The lifecycle of a Plated recipe—from our test kitchen to your home kitchen—tends to follow pretty much the same path, always with a few delicious surprises along the way. As you might imagine, it’s an incredibly creative and collaborative process. Our recipes are often inspired by the Culinary team’s monthly restaurant field trips, including the gooey Cauliflower Carbonara we sampled at an Italian restaurant. Other times, as was the case for our Curried Salmon Burgers, we want to revamp our own personal favorites that we’re dying to share.
During her culinary training, Chef Andrea lived and worked in Italy, immersing herself in the culture, language, and cuisine. She brought back so tips and tricks for making pasta by hand, the crucial ingredients for a killer bolognese, how to use hand gestures to help with pronunciation, and then some. Armed with her Italian know-how, Andrea has a deep understanding of sauces and flavor combinations, and can confidently riff on classic dishes, techniques, and flavor combinations.
Here’s a deep dive behind our Sweet Potato Noodle Primavera, hitting boxes March 17.
Primavera means spring in Italian, so it makes sense that pasta alla primavera is a pasta dish made with the freshest spring vegetables. But this dish wasn’t invented in the homeland across the sea, or even during springtime—it was actually dreamt up in Canada in fall or winter of ’75, at the vacation home of an Italian baron. New York City chef Sirio Maccioni, of famed restaurant Le Cirque, was cooking for the baron and his guests, who quickly tired of the various game and fish dishes that punctuated their days. Maccioni mixed butter, cream, cheese, and lightly cooked vegetables to create the luscious but bright sauce for an al dente pasta. Based on a 1977 New York Times article about the off-menu dish, we can safely assume that the very first recipe involved something in the range of 10 steps, and was made with spaghetti, mushrooms, asparagus, zucchini, broccoli, peas, and tomatoes on top.
Chef Andrea knew she wanted to hold onto that Alfredo-esque sauce for creamy, cheesy, veggie-hugging perfection. Of course, there’s a curveball: She challenged herself to make a no-added-gluten version, in as few as six steps, for you to easily recreate in your home kitchen for the same delicious results.
The first version of this recipe was written with asparagus, peas, and cremini mushrooms as the stars. The classic sauce was simple:Parmesan cheese, butter, heavy cream, and milk.
We had recently tried a spiralized sweet potato noodle that we wanted to incorporate in an upcoming menu—phew, the gluten-free part was quickly taken care of! But once the recipe entered the test kitchen, we realized that cooking the sweet potato noodles was going to take some innovation. See, they can’t exactly be boiled like your average flour pasta, because the starches behave differently. We tried boiling first and the noodles just couldn’t hold their spaghetti-like shape and texture!
We moved on to roasting the noodles, thinking they could get nice and crispy for some added texture. There are so many ways to roast—high heat for a long time; high heat for a shorter amount of time; low heat for a long time; you get the picture… After several rounds of roasting, and quite a few baking sheets, it was settled: lower heat (400ºF instead of 450ºF) and shorter time (10 minutes instead of 15) would yield perfectly tender noodles with signature chewy integrity.
IT’S BEAN REAL
Lastly, there was the ever-important garnish to think about. Andrea skipped the sprinkling of tomato from the Le Cirque original and instead opted for a topping of Italian-spiced white beans, roasted at the same temperature and for the same amount of time as the sweet potatoes. Since the noodles were being cooked to optimal tenderness, the topping should be crispy for textural balance. But those little beans just didn’t crisp as we’d hoped, so they couldn’t create a contrast with the creamy Alfredo sauce and tender veggies.
Andrea thought about all the classic, cheesy pasta dishes she sampled and cooked during her time in Italy, and quickly settled on a more traditional topping: toasted breadcrumbs.
But wait! Breadcrumbs = gluten, not to mention they take extra time to toast. So what was going to provide that same crunch, without added gluten and another pan? Roasted almonds, finely chopped and blended with a little more Parmesan and parsley.
THE PRIMA(VERA) DONNA
In the final iteration of this recipe, we really wanted to keep the equipment super simple—one baking sheet, one pan, done. Andrea suggested a sauce-making technique that allows you tosauté the mushrooms and asparagus first, then push everything to the outer edges of the pan and make the Alfredo sauce in the center. Pretty nifty, right? Then, the veggies get folded back into the creamy sauce, along with the roasted sweet potato noodles and peas (which warm through quickly at the end), before hitting your plates with a final smattering of crunchy almonds.