You'll love this quick pasta primavera recipe with perfect al dente pasta tossed with tender roasted vegetables and a simple, lighter primavera sauce!
The word "primavera" means “spring” in Italian. And before the whole idea of seasonal eating became popular, pasta primavera was the wonderful expression of it – loads of seasonal vegetables tossed with pasta. Simple and bright!
I can safely say primavera is never boring because, depending on what vegetables I have on hand, I never make it with the same ingredients twice.
Ingredients for pasta primavera
- Minced garlic – You can use anywhere from 3 to 6 cloves of garlic, depending on how much of a garlic-lover you are!
- Seasonings – Dried oregano and fresh thyme: Robust dried oregano and earthy fresh thyme are used to season both the vegetables and the cooked pasta.
- Extra virgin olive oil – I use our Private Reserve Greek EVOO here. Because I favor a lighter primavera sauce that leans on extra virgin olive oil for flavor and silky texture, using quality EVOO is important.
- Short pasta of your choice – I use farfalle pasta (also known as bowtie pasta), but penne is used more frequently.
- Grape tomatoes – You need half a pound of halved grape tomatoes. These are added at the very end, uncooked, for a pop of color and acidity to instantly brighten the pasta primavera.
- Lemon zest – Zest a large lemon and sprinkle it over as a finishing touch for zippy, citrusy flavor.
- Grated Parmesan cheese – Because the sauce is very light, I added ½ cup Parmesan cheese for a bit of richness. You can use more or less to your liking. To make this pasta primavera vegan, omit the Parmesan, use your favorite Parmesan-style vegan alternative, or sprinkle on some nutritional yeast for cheesy flavor.
- Vegetables (more on that below!)
Primavera vegetables and how to prepare them
Because primavera means spring, primavera pasta is usually made with loads of colorful spring vegetables. But I like to eat primavera year-round, so I just use whatever seasonal vegetables I have on hand!
In this pasta primavera recipe, I use a medley of vegetables: zucchini, carrots, bell peppers (different colors), and red onion. Some other options you could try are roasted broccoli, asparagus, peas, corn, or fresh green beans.
Basically, as long as you’re using flavorful in-season vegetables with a variety of colors and textures, your pasta primavera will be exciting and delicious!
My favorite way to prepare the vegetables for primavera is to roast them briefly in a high-heated oven. The oven does all the work of 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 debatable issue.
Early iterations of primavera pasta called for cream cheese, and many recipes today will call for creamy sauces like alfredo. Others might use a red sauce similar to this spaghetti sauce.
I prefer to keep my primavera sauce on the lighter side, using a bit of the starchy pasta water, a drizzle of quality extra virgin olive oil, fresh garlic, and the same herbs (oregano and thyme) used on the vegetables. A sprinkle of grated Parmesan is the finishing touch that brings it all together.
How do you make pasta primavera?
Primavera couldn't be simpler to make. Here's how you make it (printer-friendly recipe below):
- Roast the vegetables. After a quick toss in some seasonings (3 minced garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, and 1 ½ teaspoons fresh thyme) and a little extra virgin olive oil, arrange the sliced fresh vegetables (yellow squash, carrots, bell peppers, zucchini, and red onion) on a large sheet pan. If the vegetables look too crowded, divide them between two pans. You want all the vegetables to have contact with the hot surface of the sheet pan. Roast the veggies in a 450 degrees F-heated oven for 20 minutes, or until tender with slightly caramelized edges.
- Cook the pasta. While the vegetables are roasting, cook 12 ounces short pasta in plenty of boiling salted water according to package instructions until al dente (maybe 9 minutes or so). I like using farfalle pasta for my primavera, but penne pasta is the more typical choice. Reserve about ½ cup of the pasta cooking water to use as part of the pasta primavera sauce.
- Toss the pasta, roasted veggies, cherry tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese. In a large bowl, add the pasta and season with a bit of kosher salt and pepper (and some dried oregano and fresh thyme, if you like). Add the beautifully roasted vegetables and 8 ounces halved cherry tomatoes. For the sauce, pour in a bit of the pasta cooking water, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle the grated zest of a large lemon.
Finish with ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, or more if you prefer. Toss gently to combine and serve.
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).
Serve it with
You could definitely serve vegetarian pasta primavera on its own: The vegetables and pasta make a filling combination! But this pasta dish also pairs beautifully with hearty salads like my tomato Panzanella salad and black-eyed pea salad, or a lighter option like a simple, traditional Greek salad.
Leftovers and storage
Allow leftovers to cool completely, and then transfer to a tight-lid container and refrigerate. Leftovers will keep for 3 to 4 days. To reheat, add pasta primavera to a saucepan on medium heat on the stovetop. Add a small amount of water and cook until warmed through.
More pasta recipes to try
Easy Pasta Primavera Recipe
- 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 tablespoon dried oregano, more for later
- 1 ½ teaspoon 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.
- Serve primavera pasta with: While hearty and filling on its own, this vegetable pasta also pairs well with salads like my tomato Panzanella salad and black-eyed pea salad, or a lighter option like a simple, traditional Greek salad.
- 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 grilled shrimp (remove the shrimp from the skewers and toss in the pasta)
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*This post originally appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2016 and has been updated with new information and media for readers' benefit.