This recipe is one of our favorites! It’s beautiful, tasty, quick to make, and open to improvisation—whether you’re improvising because you’re feeling creative or because asparagus has gone out of season and your garden has doubled down on green bean production.
We love pasta dishes! But, we don’t always love all the pasta—dishes. There are a lot of pasta recipes that have you cook the pasta in one pan and the sauce in another. Adding vegetables or a side salad makes even more dirty dishes. This recipe is so full of veggies you can skip the side salad—if you want to. And, making the pasta and sauce in a single pan cuts down on the after-dinner cleanup, as well as the amount of butter or oil you have to add. This is because, as pasta cooks, some starch releases into the water. The starch in the pasta water works as a base to create a sauce that’s full and rich without added butter. We use a variation of this technique in our Pasta Romano With Bacon & Broccoli as well. In that recipe, some pasta water is held back to mix with the pasta later which helps the sauce cling better.
Add Meat if You Choose
This is a vegetarian recipe, but it’s easy to add chicken or another meat if you want to boost the protein or if you have committed meat eaters in your family. Using a stainless steel nonstick wok is ideal if you add meat to the recipe because it’ll allow you to sear the meat.
Add the meat during step 3 of the recipe. Heat the oil and sear the meat until it’s brown, but not fully cooked—about 5–6 minutes. Remove the meat, and then cook the vegetables. Add the meat back into the wok at the same time as you add the pasta.
One of the things that makes this recipe special is the gremolata. Gremolata (GREM’uh-la-ta), is an Italian condiment that you can also use as a sauce. It’s another variation of the green herb sauces that appear in cultures throughout the world. It’s similar to another Italian classic, pesto, as well as pistou in French cooking, or chimichurri in Argentinean cuisine. Usually gremolata is made with lemon zest, garlic, parsley, and anchovy. The variation we use in this recipe doesn’t call for anchovy and adds a subtle peppery note with arugula.
Gremolata tastes great served with any red or braised meat. It balances and adds brightness and freshness to fattier, richer dishes. It’s a traditional accompaniment for osso bucco which is made with braised veal shanks, and you’ll find it’s fantastic paired with grilled meat in the summer.
Our Chimichurri Noodles With Grilled Flank Steak is another recipe you might enjoy if you like pesto and gremolata.
You can easily come up with your own gremolata variations. Swap out the parsley and arugula with different herb combinations. Chives, oregano, a little thyme, or rosemary would all be great herbs to include. It’s a way to use fresh herbs that livens up your meals and helps prevent food waste. How often have you bought a huge herb pack for a recipe that calls for two or three sprigs? Turn the unused herbs into a fresh, vibrant sauce instead of throwing them away or letting them dissolve in the back of your fridge
During the summer, we grow a small kitchen garden outside the Test Kitchen. We pinch the herbs to prevent them from going to seed and to encourage them to grow into full, beautiful plants. If you do the same, making a gremolata is a good way to use those herb cuttings. Make your own blend—there’s no wrong way to do it. Keep the garlic, lemon, and herb proportions roughly the same as are in our gremolata recipe and then improvise and tweak to suit your taste.
Here’s the link to the full recipe. If you try it, leave us a review and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear about your creative variations, too!