Canadiens fan writes: I have a bunch of vegetables, some ricotta, and plenty of pantry staples. Now what?
Tony’s take: I’m going to tell you to go somewhere kind of surprising, somewhere forbidden, if you will. Pasta primavera is one of those things that you should avoid at all costs when eating out; the kind of soggy pasta dish that steeps in a bath of cream and sodden vegetables in a chafing dish at a company luncheon or cruise ship buffet. But it is springtime and you have some wonderful vegetables and there is a way to make a really light and tasty pasta primavera which will make you forget that horrible reputation that this dish has earned.
How to do it: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (about 2 Tbs. salt for 1 gallon or so of water). While the water is heating, slice and saute the vegetables.
Thinly slice those cremini mushrooms (up to 8 0z.), cut the zucchini (about 1/2 lb) into half moons, cut the green beans into 1-inch pieces, and thinly slice 1 carrot (if you have). Heat 1 Tbs. or so of olive oil with 2 smashed garlic cloves in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the garlic starts to sizzle steadily, about 2 minutes. Add a sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes (if you’re cool with a touch of heat) and the zucchini and carrot, sprinkle generously with kosher salt and black pepper (about 1 tsp. and 1/2 tsp. respectively), and cook, stirring until the vegetables brown lightly and the zucchini becomes tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they, too, start to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in a handful of the basil leaves (about 8, torn up with your fingers), remove from the heat, and discard the garlic cloves. At this point, you can add in 1 cup peas (thawed frozen or cooked fresh) if you’re in the mood.
Cook 3/4 lb. of pasta (try a long noodle like spaghetti or linguini), stirring, until it’s just tender, about 11 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water and then drain well.
Add the cooked pasta to the skillet with the sauteed vegetables and set over medium-high heat. Stir in the ricotta (about 1 1/2 cups) and a splash of heavy cream (2 to 3 Tbs.) or the pasta water (if you want to keep things lighter) and some lemon zest (or a splash of vinegar if you don’t have) and cook, stirring, until the ricotta melts into a sauce, coating the vegetables, and the pasta and vegetables are just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper to taste and serve sprinkled with some grated Parmigiano and black pepper.