Spaghettini alla giardiniera (pasta primavera) is a welcomed spring dish after a long winter. As the days grow longer and the weather begins to warm up it’s time for some springtime cooking. With this change in seasons, a kaleidoscope of colorful vegetables begins to show up at farmer’s markets across the USA. Hence the name giardiniera meaning gardener in Italian. As we all know gardeners and farmers both look forward to spring and they are the first to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
The beauty of a spaghettini alla giardiniera recipe is that there are no set vegetables to use. Whatever vegetables you find that is the freshest and most appealing is just fine. One thing I can suggest is to at least use three to five assorted vegetables for this pasta dish. It makes the recipe more colorful, interesting, and nutritious. Also, I prefer a ratio of more vegetables and less pasta. Let’s say a 60/40 combination. The star of this dish is the beautiful and delicate springtime vegetables as the pasta plays a supporting role.
Spaghetti alla Giardinera
- 1 lb. spaghettini
- 2 onions, medium-sized
- 4 cloves, of spring garlic
- 2 zucchini, cut into julienne strips
- 2 red peppers, and 1 yellow, cleaned, seeded, and cut into julienne strips.
- 1-1/2 cups, of fresh garden peas
- 1 bunch, of fresh basil, approximately 15 leaves.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil as needed
- 12 vine ripe tomatoes, cut in quarters, and seeds removed.
- 1 tablespoon, turmeric (optional)
- 1 strip on lemon zest, pith removed and finally chopped.
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat a sauce pot with olive oil.
- Crush the garlic cloves and remove any green sprouts that might be in the center of the garlic.
- Do a quick rough chop across the garlic and then add it to the pan.
- Saute slowly for 2-3 minutes or until the garlic is lightly colored.
- Then add the onion and cook over a gentle flame for an additional five minutes.
- At the end add the turmeric if using and stir through your onion and garlic mixture.
Tip: If the onions are coloring up too fast add a few splashes of water to the pan to slow the cooking process.
- Now add the tomatoes and stir well.
- Season with some salt and pepper and let simmer for 20-30 minutes.
- Add a lid to partially cover the pot of tomatoes.
- About halfway through the cooking use a potato masher and mash any tomatoes that are still whole.
Cooking the Vegetables
- In a separate pan add a few tablespoons of olive oil.
- Add the peppers and zucchini.
- Lightly season them and cook over medium heat for five minutes.
- Stir often and try not to get any color on the vegetables.
- Once all vegetables have been cooked add them to the tomato sauce.
- Add the fresh peas. They will cook from the warmth of the sauce.
Tip: Adding the spring peas at the end and not cooking them in the sauce allows for them to stay a vibrant green and retain their shape.
- Taste sauce and readjust the seasoning if needed.
- Tear the basil leaves with your hands or snip them with a scissor. Stir the basil through the sauce and taste again for seasoning.
Making the dish
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and add two tablespoons of salt.
- Once the water boils add the spaghettini.
- Once the pasta has submerged into the water give it a stir to prevent it from sticking.
- Cook the pasta as per the instruction on the box. However whatever the time says on the directions remove the pasta five minutes sooner.
Tip: Removing pasta five minutes sooner than the suggested time and adding it to a sauce makes for a taster pasta.
- Save one cup of pasta water and then strain the pasta.
- Add the pasta to the sauce and then add the reserved pasta water.
- Bring to a simmer and toss the pasta well. Add two tablespoons of olive oil and toss a few more times coating the pasta well with the sauce.
- Taste for seasoning and serve.
Tip: Top the pasta with grated Parmesan cheese and a sprig of basil if desired.
Check out this spring recipe for Asparagus & Tofu with Truffle-Soy Vinaigrette.