Pasta Primavera with Peas, Asparagus & Fava Beans

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penne pasta with spring vegetables

Pasta Primavera is a vibrant and healthy dish that celebrates the freshness of spring vegetables.

It’s flexible, delicious, and easy to make, and comes together in a pan sauce tossed with simple extra virgin olive oil, lemon, and Parmesan cheese sauce.

In this version of Pasta Primavera, I used peas, snap peas, fava beans, purple carrots, asparagus, leeks, spinach, and a garnish of fresh basil. This dish can easily be made gluten-free by using your favorite gluten-free pasta.

Pasta Primavera Notes

  • Primavera means springtime in Italian. This bright, flavorful pasta primavera recipe truly celebrates all the best the season has to offer. The recipe is flexible and can be adapted to your preferences.
  • The internet says that the original “Pasta Primavera” restaurant dish was invented at New York’s Le Cirque Restaurant in the 1970s. However, I’ve lightened it up for this version by removing the butter and heavy cream so the fresh vegetables’ flavor can truly shine.
    • This pasta dish showcases the fresh, in-season vegetables of spring and early summer. Though a restaurant in New York City coined the term, people all over the Mediterranean sea have been making variations of this dish for centuries.
  • What vegetables are in pasta primavera? The vegetables used in pasta primavera typically include peas, carrots, asparagus, leeks, and small zucchini. Beyond that, each pasta primavera recipe will be slightly unique, with its own range of other fresh veggies like green beans, grape tomatoes, and more.
penne pasta with spring vegetables on white plate

Pasta Primavera Ingredients

Pasta Primavera is flexible. You can use any in-season produce that you have on hand or that looks good to you. Here’s what I used today:

  • Peas: In this recipe, I used both fresh peas and snap pea pods. Both varieties can be found at stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. You can also use frozen peas, which are picked and frozen at their peak and retain their nutritional value. Peas are absolutely packed with vitamin C and other nutrients.
  • Fava beans: I’m being a bit extra and adding fava beans. If you can find them they are great! You do have to black and peel them, so omit them if you don’t want that extra work. If you’re new to fava beans (also known as broad beans), they’re legumes in the same family as peas and are in season during the spring. These are a great source of protein, fiber, iron, and other beneficial nutrients. Shelled frozen fava beans are typically the easiest to find, but you can also use fresh.
  • Purple Carrots: Carrots are loaded vitamin A, fiber, and flavor. All carrots are good for you, I just especially love the color of the purple carrots here.
  • Leeks (or onions): Leeks are in the same family as onions, garlic, and chives. Their flavor is milder and sweeter than regular onions. And while they’re available year-round, they’re in season and at their best from October through May. You could also use shallots, yellow, or red onions.
  • Asparagus: For this recipe, chop the asparagus into 1-inch pieces, or about the same size as your pasta.
  • Penne pasta: While some pasta primavera recipes use a longcut pasta like spaghetti or fettuccine, I sometimes prefer a shortcut pasta like penne. Use regular or gluten-free penne to complement the vegetables in this dish. You could also use fusilli, farfalle or orecchiette. Don’t be afraid of carbohydrates!
  • Extra virgin olive oil: This oil is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and can even lower cholesterol. It’s one of my favorite oils to cook with for its taste and benefits.
  • Fresh parmesan cheese: For this recipe, I recommend using real, freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (not the shelf-stable stuff that comes out of the shaker). Real parmesan cheese is not only super tasty, but it’s also lactose-free and high in protein and other nutrients like vitamin A, potassium, calcium, and more.
  • Garnish ideas: Fresh basil, pea tendrils, or chive blossoms can top the dish beautifully.

This is the perfect main course for dinner on the patio with friends. It takes only about 30 minutes to prepare, and if you’re entertaining on a weeknight, this dish is sure to be a family favorite.

Pasta Primavera Ingredients

How To Make Pasta Primavera

This pasta dish has a few steps, but it comes together quickly and easily. Here’s what you’ll need to do.

  1. Make the pasta: Make the pasta per the package directions, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.
  2. Blanch the vegetables: While the pasta is cooking, blanch the peas, pea pods, carrots, asparagus tips, and fava beans in a large pot of boiling water until just crisp-tender, about 1-2 minutes.
    • Remove with a slotted spoon and add to a large bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking. If you’re using fresh fava beans, repeat the process again with the shelled fava beans. (You can use the same water).
    • Once the fava beans are cooked and cooled, slip off the outer, rubbery shell. Drain the vegetables and set them aside.
  3. Make the sauce: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil at medium-high heat. Add the leeks and sauté until the leeks are soft and start to brown.
    • Next, turn the heat to low and add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. Then add in the fresh lemon juice, the cooked pasta, and 1/4 cup of reserved pasta water.
  4. Add the cheese and vegetables: Next, slowly sprinkle in the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese while stirring constantly. This will help the cheese from clumping. Add more reserved pasta water a tablespoon at a time if necessary to form a light sauce that coats the pasta.
    • Once the pasta noodles are coated, add the cooked vegetables and the baby spinach. Toss gently until the spinach starts to wilt, 1-2 minutes.
  5. Serve: Adjust the seasoning and add to individual bowls. And then garnish with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and some fresh basil leaves, chives, or pea shoots, if desired.
bowl of penne pasta with vegetables and parmesan cheese

Easy Recipe Variations

This pasta primavera recipe is easily adapted. Here’s how to tweak it to your taste and dietary needs.

