White Bean Primavera
Pasta primavera, the creamy, vegetable-heavy pasta dish popularized in the 1980s at Le Cirque, in New York, is a little too fussy for a busy weeknight, but this reimagined white bean version comes together in less than a half-hour. The simple beans and vegetables feel fancy in their robe of cream, Parmesan, lemon juice and mustard. The dish is best with fresh spring vegetables, and it’s also very flexible: Substitute spinach for the peas, a handful of halved cherry tomatoes for the carrot, and sugar snap peas for the asparagus. Drained jarred artichoke hearts wouldn’t be out of place, either.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 3tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1medium to large zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into ½-inch thick semicircles
- Kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
- 8ounces asparagus (about ½ large bunch) or green beans, or a mix, cut into 1-inch lengths
- 1carrot, peeled, then shaved into strips with a peeler
- 5garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1cup fresh or frozen peas (no need to thaw)
- 2scallions, green and white parts, sliced
- ½teaspoon red-pepper flakes
- ½teaspoon dried oregano
- Black pepper
- 3(15-ounce) cans butter beans or cannellini beans, drained
- ¾cup heavy cream
- 1tablespoon lemon juice (from about 1/2 large lemon), plus more to taste
- 2ounces grated Parmesan (about ½ cup), plus more for serving
- 1tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ½cup toasted slivered almonds or pine nuts
- Fresh basil leaves, torn, for garnish
Step 1Melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet (preferably straight-sided) over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini and 1 teaspoon salt, and stir, then cook undisturbed in an even layer until one side is golden, about 4 minutes. (It’s great if the butter browns, but decrease the heat if it threatens to get too dark.) Stir in the asparagus, carrot and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in the peas, scallions and ½ teaspoon salt, then add the red-pepper flakes, oregano and a generous amount of black pepper. Cook, stirring, until the peas are warmed through and bright green, about 2 minutes.
Step 2Add the white beans and the cream, lower the heat to medium, and let the cream come to a simmer. Simmer for about 1 minute.
Step 3Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice, Parmesan and Dijon. Taste and season with more salt, pepper or lemon juice as needed. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of warm water to the creamy beans to loosen as you like; the sauce will thicken as it cools. (You may need more water when you reheat any leftovers.) Serve in bowls topped with the nuts and a handful of basil leaves. Pass more Parmesan at the table.