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Pasta Blooms Brightly in the Merry Month

May 16, 1996|BETTY ROSBOTTOM

Throughout the year I find myself looking at each season's bounty and thinking of ways to use it in pasta preparations. In the summer, fresh herbs, just-caught fish and garden vegetables go well with pasta. Mushrooms and winter squash come to mind for the fall, and hearty root vegetables and flavorful sausages are perfect partners for pasta in winter.

For spring, I think of lighter fare. The inspiration for this dish came while I was pushing my cart down the aisles at the market. Beautiful bunches of deep green watercress, ripe plum tomatoes and a chunk of creamy fontina cheese caught my eye, and I decided to combine them with farfalle (bowtie pasta).

From beginning to end this dish takes only about 40 minutes to assemble and cook, and although it is light in taste, it is also satisfying and filling. One thing to keep in mind is that this pasta cools very quickly after it is prepared, so it is best served on plates or in bowls that have been warmed.

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SPRING PASTA WITH TOMATOES, WATERCRESS AND FONTINA CHEESE

1 1/2 pounds unpeeled plum tomatoes, stems removed

2 bunches watercress, cleaned and dried

1 pound bowtie pasta (farfalle)

Salt

1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) shredded fontina cheese, preferably creamy Italian fontina

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons grated imported Parmesan cheese, optional

Halve tomatoes lengthwise and scoop out and discard seeds and membranes. Cut tomato halves into 1/2-inch dice and set aside. You should have about 3 cups.

Remove and discard tough stems from watercress. Chop watercress very coarsely to make about 4 cups. Set aside.

Boil 4 to 5 quarts water in large pan over high heat. Add pasta and 1/2 tablespoon salt and cook according to package directions until pasta is al dente, or just tender to the bite. Drain in colander.

Return pasta to pan and place over low heat. Add watercress and cook, stirring, until wilted, 1 minute or less. Add cheese and cook, stirring, until melted. Stir in tomatoes and red pepper flakes. Remove from heat. Stir well. Taste, adding salt and black pepper to taste.

To serve, arrange pasta on 4 heated dinner plates. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Makes 4 light main-course or 6 side-dish servings.

Each of 4 servings contains about:

624 calories; 445 mg sodium; 49 mg cholesterol; 15 grams fat; 94 grams carbohydrates; 27 grams protein; 1.69 grams fiber.

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