Summer finally made an appearance yesterday in Vancouver and my neighbourhood came alive in the way that only Commercial Drive can. While my next-door neighbours were busy hula hooping and juggling to throbbing dance music, I basked in the sun and gorged on the first batch of local strawberries I’ve bought this year. The rest of the afternoon was spent lazily wandering to the grocery store, iced soy latte in hand, with the intention of stocking up on some more strawberries. I ended up buying a boatload of fresh basil, strawberries, rhubarb, and asparagus. Feeling this was a grocery bag worthy of a warm summer day, I returned home with pasta on the brain. Thanks, fresh basil, you get me every time.
I’m not sure why, but I wanted Pasta Primavera. Is this something that turns up on restaurant menus a lot still? Maybe it was a food fad in the 90s, maybe not. The early 90s are but a distant hazy memory now. I ordered it a lot as a vegetarian kid, as often the only meat-free thing on restaurant menus was some sort of pasta dish. In my mind, the 1994 version of Pasta Primavera consists of some sauteed veggies and a creamy rosé sauce. Something vaguely Italian that turned up on menus in non-Italian restaurants. Sort of like the ubiquitous Fettucini Alfredo, my all-time childhood fave.
So, here it is! My memory of Pasta Primavera, veganized and without gluten: Brown rice pasta tossed with garlic and basil-infused spring vegetables and drizzled with a creamy tomato sauce. It was pretty darn yummy.
Now that I think about it, one could make this more 90s-ish by serving it with tricoloured rotini noodles or something. While listening to Ace of Base.
This is a three pot meal, so it takes a little coordination. Make the vegetables and sauce at the same time, but don’t forget to whisk! Serve it with your favourite pasta, enough for 4 people. I love Tinkyada brown rice pasta.
Tomato Cream Sauce Ingredients:
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. brown rice flour (another flour would be fine, but I like rice flour for its neutral flavour)
2 1/2 cups unsweetened rice milk, or other unsweetened non-dairy milk
3 tbsp. nutritional yeast
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. salt
splash white wine (optional, but adds depth)
3/4 cup plain Hunt’s tomato sauce
1/4 cup Daiya vegan mozzarella (optional, but adds more creamy yumminess)
Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Add rice flour and whisk. Let cook a minute or so to infuse your roux with a nice toasty flavour.
Whisk in rice milk a little at a time, letting the sauce thicken between additions. Once the sauce has thickened, add nutritional yeast, garlic and onion powder, dried basil, salt, and a generous dose of freshly ground black pepper. Cook for a few more minutes.
Add wine, Hunt’s and Daiya, whisking well to melt the Daiya.
Taste for salt and pepper. Set aside, keeping warm while you boil your noodles.
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into bite-size pieces
10 asparagus spears (about half a bunch), cut in 2″ pieces
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
In a frying pan that has a lid (you’ll need it later), heat olive oil on medium-low heat. Add onions and a little salt and cook until softened, around 10 minutes or so.
Add garlic and mushrooms and a little more salt. Turn the heat up to medium and fry until the mushrooms release some liquid.
Add bell pepper and asparagus and cover. Cook until the vegetables are softened.
Remove lid and cook off excess liquid. Stir in chopped basil. Add freshly ground pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Turn off heat and set aside while you boil your noodles.
To serve: This recipe makes enough for 4 people, so make enough pasta accordingly. For presentation purposes, I plated the pasta, then drizzled some sauce, then added a couple scoops of sauteed vegetables, topped with another drizzle of sauce and garnished with a fresh basil chiffonade.
Serves 4 average appetites. Served 3 in my house, as I was trying to fill up before going to work where I serve real Italian food and am tortured by it for 6 hour stints.