Pasta Primavera with Saffron Cream Sauce
One of my favorite readers recently mentioned that it would be great if I could explore some more vegetarian options for the gluten free diet. Our family does tend to eat a lot of chicken and fish, so I thought it would be a nice challenge to look for ways in which to expand our culinary repertoire into the mysterious and wonderful land of fruit and vegetables.
This first attempt is loosely based on a recipe I found in the 2007 Bon Appetit cookbook, called “Spring Vegetable Fricassee with Saffron Cream“. The recipe is accompanied in the book (p.132) with a really sexy looking picture of vibrant red and orangey vegetables in a lovely saffron sauce, glowing from an equally lovely yellow pan. I found it so enticing I decided to plan an entire meal around the dish. (Goes to show ya, photos really are worth thousands of words…)
That said, I was a bit disappointed with the bland taste of the original recipe on my first time experimenting with it… and so have added a few suggestions about how you can spice it up in your own kitchen including (haha) an additional meat option.
I hope you will enjoy this dish, and please do write in and let me know if you have new ideas about how to make it taste even more decadent.
Pasta Primavera with Saffron Cream Sauce
What You’ll Need:
1 bag of baby carrots (24 oz)
8 oz fresh Crimini mushrooms (sliced into quarters)
1 large bunch asparagus (cut into thirds, ends trimmed off)
1 cup frozen peas
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 – 3 shallots, thinly sliced
¾ bag of fresh baby spinach leaves (= several cups)
½ cup dry white wine
1 ½ cups whipping cream
½ teaspoon saffron threads
¾ tsp thyme
2/3 cup vegetable broth (for non-veggies, use chicken broth)
2/3 cup parmesan cheese
1 bag Tinkyada rice fettuccine pasta (or you can use angel hair)
Fresh ground black pepper
For Vegetarians: 5 oz sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, cut into quarters
For Meat Eaters: 4 – 6 oz pancetta, cooked and crumbled
How It Works:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Prepare all of your ingredients. Wash and slice your mushrooms, trim the ends off of your asparagus and cut them into thirds. If using sun dried tomatoes, slice them into quarters. If using pancetta, cook it in the microwave until lightly browned and then break it into crumbles. Prepare your broth and spices; finely slice your onion and shallots. Have everything you need nearby so that once you begin cooking the process is seamless and goes fast.
Put a pot of salted water on to boil, and rest another pot of cold water (you can use ice cubes if necessary) nearby. When your water is boiling, throw in the entire bag of baby carrots. Boil them for 2 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to transfer them into the icy water.
In a deep saucepan (I used a 3 quart pot) heat olive oil and a dab of butter. When it is warm but not smoking, add the sliced onion. Cook for 1 minute, then add shallots. Cook until both are translucent but not browned and then add the saffron and mix it in well. Next add your lightly boiled carrots, mushrooms, thyme… and salt and pepper to taste. Stir the mix constantly so your onions and shallots don’t burn.
Add white wine and simmer down the liquid for a few minutes, then add broth and simmer for about 5 minutes. Now it is time to add the cream, and once it begins to simmer it is the perfect time to add your asparagus, frozen peas and spinach. If you are a vegetarian, also add the sun dried tomatoes now.
Butter a large baking dish. Stir your vegetable medley and pour or ladle it carefully into the baking dish. (If you are a meat eater, now is the time to add your crumbled cooked pancetta.) Put it into the center of your hot oven and cook it for twenty minutes.
When your timer goes off, pull out the baking dish and pour the grated parmesan over its top so that the cheese forms a thin crust. Place the baking dish back in your oven and cook for approximately 10 more minutes, but do not allow the parmesan cheese to burn.
While your vegetables are cooking, put on a large kettle of salted water to boil and cook up your delicious Tinkyada fettuccine or angel hair pasta. Drain and rinse in cool water or olive oil so it does not stick.
Serve your creamy primavera sauce in the midst of a bed of rice pasta, and grate just a touch more fresh parmesan over it as a final garnish. Wonderful with fresh baked gluten free rolls and a crisp vegetable salad.
Serves 4 – 6.