This fresh, delicious Pasta Primavera dish is loaded with roasted vegetables like summer squash, broccoli, juicy ripe tomatoes, lemon, basil and Parmesan cheese flavors. It’s a nutritious entrée that you can personalize however you’d like. Try this summer-inspired pasta with your favorite vegetables, your favorite pasta, and you can even use gluten free pasta!
The sunnier months are upon us, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the changing of the seasons than with this fresh pasta dinner! Pasta primavera is one of my all time favorite dishes to make when the veggies are nice and ripe.
What Is Pasta Primavera
It’s not surprising that “primavera” means “spring” in Italian. It’s called pasta primavera to reference the beautiful spring vegetables that are so wonderfully ripe this time of year!
While the name itself may not come as a shock, the history behind this beloved dish is certainly unusual! Although it’s an Italian entrée, it wasn’t first created in Italy. Pasta primavera was made famous in an Italian restaurant in Manhattan in the 1970’s!
The dish was first served at the New York City restaurant Le Cirque, where it remained an unlisted item for several years. Then, in 1977, a column was written about it in the New York Times, and it gained popularity rapidly.
If you love the idea of freshly cooked spring vegetables and penne pasta all tossed in a homemade, light Italian sauce, you’re going to love this recipe. Thank you, Le Cirque!
Ingredients in Pasta Primavera
Here’s What You’ll Need for this Pasta Dish:
- Penne Pasta – If you need to substitute this pasta, use a similarly textured noodle like bowties, rotini, or bucatini. Those are all pastas that can really grab the delicious sauce.
- Zucchini – To pick the freshest zucchini, make sure the green skin is vibrant. If it seems dull, or the texture is noticeably soft, the zucchini is past being ripe.
- Yellow Summer Squash – As you can tell by the name, this vegetable is freshest during the hot summer months.
- Bell Pepper – Red bell peppers are my favorite in this dish, however, you can opt for yellow or orange instead.
- Broccoli – Broccoli is rich in vitamin A, calcium, and potassium. It’s a great vegetable to add more of, if you’d like!
- Snow Peas – I love adding a big handful of snow peas to this pasta dinner. They’re packed with fiber and and vitamin C! You can add other types of peas if you’d like.
- Cherry Tomatoes – These can be substituted with grape tomatoes as well. Just think small and bite-sized.
- Lemon Juice – Use the juice from a fresh lemon, not a store-bought container of lemon juice. There truly is quite a flavor difference.
- Olive Oil – Use extra virgin olive oil but one that is not too bitter or overpowering.
- Dried Parsley – or fresh if you’d like, just double the amount.
- Salt and Pepper
For Lemon Basil Sauce:
- Butter – Unsalted works best, and helps to keep this dish low-sodium.
- Shallots – The lightly sweet flavor of fresh shallots is perfectly complimentary to the other ingredients in this sauce!
- Garlic Cloves – Toss an extra clove or two in the sauce if you want the garlicky flavor to be more prominent.
- Pasta Cooking Water – Be sure to reserve 3/4 cup of pasta water when you finish cooking the penne.
- Chicken Stock – This can be substituted with chicken broth, but the flavor will not be as strong.
- Lemon Zest – Use the zest of the same fresh lemon that is being used for juice. Zest lemon first and then juice to make it easier.
- Lemon Juice
- Basil – Use fresh basil for the best flavor.
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes – You can add more or less of this depending on how spicy you want the pasta primavera to be.
- Parmesan Cheese – Some Parmesan cheeses melt better than others. Parmesan that has been aged longer will not melt as well but have stronger flavor. Don’t worry if your cheese doesn’t melt as well, it will still taste great!
How to Make Fresh Pasta Primavera
First, start by boiling the penne according to package instructions. Reserve some of the pasta water to later use in the sauce. Then, drain the noodles, and set them aside.
While pasta is cooking, preheat the oven and prepare a baking sheet.
In a mixing bowl, add the chopped vegetables and toss them with olive oil, lemon juice, dried parsley, salt, and pepper.
Spread the seasoned vegetables out on the prepared baking sheet, then cook them!
Allow the vegetables to cook for at least 10 minutes. Depending on how soft you want the vegetables, remove them from the oven before they reach 15 minutes of cooking time.
Melt butter in a warm dutch oven before adding sliced onions. Sauté the onions until they’re brown. Then, stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant.
Mix the pasta water, chicken stock, and lemon juice together before pouring the mixture into the pot. Simmer.
Once simmering, stir in the freshly grated parmesan cheese until it’s starts to incorporate.
Now, for the delicious finale! Stir in the cooked pasta, baked vegetables, chopped tomatoes, minced fresh basil, and lemon zest.
Allow everything to cook for just a few more minutes to fully mix the flavors.
Serve and enjoy your all-in-one healthy, delicious entrée. Feel free to add more Parmesan if you want!
Gluten Free Pasta Primavera
Absolutely! Simply use a gluten free pasta of your choice.
However, note that some of the brands of gluten free pasts will break apart easily when cooked. It won’t change the taste, just know that it’s not something you did wrong! That can just the nature of some gluten free pasta.
Other Vegetables to Add
There are plenty of vegetables you can add to this pasta dish! Here are just a few of my favorites that I occasionally sneak in.
- Kale, Spinach, and Arugula – Stir in any of these leafy green superfoods along with the chopped basil and tomatoes.
- Peas – These can be frozen, not fresh! Just cook them accordingly, then stir them in with the other final ingredients.
- Asparagus – Chop the asparagus into bite sized pieces and bake it along with the other chopped vegetables.
More Pasta Dishes I Love
- Lobster Pasta – a rich, creamy, and delicious seafood pasta dish with chunks of flavorful lobster meat and creamy Parmesan sauce.
- Garlic and Spinach Alfredo Chicken Pasta – delicious, creamy chicken pasta dish is made with spinach and garlic Alfredo sauce, tender rotisserie chicken, and quick and easy pasta.
- Homemade Basil and Roasted Garlic Baked Penne – a pasta bake made with easy tomato sauce and lots of cheese.
- 1 lb penne pasta
- 1 medium zucchini
- 1 medium yellow summer squash
- 1 bell pepper
- 1 bunch of broccoli
- 4 oz snow peas
- 6-8 oz cherry tomatoes
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp dried parsley
- black pepper
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 shallots
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- 3/4 cup cooking water from cooking pasta
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1 lemon- zest
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 5-6 fresh basil leaves minced
- 1/2-1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
- Cook pasta in salted boiling water according to the instructions on the box and make sure to save some of the cooking water for the sauce. Drain pasta and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 425° and place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet.
- Chop vegetables and place all vegetables except onion, garlic, and tomatoes into a mixing bowl. (You will use onion and garlic in the sauce and stir tomatoes into the pasta at the end.)
- Toss vegetables with olive oil, lemon juice, dried parsley, salt, and pepper until evenly seasoned.
- Spread vegetables in one even layer on a parchment paper covered baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on how soft you want them.
- Preheat a large pot of a large Dutch oven, and melt butter in it. Add sliced onion and sauté until golden brown.
- Add pressed garlic, stir in with onions, and sauté until fragrant and starts to brown as well.
- Mix cooking water from pasta, chicken stock, and lemon juice in and pour it into the pot. Let it simmer for a few minutes.
- Stir in grated Parmesan cheese and some salt and pepper and let it cook for a few seconds, until cheese starts to melt and incorporate into the sauce.
- Stir in cooked pasta, vegetables, chopped tomatoes, minced basil, and lemon zest. Let it cook for just a couple more minutes as you mix everything together and serve!