You'll love this pasta primavera with roasted vegetables and a simple and light sauce! This is the perfect vegetarian dinner any night of the week, and you can change up the veggies to use what you have on hand. And if you need to, toss in chicken or shrimp! (ideas below)
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The word "Primavera" means springtime. And before the whole idea of seasonal eating became popular, pasta primavera was the wonderful expression of it--loads of seasonal veggies tossed with pasta. Simple and bright!
I see primavera pasta as the perfect opportunity to use up what vegetables I have on hand.
This vegetable pasta is like an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink dinner. I can safely say primavera is never boring because I don't make it with the same ingredients twice!
What vegetables go in pasta primavera? And how to prepare them?
In this pasta primavera recipe, I used: zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, red bell peppers, orange bell peppers, and a large red onion.
You can also add broccoli, asparagus, peas, corn, or green beans.
Nearly any vegetables can work in a pasta primavera recipe, that's why there are so many variations of it. But as a rule of thumb, I focus on two things:
- Choose what's in season. In-season vegetables will offer you the best quality and flavor.
- Go for variety. Select veggies that offer different colors, texture and flavor. The more color and texture in your primavera, the more exciting it will be!
And my favorite way to prepare the vegetables for this pasta dinner is by roasting them briefly in a high-heated oven.
Some pasta primavera recipes call for throwing the veggies in the boiling pasta water. That's an efficient way to do it, but boiled veggies are not exciting to me. And some recipes call for sauteing the vegetables in a skillet, which is fine but requires a bit more hands-on approach.
For me, roasting the veggies on one large sheet pan with a bit of seasoning and extra virgin olive oil is the way to go. The oven does all the work in tenderizing the veggies and coaxing out their natural flavors (I love a few caramelized edges particularly on the bell peppers and onions).
A lighter primavera sauce!
What is primavera sauce made of? Surprisingly, this is a bit of a debatable issue.
Early variations of primavera pasta called for cream cheese, and many recipes today will call for creamy sauces like Alferado. Others might use a red sauce similar to this spaghetti sauce.
I prefer to keep my primavera sauce on the light side, using a bit of the pasta starchy water, a drizzle of quality extra virgin olive oil with fresh garlic and some of the same seasonings used on the vegetables (oregano and thyme). A sprinkle of grated Parmesan brings it all together.
How do you make pasta primavera
Primavera couldn't be simpler to make. Here's what I do:
- Roast the veggies. After a quick toss in some seasonings, including garlic oregano and thyme, and a little extra virgin olive oil, arrange the veggies on one large sheet pan or two and roast in a high-heated oven ( 450 degrees) for 20 minutes or so
- Cook the pasta. While the vegetables are roasting, cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water according to package (maybe 9 minutes or so). Like I said earlier, you'll use a bit of the pasta water as part of the sauce to dress the pasta, so keep about ½ cup or so. I like using Fafalle pasta for my primavera, but penne pasta is the more typical choice.
- Toss the pasta, roasted veggies, and cherry tomatoes etc. In a large bowl, add the pasta and season with a bit of salt and pepper (and maybe oregano and thyme, if you like). Add the beautifully roasted veggies and fresh cherry tomatoes. We don't do a bit sauce here, just a bit of the pasta cooking water, extra virgin olive oil, and lemon zest. Finish with grated Parmesan cheese.
Make it with shrimp or chicken
Primavera is the perfect vegetarian dinner, but that's never stopped me from adding a little protein on occassion.
A couple of my go-to options to add to this pasta primavera recipe are this quick lemon chicken (which I end up slicing into bite sized pieces and tossing in the pasta), or grilled shrimp skewers (I make the shrimp at the very end, then I remove it from the skewers and toss it in the pasta).
Similar Recipes to Try
- 2 zucchini halved length-wise and sliced (half moons)
- 2 yellow squash halved length-wise and sliced (half moons)
- 2 to 3 carrots peeled and cut into short sticks
- 1 red bell pepper cored and sliced into thin sticks
- 1 yellow or orange bell pepper cored and sliced into thin sticks
- 1 red onion halved and sliced (half moons)
- 3 large garlic cloves minced
- 1 tbsp dried oregano more for later
- 1 ½ tsp fresh thyme more for later
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 12 ounces short pasta of your choice
- 8 oz grape tomatoes halved
- Zest of 1 large lemon
- ½ cup parmesan cheese more to your liking
- Heat oven to 450 degrees F.
- Place the vegetables in a large mixing bowl. Add garlic, oregano, and thyme. Season with a big pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Drizzle a good amount of extra virgin olive oil. Toss to coat.
- Transfer the vegetables to a large sheet pan (or two if needed). Spread them out well. Roast in heated oven for about 20 minutes (stirring half-way through).
- While the vegetables are roasting, cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to package (about 10 to 12 minutes). Reserve some of the pasta cooking water. Drain pasta.
- Transfer pasta to a large bowl and season with salt and pepper, and if you like, a little oregano and fresh thyme. Add the vegetables in. Add the tomatoes and lemon zest. Add a bit of the pasta cooking water, a bit of extra virgin olive oil. Toss to combine.
- Sprinkle Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
- Leftovers: allow the pasta to cool completely and store leftovers in tight-lid containers in the fridge about 3 to 4 days.
- Variations: change up the vegetables according to what you have on hand. Broccoli, green beans, and asparagus will also work in this recipe. And if you need to add some protein, cut up some of this quick lemon chicken and toss in the pasta or make this shrimp (remove the shrimp from the skewers and toss in the pasta)
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