A few days ago, after working in my garden, I sat in my garden with a Moretti beer nearby and finished reading How Italian Food Conquered The World by John F. Mariani (Foreward by Lidia Bastianich). It is a fascinating book and I plan to recommend it to my brother, Dennis, who has written extensively about early Italian immigration to America, a topic Mariani writes about in the first few chapters of his book.
I have had the good fortune to eat at some of the restaurants Mariani mentions in the book and he pays homage to the author of one of my often-consulted cookbooks, Marcella Hazan (The Classic Italian Cookbook).
“How ironic, then, that Le Cirque’s most famous dish came to be something called pasta primavera. The story about how this dish came to be has at least two versions, though Maccioni’s has the most support. He says that his wife, Egidiana, merely tossed it together from whatever was in the refrigerator to feed Vergnes (the French Chef at Le Cirque) and guests Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey of the Times while on a trip to Canada. The dish, which means “springtime pasta,” was made with pine nuts, tomatoes, chopped string beans, frozen peas, and broccoli, with heavy cream.
“Whatever pasta primavera origins were, Vergnes never listed the dish on Le Cirque’s menu and refused to make it, saying it would “contaminate” the kitchen. If requested–which it was, dozens of times a day–the dish was cooked up in a pan of hot water in the kitchen corridor and finished at the table by Maccioni or a captain. Then, after Claiborne published a recipe in the Times for the dish he called “inspired,” pasta primavera became all the rage among Le Cirque’s clientele. It even supplanted fettuccine all’Alfredo as the most famous non-red-sauce pasta dish in New York. Of course, chefs in Italy had no idea what this dish was when Americans asked them to make it.”
Maccioni’s recipe can be found here.
Inspired, I made a version for Susan and I later that day. A version, I say, as there are as many recipes for pasta primavera as there are for meatloaf. Susan does not like cream sauces so I made a cream-less pasta primavera.
I simply combined: steamed broccoli, steamed yellow squash (seeded and sliced), saute diced red pepper, sliced Vidalia onion, sliced garlic (from my garden), 1/4 cup white wine, 1 ripe tomato (seeded and chopped), and mafalde pasta. I served it with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and basil (from my garden). I would have added frozen peas, which I had, but I forgot!
|Cream-less Pasta Primavera with greens from my garden.