Anytime Tomato Primavera Sauce

serves: 5 cups

You don't have to wait for primavera--springtime--to make this quick skillet sauce. You probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry and refrigerator all year: canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, a few perennially fresh vegetables like broccoli, mushrooms, and zucchini, and sweet peas from the freezer. This recipe lists the vegetables I prefer, but don't be afraid to use others, if that's what you have on hand.

ingredients

Vegetables for Blanching
3 cups total of the following in any combination
zucchini, sliced crosswise into 1 1/2-inch pieces
small broccoli florets, on short stems, about 1-inch wide
asparagus stalks, trimmed and sliced into 3/4-inch pieces
green beans, trimmed and sliced into 3/4-inch lengths
1 cup of frozen peas
Or equivalent amounts of cut-up cauliflower, peppers, and leeks

Vegetables For The Skillet
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, cut in 1-4-inch thick half-moon slices
4 fat garlic cloves, sliced (about 1/4 cup)
¼ teaspoon dried peperoncino, (hot red pepper flakes)
2 cups fresh mushrooms, stems trimmed, sliced 1/4 inch thick
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups canned San Marzano tomatoes, with juices, crushed by hand
boiling salted pasta-cooking water

For Dressing Pasta
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
¾ cup Grana Padano, or Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated

recommended equipment
A heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet;

directions
Blanching the Vegetables

Fill the pasta pot with salted water (1 tablespoon kosher salt to 6 quarts of water) and bring to a boil. Fill the large bowl with ice water.

When the pasta water is boiling vigorously, dump in the cut vegetables and peas, bring the water back to the boil, and cook uncovered for 2 minutes. Scoop out the pieces with a spider or strainer, drain briefly, and drop into the ice water to shock them. When they're thoroughly chilled, let them drain and dry in a colander.

Making the Skillet Sauce

Pour the olive oil into the skillet, scatter the onion slices in the oil and set over medium-high heat. Cook for 1 minute, tossing to coat the onions with oil.

Strew the garlic slices and peperoncino in clear hot spots of oil and cook them until they're sizzling, another minute or so, then stir in with the onions. Don't let them darken; lower the heat if they start to color.

Scatter the mushroom slices in a clear part of the skillet, and sprinkle on the 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook and stir them separately for 1 minute or so until sizzling, then stir them in with the onions.

Pour all the crushed tomatoes and juices into the skillet and stir in with the sautéed vegetables. Slosh 1 cup of hot pasta water around the tomato container, then stir that into the skillet. Heat the sauce so that it's actively bubbling all over and cook at a gentle boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pasta water if the sauce is thickening or sticking.

Drop all the cut, blanched vegetable pieces into the skillet and stir them into the sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 2-3 minutes or more, until the blanched vegetables are cooked thoroughly but still al dente. If the pasta is not ready, turn off the heat so the vegetables don't get soft. Just before adding the pasta, stir in some hot pasta water to loosen the sauce if it has thickened, and return it to a simmer.

To dress any pasta with tomato primavera, toss and cook them together. Remove the skillet from the heat and toss in the 2 tablespoons olive oil and the cheese just before serving.