Shells with Spring Vegetables

Serves 4 to 6

1 pound Medium Shells, Radiatore or other medium pasta shape, uncooked
2 red bell peppers
6 small plum tomatoes
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
8 medium to large shiitake mushrooms (about 12 oz.), stemmed and sliced 1/2-inch thick, or 12 oz. button mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick
8 large asparagus stalks, cut on the diagonal in 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup (loosely packed) thinly sliced fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the red bell peppers in half, cut out the cores and scrape away the seeds. Cut into 1/4-inch strips.

Core the tomatoes and cut a small "x" in the end opposite the core. Blanch the tomatoes in a small saucepan of boiling salted water just until the skins are loosened, about 10 seconds for a round tomato or up to 1 minute for tough-skinned plum tomatoes. Drain the tomatoes immediately and place them in a bowl of cold water. When cool, drain the tomatoes and slip off the skins. Cut the tomatoes in half and scrape out the seeds. Cut the tomatoes in 1/2-inch cubes.

Prepare pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrot and onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, asparagus, chicken broth, basil and red bell peppers. Stir well. Add the remaining butter, increase the heat to high and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is boiling and the butter is completely melted.

Drain pasta and transfer to a serving bowl. Pour vegetable sauce over pasta and toss lightly. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.