  • Make the recipe gluten-free: To make this recipe gluten-free, replace the pasta with your favorite gluten-free pasta.
  • Use other vegetables: Go ahead and sub out the vegetables! This recipe would also be delicious with red bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, yellow squash, or zucchini. One note: depending on what type of vegetable you use, you might want to consider sauteeing or roasting the vegetables instead of blanching them. Hard veggies like carrots, asparagus and peas (technically a legume) are great for blanching. Leeks, zucchini, tomatoes (technically a fruit), and water-heavy veggies are better for sauteeing.
  • Add more protein: This recipe has a healthy amount of protein thanks to the peas, fava beans, and cheese. If you’d like to add meat, roasted shrimp, salmon, or shredded chicken would work well.

Is pasta primavera vegan? No, traditional pasta primavera is not vegan. However, you can omit the parmesan cheese to make this dish vegan.

More Recipe Tips

  • Cut vegetables to the same size: Try to cut all the vegetables to approximately the same size. This will help ensure even cooking.
  • How to keep the cheese from clumping: The best way to make sure your cheese doesn’t clump up is to add it slowly while constantly stirring. Also, make sure to use finely grated cheese, not thick sheets or big shredded pieces.
  • Storage: You can store pasta primavera in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for a day or two.
Print
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Bowl of Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 1 review
  • Author: Elizabeth Rider
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 46 servings 1x
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

This delicious, easy-to-make pasta primavera is a light and healthy dish that’s perfect for spring! It’s loaded with crisp-tender vegetables and tossed in simple olive oil, lemon, and Parmesan cheese sauce. It’s easily adaptable and can be made gluten-free.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1 (16-ounce) package of penne pasta (regular or gluten-free)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 cup fresh snap pea pods (or more peas)
  • 3 medium carrots thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen fava beans
  • 8 spears asparagus, chopped into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 2 medium-sized leeks, cleaned and sliced into half-moons (white and light green parts only)
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely grated fresh Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 small lemon)
  • Kosher salt or fine-grain sea salt (I use Real Salt) and fresh black pepper, to taste
  • Fresh basil, chives, or pea shoots for garnish

Instructions

  1. Make the pasta per the package instructions to al dente, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, blanch the peas, pea pods, carrots, asparagus tips, and frozen fava beans (if using) in a large pot of boiling water until just crisp-tender, about 1-2 minutes.
  3. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and add to a bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking. If you’re using fresh fava beans, repeat then process with the fava beans. You can use the same water. Once the fava beans are cooked and cooled, slip off the outer, rubbery shell.
  4. Drain the vegetables and set them aside.
  5. In a large pan, heat the olive oil. Add the leeks and sauté until the leeks are soft and starting to brown.
  6. Turn the heat to low and add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, being careful not to burn the garlic.
  7. Add in the lemon juice, and then add in the cooked pasta and 1/2 cup reserved pasta water.
  8. Next, slowly sprinkle in the Parmesan cheese a while stirring constantly. This will help the cheese from clumping. Add more reserved pasta water a tablespoon at a time, if necessary.
  9. Once the pasta noodles are coated, add the cooked vegetables and the baby spinach. Toss until the spinach starts to wilt.
  10. Adjust the seasoning and add to individual bowls. Garnish with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and fresh basil or chives, or pea shoots. Serve and enjoy!

Notes

Make the recipe gluten-free: To make this recipe gluten-free, replace the pasta with your favorite gluten-free pasta. I love gluten-free penne, and it’s available at most grocery stores.

How to keep cheese from clumping: The best way to make sure you’re cheese doesn’t clump up is to add it slowly while constantly stirring. Also, make sure to use finely grated cheese, not thick sheets or big shredded pieces.

Storage: You can store pasta primavera in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for a day or two. When ready to serve, just microwave until just heated through, about 1-2 minutes.


Nutrition

  • Calories: 429

If you like this recipe, be sure to try these too!

Everyone’s Favorite Vegetarian Chili Recipe

Creamy Cauliflower Soup Recipe

Avocado Pesto Pasta Pasta with Arugula and Basil

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  1. Claudia says:

    I love pasta salad, and this looks amazing! Bringing together pasta and healthy eating!

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