Primavera means “spring” in Italian, that time of year when tender young vegetables are just waiting to be tossed in a delicate sauce and then piled high on our plates. There was a time not long ago when people waited impatiently for spring to arrive so they could enjoy fresh vegetables again. At the Rang place north of Hayward, we checked the asparagus bed daily once the snow was gone and announced excitedly the appearance of the first blossoms on the peas, beans and tomatoes.
Today we can buy fresh vegetables throughout the year. Though the very best-tasting vegetables are those we buy locally when they are in season, we can still make a wonderful Chicken Primavera when snow covers the ground.
Adding sautéed chicken strips to fresh vegetables in a light sauce flavored with Parmesan cheese and basil makes a tasty Italian-style meal. Despite the fact that you will have an extra pan to wash, don’t try to do all the vegetables in the same pan with the chicken and tomatoes. The vegetables should be lightly cooked, the way Jerri likes them. The Italian word for this stage of tenderness is “al dente,” which roughly means that the vegetables crunch a little when you bite them.
This recipe makes six servings.
1 1/2 lbs. skinless chicken breast
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 cup sliced zucchini
4 Roma tomatoes
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 1/2 cups broccoli
1 cup snow peas
1 cup fresh asparagus cut in one inch pieces
4 large cloves garlic
3 T olive oil
3 T butter
1 cup whipping cream, warmed
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. fresh basil
Chopped parsley for garnish
Salt and pepper
1 lb. fettuccine
First prepare the meat and vegetables for cooking. Slice the chicken breast into strips about 1/2” by 2” and pat dry. Wash all vegetables. Cut the zucchini into quarter inch slices, salt and put in a colander. If slices are more than an inch and a half in diameter, cut them in half or quarters. After 15 or 20 minutes, rinse the slices and allow them to drain. This is a good time to grate the Parmesan and start the water for the fettuccine.
Dice the Roma tomatoes. Clean and slice the mushrooms into 1/4” slices. Cut the broccoli flowerets and asparagus into bite-sizes pieces. Cut the stems and flower ends off the snow peas, peel and mince the garlic and wash and chop the basil.
Put about a quarter cup of flour, a half teaspoon of salt and a quarter teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper into a paper bag. Shake to mix, then add the chicken strips and shake the bag to flour the strips very lightly. Heat about half the olive oil and butter in a frying pan and sauté the chicken until lightly browned. Turn down the heat, add the diced Roma tomatoes, and half of the minced garlic. Stir and simmer for 2 or 3 minutes until the tomatoes have softened and released their juice. Turn off the heat.
By this time the water should be boiling. Put the fettuccine in the pot and follow the instructions on the box to cook the pasta to the stage of tenderness you want.
In a second frying pan, add the remaining olive oil and butter. Sauté the mushrooms for three or four minutes over medium heat, then add the remaining minced garlic and the other vegetables. Stir fry until the vegetables are heated through another three or four minutes. Do not overcook them. Warm the cream while cooking the vegetables.
Drain the pasta and toss it with the warm cream. Add the basil, Parmesan cheese, chicken and vegetables. Toss, check seasoning, and add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with parsley.
Serve with a green salad and fresh, crusty Italian bread for a memorable meal.
NOTES: You can substitute a teaspoon of dried crushed basil leaves for the fresh basil. I prefer Roma tomatoes for this recipe, but you can use other varieties. If the tomatoes are extremely juicy, you might want to remove the seeds and pulp.