Vanessa Chang
(A Glutton with Brains)


a glutton with brains

Spring (or Early Summer) Green Pasta


An oldie, but a goodie. In honor of those of us in less-blessed and more earnest climates, I offer something to use up the proliferation of greens. As much as one enjoys sauteeing, sometimes, a bit of creamy texture is necessary to break up all that roughage-monotony. A food processor is your friend here - one of the few gadgets I will forever and ever extoll. - Vanessa

The solution for professed vegetable-haters is to make something vegetal appear distinctly not. Case in point, a sauce of broccoli and spinach for a jumble of linguine. Not that I have issues eating any matter of vitamin-suffused roughage, but there's only so much steaming and sauteeing a girl can take on the plate. And given the blossoms on the branches, the warmer temperatures and sporadic rain, it's a nice dish to make on a quiet night-in, to thank the stars it's finally spring.


So how does one make stalky Chinese broccoli and big sturdy, fluffy leaves of spinach into a velvety sauce?

The food processor. 

Oh I hear you kitchen purists.

"Pesto and such is best from a mortar and pestle!"

"Oh the blades cut the very flavor out of the food!"

Whatever. When it's late summer and basil is coming out of my ears or I'm making enough for a village, I'd need a mortar and pestle the size of an average village well. And when it comes to emulsifying cream and lemon juice in with said puree, there's nothing easier or better. From this equipment staple, I can make hummus or transform a tub of the ready-made stuff with roasted red peppers for something different. I can make an easy cake batter to pour around poached pears. I chop nuts. Make the odd batch of pastry crust. I bloody love mine. I can't imagine kitchen life without it.

In one pot is vigorously boiling water. In a pan is olive oil, garlic, a couple of oil packed anchovies mashed about. Add the leafy vestiges of spring and cook until it's to the point where you'd normally put it onto a plate and call it done. A side veg. And delicious one at that thanks to the anchovy. There's no fishy-ness to it. Rather, a depth, a savory character inherent to mushrooms and MSG.

Pasta has become somewhat of a mundane offering in careless hands. Gummy. Overdone. Or insipid. A shame considering how glorious a medium it is for simple sauces of extraordinary flavor. Depending on the cut and style, the texture plays with your palate, too. Layers of long strands or the ridges of a corkscrew or the hollow of an orecchiette between the teeth. And "to the tooth" is how it should be cooked -- al dente with enough bite and give to never be associated with baby food. The silkiness of this dish comes from the sauce.

With one extra step in the food processor an otherwise toothy meal of pasta strands and little bunches of sauteed greens evolves into a smooth, comforting nest of noodles to serve generously onto your plate with a blizzard of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Seconds are required.



1 box of linguine (about 12 to 16 ounces) or other shapes * olive oil * 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced * 2 anchovy filets * 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes * whatever manner of greenery hanging out in your fridge (Chard, spinach, regular broccoli, Chinese broccoli), enough to fill a large salad bowl * juice and zest of 1 lemon * 3/4 cup cream * 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano * salt to taste and more cheese to serve

Bring a large pot of water to a vigorous boil. Add a handful of salt (the Italians like to poetically say the pasta water should be "as salty as the sea") and then add pasta.

While that's cooking, heat a large sautepan over medium high heat. Add the oil when the pan's cooking surface is hot and add the garlic and anchovies. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture about, mashing the anchovies so that they disintegrate into the fragrant oil. Add the crushed red pepper, stir and cook for another minute. Add the greens to pan, tearing or cutting into smaller pieces as you do. Stir and proceed to saute in the oil until wilted but still bright green. For broccoli, be sure to cut the stalk into much smaller pieces. When those are tender, you're ready for the food processor.

Tip the pan's contents into the food processor. Turn onto to a constant whir, pureeing the greens. As the blade is going, pour in the lemon juice, zest and cream through the lid's opening (most models have this function; if not, just blitz, pour, blitz, pour, etc.)

Pour the green puree back into the saute pan. Place over a medium high heat and bring to a simmer. Add the grated cheese. Salt to taste. Drain the pasta (now it should be cooked, al dente, with some bite, otherwise it's just a gummy mash) and reserve about a cup of the cooking water. Place the cooked pasta into the sautepan with the green sauce. Stir with tongs to coat everything evenly. Add the reserved pasta water if you need to thin the sauce out.

Serve immediately with a chunk of cheese and grater. The more cheese, the better. Serves 8.