When the seasons change, so do our pasta cravings. Lasagna or baked mac and cheese are just too heavy when we are getting our frolic on. Who wants to crank up the oven or drag a casserole out to the deck? No, it’s time to lighten up the pasta, with lots of veggies, as with this easy, pretty Farfalle With Spring Vegetables and Toasted Crumbs.
Let’s face it, we love pasta all year long. It’s one of the great necessities of life. So when the weather warms and the garden is finally showing signs of life, we switch from baked pasta to easy tosses of tender noodles, crisp veggies and, in this case, a crunchy topping.
The toasted breadcrumb topping on pasta is an Italian classic. The same frugal nonnas (Italian grandmothers) who gave us soups thickened with bread also ground up leftover bread to make crumbs, then added them to pasta and sauce to soak up flavor and add texture.
In this recipe, I wasn’t ready to give up the crunchy breadcrumbs that I like to use to top my mac and cheese, so I pan-toasted some crumbs with chopped almonds. The result is a crunchy, savory accent that makes the creaminess of the simple sauce much more interesting. The almonds add a little protein and nutty flavor, too.
For a pasta that looks pretty, go with farfalle. The bow-tie shape is lovely in hot and cold dishes. Be sure that the center of the bow, where the pasta is pinched to make the classic shape, is completely cooked. It’s thicker than the flared edges and, if you aren’t careful, can stay chewy.
For the most fuss-free sauce, simply sauté some spring vegetables and stir in sour cream. Sautéing the carrots first gives them plenty of time to soften. Asparagus cooks quickly, so that goes in with the rest of the vegetables to cook only to a crisp-tender state. Peas are in tune with the season, but frozen edamame will add a little protein, too. Both are in the freezer section.
Stir in the sour cream, hot pasta and parsley, and you are ready to serve the dish topped with crunchy almond-laced crumbs.
Great warm or cold, this pasta delivers lots of flavor and a crunchy punch that’s a crowd-pleaser.
Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan” and “Plant-Based Meats.” Find her at robinasbell.com.