Pasta primavera is the tastiest way to eat all your veggies! It’s light, refreshing, vibrant, aromatic and just creamy enough to hypnotize even your pickiest eater into seconds and thirds. This pasta primavera recipe is loaded with broccoli, squash, zucchini, asparagus, bell peppers, tomatoes and peas BUT you don’t have to stick with these veggies – add any veggies you want or have on hand- or make it the best clean-out-the-fridge pasta of your life. The rainbow of vegetables is lightly dressed in an easy, aromatic cream sauce spiked with garlic, freshly grated Parmesan, lemon juice and basil. You can leave pasta primavera vegetarian or add protein such as rotisserie chicken, lemon basil chicken or lemon garlic shrimp. This pasta primavera recipe also reheats beautifully for meal prep or lunches throughout the week. Serve pasta primavera with homemade butter breadsticks and fruit salad for the perfect weeknight dinner.
Servings 6 servings
- 12 oz. cavatappi or other short pasta such as penne, fusilli, or orecchiette
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil divided
- 1/2 medium red onion chopped
- 2 cups broccoli florets cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 medium yellow squash sliced and quartered
- 1 medium zucchini sliced and quartered
- 8 oz asparagus trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 medium red bell pepper chopped
- 1 1 /2 cup cherry tomatoes halved
- salt and pepper
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 cup heavy cream (may sub evaporated milk)
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 1/2 tsp EACH dried oregano, dried parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese divided
- 1 1/2 cups frozen petite peas thawed
- 1/4 cup fresh basil chopped
Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water before draining.
Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large, deep saucepan/skillet over medium-high heat. Add red onions and broccoli and sauté 3 minutes.
Add squash, zucchini, asparagus, bell peppers, tomatoes, and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Sauté 2 minutes or until veggies are tender-crisp. Transfer veggies to a large bowl; set aside.
To the now empty skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté 30 seconds. Turn heat to low and add heavy cream. Whisk chicken broth with cornstarch and add to skillet along with oregano, parsley, thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Bring the sauce to a simmer; simmer until thickened, approx. 3-5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan until melted followed by lemon juice. Add peas and fresh basil and warm through.
Stir vegetables into sauce followed by pasta, adding additional reserved pasta water a little at a time if needed to thin to desired consistency (I didn’t use any). Taste and season with freshly cracked salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with additional 1/4 cup Parmesan - or more!
TIPS and Tricks
This pasta primavera recipe is pretty straightforward, but here are a few tips and tricks for fool proof pasta every time:
- No 1 Tip – don’t overcook your veggies. Nothing will ruin pasta primavera like soft or worse, mushy vegetables. The vegetables should be tender crisp/al dente- and not soft. Use a timer so you don’t overcook them.
- Don’t overcook pasta. I recommend testing your pasta about 2 or 3 minutes before the box recommends – pasta should be al dente– meaning it should still be a little firm in the center/ have a “bite” to it.
- Use a large enough pot. The vegetables plus the pasta all combine in one dish so you’ll need a deep saucepan or braiser with plenty of wiggle room. If you don’t own either one of these, use a Dutch oven. Alternatively, you can cook the vegetables and sauce in a skillet and combine everything together in the large pasta pot.
- Use a variety of vegetables. The vegetables in this recipe are just a guide. If adding your own veggies, make sure to use a healthy variety of texture, color, and flavor. See post for how to add different veggies.
- Vegetable shortcut. Select a variety pack of stir-fried veggies and add to them as needed. You may need to chop some of the vegetables down so they cook in the same amount of time.
- Scale veggies if adding protein. If you add protein, you will need to add less vegetables or they're won't be enough sauce OR increase the sauce portion of the recipe. See post for protein variations.
- Fresh Parmesan. Use ONLY freshly grated Parmesan cheese. It is much more flavorful and melts into silky oblivion unlike powdered or pre-shredded cheese.
- Bursting tomatoes. You can cook the tomatoes more or less depending on how “burst” you want them. As written, the tomatoes will be soft and some will be bursting. If you don’t want as tender of tomatoes, add the tomatoes with the heavy cream instead of the zucchini.
- Add lemon juice to taste. 2 tablespoons lemon juice adds a nice lemony taste. You can use more or less depending on how citrusy you would like your pasta primavera.
HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT
This pasta primavera recipe reheats well so you can enjoy leftovers for days! Just be take care your pasta is cooked al dente, especially if you are going to be reheating.
- Storage: transfer pasta primavera to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to five days.
- Microwave: transfer to a microwave safe dish and add splash of milk or water. Microwave for one minute, stir, then continue to heat at 30 second intervals until warmed through.
- Stove: For larger portions, reheat pasta on the stove over medium-low, stirring frequently until warmed through. You may need to add a splash of milk to thin the sauce as it will have thickened in the refrigerator.
To prep ahead:
- Pasta: cook the pasta al dente, drain with cool water and toss with a drizzle of oil to prevent it from sticking together. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Vegetables: chop and store the red onions and broccoli together and the rest of the ingredients together in a separate airtight container.
- Aromatics: mince the garlic, and chop the basil.
- Cheese: grate the Parmesan.