“Pasta primavera” is Italian for “springtime pasta”. It is a festive and colorful dish made with pasta and lightly sautéed springtime vegetables. Contrary to popular belief, pasta primavera is not Italian in origin. While there is some controversy regarding the originator of the recipe, it is generally agreed that the recipe was first developed by chefs in North America. Pasta primavera became a signature dish at the famed restaurant, Le Cirque, in the 70’s and 80’s during the heyday of nouvelle cuisine.
Still popular 40 years later, pasta primavera has evolved to a lighter and healthier version of its predecessor. Use the freshest early springtime vegetables you can find at your market. It’s okay to make some veggie substitutions, additions or deletions, depending on what inspires you.
I like to serve pasta primavera with some crusty Italian bread and a crisp salad of fresh greens.
- 8 ounces baby carrots,
- 8 ounces sugar snap peas
- 1 pound asparagus, cut into 2 inch pieces on the diagonal
- 1 cup peas
- 8 ounces baby zucchini
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 6 garlic cloves, sliced in half
- 4 ounces mini yellow peppers, cut into strips
- 1 bunch scallions, sliced in 2 inch pieces, on the diagonal
- 12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- zest of two lemons
- 2 tablespoons chives, snipped
- 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
- 1 tablespoon basil, chopped, plus some whole leaves for garnish
- 1 pound pasta—fettuccine, farfalle, or ziti
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Fill two medium saucepans with water and bring to a boil. Flavor boiling water with 1 teaspoon salt. Place carrots in one saucepan and sugar snap peas in the other. Blanche the carrots for about 4 minutes and the sugar snap peas for about 2 minutes until crisp tender. Remove the carrots (slice in ½ on the diagonal, if desired) and the sugar snap peas with a slotted spoon and place them in a large bowl of ice water to set their color. Keep the water boiling in the saucepans and repeat the process with the asparagus, peas and baby zucchini (slice in half on the diagonal, if desired), blanching each for about 2 minutes and then placing in an ice bath to set the color. Remove the blanched veggies from the ice bath, place in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Cover the bottom of a large sauté pan with olive oil. Place the garlic in the oil and sauté until golden. Remove from the pan and chop. Sauté the yellow peppers and the scallions for a few minutes, then remove from the pan. Sauté the cherry tomatoes for a couple of minutes, then remove from the pan and slice in half.
Place carrots, sugar snap peas, asparagus, peas and zucchini into the large sauté pan and cook for a few minutes until heated through. Add ½ of the chopped garlic, the yellow peppers, scallions, cherry tomatoes, the zest of one lemon, 1 tablespoon chives, 1 tablespoon parsley and 1 tablespoon chopped basil, and toss all together lightly.
While you are preparing the spring vegetables, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt, then add 1 pound of fettuccine or your choice of pasta and boil until al dente (following pasta package directions).
When pasta is ready, remove to a large bowl with a slotted spoon and save about 1 quart of the pasta water. Place pasta back into the large pot, with some olive oil, a couple of tablespoons of pasta water, salt, pepper, the remaining chopped garlic, zest of one lemon, and the remaining chives, parsley and basil. Toss together well.
You can either add all the veggies to the pasta in the large pot and toss all together. Or make individual plates with the pasta as a base and a serving of the veggies over the pasta (as seen in the recipe photo).
If desired, serve with grated parmesan cheese.
Recipe and photo by Judy Elbaum