to making some sprightly soups. I’ve also been on a bit of a bread making frenzy, which goes perfectly with the soup obsession. Also, what better way to make use of the season’s short bounty?
Soups are fantastic for concentrating the very essence of an ingredient, luring out the flavour that you just know is hidden away. It was a wise person who realised that lettuce would be even better cooked than it already is raw. I have made lettuce wilted in a cream and white wine sauce, enhanced lightly with mint and sharing top billing with Petit Pois. This has then been served over some spaghetti. I have also braised baby gem lettuce in the oven in a simple stock and served alongside risotto.
Another springtime treat is the first cut asparagus, from the local PYO farm. A sign outside counts down the days until it is ready: the anticipation is great. “Not ready today, hopefully tomorrow!” Eventually a little tiny ramshackle booth holding its precious bounty of Asparagus is open for business. The emerald green bundles, fat and stumpy and glistening with dew, are demanding to be dipped in melted butter. I am planning on making an Asparagus Tart and Soup once we grow tired of eating them with our fingers.
Of course, this is England and with the gaudy sunshine comes miserable rain, and the water ratio is far greater. I am consoling myself with the fact that the cherry tree outside of work will produce the sweetest, most bountiful harvest of fruit yet. But for now, I have to be patient.
If you love simple vegan pasta dishes, you might love these
Vegan Pasta Primavera
- 1 clover Garlic - finely chopped
- 2 tbsp Pine Nuts
- 2-3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 100 g Orzo Pasta - (or any smallish pasta of your choice)
- 100 g Button Mushrooms - sliced
- 10 Cherry Tomatoes - halved
- 100g Green Beans - cut into 1" chunks
- 50g Broad Beans - blanched and podded
- 50g Frozen Peas - blanched with the broad beans
- 2 Courgettes (Zucchini) - cut into 1" batons
- 4 Spring Onions - thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp Freshly chopped parsley and basil
- Salt and Pepper
- Cook pasta as per directions on pack. Drain, reserving some of the cooking water and very lightly dress with a little olive oil to prevent clumping and leave to one side.
- Heat the oil gently in a deep frying pan. Add the chopped garlic and pine nuts, cook until the nuts are golden but take care not to burn the garlic or pine nuts as they will taste bitter.
- Add the courgette/zucchini batons and gently sauté until they turn soft and start to go golden (about 3-4 mins).
- Add the mushrooms, cook until soft but not releasing their water. You don’t want to fry them.
- Throw in the parboiled green beans, broad beans, frozen peas and a little of the cooking water from the pasta if necessary (i.e. if the mixture seems a little dry, you want to lightly coat your pasta). Season lightly at this point.
- Finally, add the tomatoes, chopped spring onion and drained pasta, stirring thoroughly but carefully to amalgamate all the ingredients.
- Gently stir in the herbs and season to taste.
- At this point, put a lid on the pan and leave for upwards of 10 minutes if you are eating warm, or for a couple of hours then refrigerate if eating cold.
Please note that where the recipe asks for milk, butter or yogurt, this refers to any plant-based version that you prefer.