- The Washington Times - Monday, April 4, 2005

A terrific way to slip more vegetables onto everyone’s plate is to combine your favorite garden items with pasta in a light and well-seasoned sauce.

The recipe that follows is a variation on the theme of pasta primavera, which means “spring pasta.”

The spring reference evokes the delicate early fresh vegetables that until recently were available only in season.

These days, thanks to sophisticated packing and shipping methods, as well as trade agreements between countries in opposite hemispheres (and therefore with opposite growing seasons), many vegetables that once were available only in season are available throughout the year.

Convenient though this may be, it somehow has taken away some of the magic and excitement from the produce market.

We no longer wait for the exquisitely brief asparagus crop because it is no longer brief. I still like to pretend that the seasons limit us, and so I buy only the freshest and most locally grown.

Especially for this dish, which is good no matter where the vegetables come from, the freshest produce makes it even better.

Try this recipe, which bears the colors of the Italian flag, as written. Then, later, experiment with different vegetables.

Ideally, you should select those just appearing in slender, young form at your produce market or use whatever has sprouted recently in your garden.

Vegetable-pasta combinations are delicious hot, but even if you serve them warm, at room temperature, or cold, they reinvent themselves as pasta salad with perhaps just the slightest addition of a little olive oil and a splash of vinegar.

You can easily multiply the recipe that follows. Then, with the grace and apparent effortlessness of a born bistro maven, serve it either hot or cold to a cast of thousands.

Everyone will cheer, especially if you remember the garlic bread and Chianti.

Confetti spaghetti

3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups sliced onion

½ teaspoon salt or more

2 cups small broccoli florets

2 cups small cauliflower florets

A handful or 2 of slender green beans, trimmed

A handful of sugar snap or snow peas, ends trimmed

1 medium red bell pepper, diced

6 to 8 medium cloves of garlic, minced

1 pound spaghetti or linguine

4 scallions, minced, including include white and green parts

A handful or 2 of minced flat-leaf parsley

A handful or 2 of minced basil

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot full of water to boil for the pasta. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet.

Add onion and salt to taste, and saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until onion begins to soften, adding more oil if needed to prevent sticking.

Add broccoli and cauliflower. Stir and cook until vegetables are just barely tender, about 5 minutes or so. Add green beans, peas and bell pepper, and cook about 5 minutes longer, then stir in the garlic. Cook for just a minute or two more; set aside.

Cook pasta in plenty of boiling water until al dente. Drain thoroughly and transfer to a large bowl or serving platter.

Add the vegetable saute and toss, sprinkling in scallion, parsley, basil and Parmesan to taste as you toss. Grind in some fresh black pepper, and serve right away.

Makes 5 servings.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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