Spring is in the air! Primavera (literally meaning "Spring" when translated) is an Italian American creation which to me has the perfect combination of fresh and filling. When it comes to the vegetables I use two general rules of thumb:
1) Everything but the kitchen sink - Use any vegetable you have on hand!
2) The more colour the better - Greens, reds, yellows... all the colours of spring!
Italian american may not be traditional italian per se but the advantages of creating quick convenient twists on ethnic cuisines is totally worth highlighting - for your tastebuds and your health.
First, a note on pasta, carbs, and research around a concept known as "mindless eating". Balanced nutrition with pasta dishes can be tricky. Quite often a tendency is to overload with carbs. Our body loves carbs. They give us important fuel for all our daily activites. Our brains primary fuel source is carbs. In sports they are critical for energy and performance. The only caveat on carbs is that it's easy to overdo it. And it is not really our fault! At least consciously. We tend to eat all of what's on our plate. One proposed problem that exists - average plate size is bigger now than it ever was! How did this happen literally under our noses? And does it really make a difference on how much we eat? We tend to eat for reasons beyond satiety such as social or emotional eating, as well as convenience and habit. For example, eating in front of a TV or at the movies typically means our focus is shifted away from what's on our plate, and we eat less mindfully until "oh, no more popcorn left". Researcher Dr. Brian Wansink performs studies on these environmental factors around food choice with the aim to show the ways we make unconscious food choices based on convenience, availability, and our food environment. From rearranging school cafeteria tray lines, to smaller serving dishes and plates, to eating popcorn while watching tv - he performs all sorts of simple, yet thought provoking experiments. Is it true that by controlling our food environment (Ex. smaller bowls, keeping a fruit bowl on the counter, not eating in front of the tv) will make the easy choice also the healthy choice. I think it is worth considering! Either way, mindful (or conscious) eating is always a good approach when you're planning and enjoying the wonder that is our food! Carbs are a good thing when balance and variety are part of the equation. Let's see how we do this with our primavera!
Half your plate approach
I tend to use the half-your-plate approach: Making half your plate vegetables, one quarter protein, and one quarter grains. This ensures balance. With primavera and mixed dishes it will not always be so geometrical, so you need to use your imagination, and boost the ratio of vegetables to pasta. As you can see in the photo, there is more vegetables than there is pasta, and that's on purpose. With all the fiber and nutrition provided by the vegetables, it was veeeeery filling and satisfying!
Every bite has a different flavour. Tossing it together after adding a touch of basil olive oil, and de-glazing the pan with white wine The garlic shrimp on top just add another layer of perfection.
Typically this dish involves butter, cream, and cheese - all delightfully flavourful ingredients. However, using all three means a lot of calories from saturated fat. I opted to use a light amount of basil olive oil, garlic, and white wine. This allows the flavours of the vegetables to become the show. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat that when used in moderation, may have heart healthy effects. It is a steady part of the Mediterranean diet, and is also a delicious alternative to butter and cream for use in pasta dishes. Research also supports the use of garlic in aiding prevention and treatment of many cardiovascular diseases, including reducing blood pressure in many patients who have hypertension. White wine, just like any other acidic ingredient, adds to the flavour profile without adding too much extra calories. I keep a variety of wines and vinegars on hand to create different flavour profiles in all my dishes.
So now for the recipe:
- 3 cups vegetables - fresh or frozen
Ex. Peas, beans, zucchini, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, red and orange peppers
- 2 cloves garlic, thin sliced
- 2 Tbsp basil, chopped
- 1 Tbsp Olive oil
- 2 Tbsp white wine
- 2 cups cooked pasta
Ex. fusilli or bowtie
- 10 medium raw shrimps, shells and tails removed
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, thin sliced
1. Fry shrimps together with garlic and olive oil until cooked throughout (about 5 minutes - shrimp will turn pink). Keep warm.
2. Pan fry vegetables in garlic in a small amount (~1tsp) of olive oil for about two minutes.
3. Add pasta, a little more olive oil (1-2tsp), and basil. Toss together in pan for another two minutes.
4. Deglaze pan with white wine, toss together, and serve with shrimps on top!
There you have it! A quick, fresh, and tasty meal to add to your repertoire this spring!