Pasta primavera recipe – low fat yet creamy!

It’s about this time of year (mid to late July) when your vegetable garden really starts producing in earnest. At the moment, we’re regularly picking courgettes and are now harvesting the first of the runner beans. The recipe below combines courgettes and runner beans into one delicious meal, and is great both as a light lunch or supper, and as a way of using up a glut of these veg! The name “pasta primavera” is Italian for “spring pasta” although if you’re being pedantic, perhaps it should be “summer pasta” instead. However, this translates back into Italian as “pasta estate”. To anyone in Britain, the word “estate” means “a large group of similar houses, usually at the dodgy end of town”. So pasta primavera it shall remain then.

Low fat and one-pot. What’s not to like?

When I first started making pasta primavera a couple of decades ago, I used double cream instead of low fat cream cheese. Unfortunately my digestive system has decided that it’s too old to cope with double cream (or even single cream) nowadays, thank you very much. So this recipe was born out of a desire to find a cream substitute rather than any wish to lose weight. But obviously, it will be a bit lower in calories than the double cream version so that’s an added bonus. Another bonus is that you can make it all in one saucepan – it truly is a “one-pot” recipe, which takes approx. 15 minutes from start to finish. Great for rustling up when you come home from work. And a packet of cream cheese will keep for several weeks in the fridge unopened, so you can have it there as a standby.

Add the pasta to boiling, salted water. As the pasta starts to cook, clean, destring and chop up the beans and then add them to the simmering pasta (don’t forget to give it all a stir every now and then). Wash and chop your courgette. Add the chopped courgette just a couple of minutes before the pasta is done – it’s surprising how little time courgettes need to cook when you boil them like this, especially if you’re picking nice tender ones from the garden. When the pasta/veg are cooked, drain them into a colander and keep a little bit of the water used to cook them.
Ingredients (serves 2)

    125 grams of tagliatelle or papardelle
    100 grams of low fat cream cheese (Philadelphia or its equivalent)
    One large courgette
    Ten runner beans
    Grated fresh Parmesan to taste
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Using the same saucepan that you used to cook the pasta/veg, add the cream cheese to the bottom, plus a tablespoon of the cooking water, and put it back on a gentle heat. Give it a good stir and add a little more water as you go. Your aim is to (a) heat the cream cheese through without browning/burning it and (b) add enough water to give the consistency of double cream. When you have achieved both these objectives, take the saucepan off the heat and add the pasta/veg. Stir until all the strands of pasta are coated with the sauce. Serve with lashings of freshly ground black pepper and grated Parmesan. Nom, nom, nom!
© Empress Felicity July 2011