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Pasta Primavera

Pasta primavera in a white bowl with a fork and knife to the left
Marco Verch via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Pasta primavera

I have to admit that the warmer weather and the abundance of fresh food at the market have given me quite an appetite. Lucky for me there is a dish that not only incorporates all that is good about spring, it actually incorporates the word itself. Chef Jerry Pellegrino is proud to say, it's a gift the Italian language has given to the world: primavera. But in point of fact, it's a dish that doesn't even exist in Italy.

Despite the Italian name which means "spring" (or "first green") the dish was originally concocted in New York City in 1975, and was popularized by Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey (an American and a Frenchman). Nevertheless it is a good match for the season with its fresh lightly cooked vegetables and its flavorful sauce.

Now, should the sauce be cream and cheese based or olive oil based? Jerry comes down on the olive oil side of the equation, but does dress the plate with grated cheese. Although the original recipe called for spaghetti, nearly any form of pasta seems to do these days.

Pasta Primavera

2 cups fusilli pasta

1 tablespoon kosher salt, to boil pasta

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon chili flakes

5 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed

1 bunch asparagus, cut into ¼ inch slices, tops left intact

1 cup fresh or frozen green peas

1 cup pea shoots

½ cup Parmesan, plus extra for garnish

½ cup of reserved pasta water

kosher salt and pepper to taste

Bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Add salt and pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve ½ a cup of the pasta water before draining. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, toss, cover and set aside until use.

In a large skillet on medium-high heat, bring oil to temperature. When the oil is shimmering, add chili flakes and garlic. Move and flip the garlic in the pan until it turns golden brown. Carefully remove garlic from the skillet, roughly chop and reserve.

Add the asparagus to the pan and cook for 1 minute. Add the peas and cook for an additional minute. Add the pea shoots and season with salt and pepper. Add the cooked pasta and stir or toss to combine. Add the reserved pasta water, followed by the cheese, and toss until all is combined and the cheese has melted.

Transfer to soup plates and garnish with black pepper and additional grated cheese. Serve immediately.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.