Pasta primavera is a dish that consists of pasta and fresh vegetables. A meat such as chicken, sausage or shrimp is sometimes added, but the focus of primavera is the vegetables themselves. The dish may contain almost any kind of vegetable, but cooks tend to stick to firm, crisp vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots, peas, onions and green bell peppers, with tomatoes. Pasta primavera is usually highlighted by light flavors, aromatic herbs and bright colors ('primavera' meaning the season of spring). Classic primavera sauce is based on a soffritto of garlic and olive oil, and finished with Parmesan cheese. However versions further enriched by, or based on, a heavier cream or Alfredo sauce are also common. Though recipes for cold pasta primavera may be found, they are best classified as antipasti, or appetizers.
Pastas served with this dish are typically smaller shapes, such as penne, farfalle, rigatoni and fusilli. If using longer types of pasta, such as spaghetti or fettuccine, the vegetables are normally sliced in thin strips to match the shape of the noodles.
Since primavera means spring, the vegetable choices should be the crisp new vegetables of spring.
The fame of pasta primavera traces back to the New York restaurant Le Cirque, where it first appeared as an unlisted special before it was made famous through an 1977 article in the New York Times by Craig Claborne and Pierre Franey which included a recipe for the dish. The invention of the dish is contested. Le Cirque co-owner Serio Macchioni claimed that his wife Egidiana threw it together from ingredients on hand during a trip to Nova Scotia; Ed Giobbi, an amateur cook himself, claims to have shown Macchioni and Jean Vergnes (then chef at Le Cirque) a similar dish which Vergnes then slightly modified. All accounts agree that Vergnes refused to allow the dish to be prepared in the kitchen, so that the many requests for it had to be satisfied with a pot set up in a hallway. The combination of lightly cooked vegetables and pasta, which Claiborne and Franey hailed as "by far, the most talked-about dish in Manhattan," is widely recognized as one of the signature developments of American cuisine in the 1970s.
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