• Alessandra DeNardo

Building a Sauce! Pasta Primavera with Pistachios

Updated: Aug 2, 2021

Pasta primavera with pistachios and mozzarella. The zucchini, cauliflower, tomatoes, and peas make the sauce sweet. Combined with pecorino, salted pistachios, and melty mozz, this is divine (and healthy!) this is an AMAZING recipe to learn how to layer a sauce and build flavor. You build flavor by tending to each ingredient/layer and then bringing them together to create one sauce. There are a ton of different ways to build sauces (there are simple Italian pasta sauces, fairly complex French classic sauces to serve with fish or meat, Asian flavored pan sauces, etc). In this case you caramelize the vegetables, then bring them together, add tomato paste, stock, pasta water, and Parmesan, and it’s delicious. This isn’t quick it takes a good 35-40 min to cook everything and eventually get it to a point where it’s full of flavor and thick but it is worth it! Please taste your vegetables as you are cooking and make sure they’re cooked properly and seasoned well. Absolutely delicious spring or summer recipe. Try it out with this loose guide below and improve your sauce building skills today 🥳


First of all prepare your toppings. I included pistachios for a salty crunch, pecorino Romano for salt, and parsley. Have your pistachios chopped, slightly roasted (in a pan on stove for 2 min is fine) on side. Also prepare your chopped mozzarella and chopped parsley. If you are grating pecorino, that too.

Add a large pot with water to the stove and keep it on low so you can quickly boil the water when your sauce is ready.

Additionally, prepare your vegetables. For this I broke down 1/2 head of cauliflower into small florets. Sliced two zucchinis then sliced in 1/2 again. Halved about 20 cherry tomatoes. Chopped one white onion. minced 3-4 garlic cloves.

Building flavor

Heat a large sauce pan and caramelize cauliflower in olive oil. Season with s+p and garlic powder. You also will be browning zucchini so either remove cauliflower from pan when golden or use different pan and cook sliced zucchini until golden on both sides. Season.

When both cauli and zuch are ready, set aside. Add drop of oil and 1 chopped white onion to pan. Cook slightly and add garlic.

Now add the cherry tomatoes to the garlic and onions. The tomatoes should cover the bottom of your pan in 1 ish layer. SEASON. Let tomatoes cook down with a generous amount of oil until they start to blister. Once blistered slightly and their juices are getting in the pan, add all of the vegetables back and stir.

ADD PEAS NOW! Not too many but enough to see some green. About 1.5 C.

Now turn the heat up on your pot to boil your pasta water.

Now it’s sauce time

You’ve already built flavor with the individual caramelization and seasoning the layers. Now add a spoonful of tomato paste and incorporate into the vegetables.

Let the paste caramelize until fragrant and darker. When the paste is caramelized slightly, add some stock (chicken or vegetable). The stock should cover the bottom of the pan by about 1/2 inch. You aren’t making soup so it should absolutely not look like soup. You’re just creating a liquid and extracting some flavor out of all of the vegetables. If you don’t have stock, hold off until you add the pasta and add a cup of pasta water.

Stir and let reduce in liquid volume. SEASON THIS with parsley, basil, oregano, red pepper. Even a little Parmesan cheese.

At this point the water should be boiling and you can add your pasta. HEAVILY SALT THE WATER FIRST. This sauce is sweet! So this is necessary. Halfway through pasta cooking time add half a mug or so of pasta water to the vegetable mixture.

RESERVE an entire additional mug of water and put to side.

Now there’s two ways to do this; you can either undercook your pasta and add it to the pan with the vegetables (if you have a pan big enough). Then add water and finish cooking the pasta in the sauce. This is the best way if you have the correct pan.


Strain pasta (regular cooking time) and add back to the pot. Add the sauce mixture and 1/2 mug of pasta water. Stir GENTLY, lifting the sauce from the bottom of the pot to the top of the mixture. Add some Parmesan for creaminess.

ADJUST HERE! this should look wet and saucy but not soupy or watery. Keep in mind the pasta will continue to absorb the liquid so you want excess but again not excess like it’s soup. If it looks too dry, add some oil or more water. I always add more water than I think I need and it turns out saucey and perfect.

When everything looks good to go, add to a large bowl and top with pistachios, mozzarella, parsley, and quality olive oil. The mozzarella will melt as you eat it. Enjoy and congrats on building a sauce!

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