Best-Ever Pasta Primavera (aka Spring Pasta)

penne pasta with spring vegetables

This delicious, easy-to-make pasta primavera recipe is loaded with crisp-tender spring vegetables and tossed in simple olive oil, lemon, and Parmesan cheese sauce.

It’s a light and healthy take on the classic recipe that’s perfect for spring! This dish can easily be made gluten-free or vegan with a few easy swaps.

What vegetables are in pasta primavera? The vegetables used in pasta primavera typically include peas, carrots, asparagus, 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.

Easy Springtime Pasta Primavera Recipe

This pasta primavera is one of my all-time favorite pasta dishes. Primavera means springtime in Italian. And this bright, flavorful pasta primavera recipe truly celebrates all the best the season has to offer. Seriously, it’s like springtime in a bowl!

The original pasta primavera 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!

What does primavera mean? Primavera comes from the Italian word for springtime. This pasta dish is perfect for showcasing the fresh, in-season vegetables of the spring and early summer seasons. Though invented in New York City, the Italian inspiration shines through.

penne pasta with spring vegetables on white plate

Pasta Primavera Ingredients

Here are a few notes on some of the delicious, fresh ingredients that make this dish magical.

You’ll fall in love with these veggies as they add the perfect crispiness to this creamy pasta.

  • Peas: In this recipe, I used both fresh peas and snap pea pods. Both of these 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, along with other nutrients.
  • Fava beans: 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.
  • 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.
  • Penne pasta: While the original recipe uses spaghetti or fettuccine, I prefer 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.
  • Asparagus: For the asparagus in this recipe, you’ll want to cut the top into 1-inch pieces, also known as asparagus tips.
  • 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, and the total time is only 30 minutes. If you’re entertaining on a weeknight, this dish is sure to wow.

Pasta Primavera Ingredients

How To Make Pasta Primavera

This pasta dish does have a few steps. But it comes together quickly and easily. Here’s what you’ll need to do.

Make the pasta: Make the pasta per the package directions, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.

Blanch the vegetables: While the pasta is cooking, blanch the peas, pea pods, carrots, asparagus tips, and frozen 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.

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, 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 reserved pasta water.

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.

Once the pasta noodles are coated, add the cooked vegetables and the baby spinach. Toss until the spinach starts to wilt.

Serve: Adjust the seasoning and add to individual bowls. And then garnish with a sprinkle of cheese and some fresh basil leaves or pea shoots and chive blossoms if you want.

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 stir-frying or roasting the vegetables instead of blanching them.
  • 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, I’ve removed the butter and cream from this recipe to reduce the amount of dairy and extra carbs. My recipe is vegetarian!

A Few 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. When ready to serve, just microwave until just heated through, about 1-2 minutes.

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

Print
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Bowl of Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera

  • Author: Elizabeth Rider
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 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

Scale
  • 1 16-ounce box of penne pasta (regular or gluten-free)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 cup fresh snap pea pods
  • 4 medium carrots thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen fava beans
  • 1 cup fresh asparagus spears tips
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 2 medium-sized leeks, cleaned and sliced into half-moons (white and light green parts only)
  • 12 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons 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)
  • Salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
  • Fresh basil, pea tendril, or chive blossoms

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. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, being careful not to burn the garlic.
  7. Add in the lemon juice, and then toss in the cooked pasta and 1/4 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 cheese and some fresh basil or pea shoots and chive blossoms if you’d like!

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

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Instead of prescribing what I think you should do, I help you find what works for you.

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