As I tasted the pasta primavera at New York City’s Le Cirque 2000, restaurateur Sirio Maccioni told me the story of pasta primavera. Sirio was hunting on Roberts Island in Nova Scotia with, among others, Craig Claiborne, the late New York Times food editor.
“We were invited to hunt wild boar and pigeon and then to make a meal of pigeon, lobster and wild boar,” Sirio told me. After three days of eating meat, Sirio and the others wanted pasta. “I went to the kitchen, and all the goods were frozen,” said Sirio. “Spaghetti Alfredo was very popular in those days. So I took what frozen mixed vegetables there were, mostly broccoli and peas, and mixed them with the spaghetti and porcini mushrooms. I made an improvised Alfredo sauce over it with cream, cheese and butter with a touch of garlic and basil. We never put it on the menu at the Colony, where I was working at the time, because our very intelligent French chef didn’t want to contaminate the menu with this Italian recipe.”
Even at Le Cirque, Sirio’s own highly successful restaurant, pasta primavera is not on the menu. But whenever anyone asks for it, the chefs make it at tableside. The only difference is that today the chefs add a little mascarpone cheese to the cream. You can use whatever vegetables are in your refrigerator. Sirio did.
By Joan Nathan, a food writer in Washington, D.C.