Pasta Primavera is a vibrant and easy-to-make pasta recipe packed full of fresh seasonal veggies in a light butter parmesan cream sauce. Not just for spring and summer, enjoy this versatile and delicious recipe year-round with all of your favorite in-season vegetables.
Pasta Primavera Recipe
Primavera, when translated, means “spring style” in Italian. Thought to have originated sometime in the late 1970s in New York City, pasta primavera is a light and colorful pasta dish filled with an assortment of different vegetables smothered in butter and cream. Since its creation years ago, countless versions of this delicious pasta have made their way onto menus and dinner tables throughout the country.
The very definition of healthy comfort food, pasta primavera is an easy and delicious dinner perfect any time of year.
For this recipe, you’ll find a somewhat lighter sauce. Still buttery and delicious made with cream (or half-and-half) and plenty of parmesan cheese, there’s just less of it.
Feel free to prepare your own perfect version of pasta primavera with just a couple of different vegetables or as many as you can get your hands on! You can even try different pasta shapes or noodles and add baked chicken breast for added protein.
How to make Pasta Primavera
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add the broccoli first. Allow the broccoli to cook for 30 seconds before adding the asparagus, peas, and bell pepper. Cook everything for 1-2 minutes. Immediately transfer to an ice-water bath using a slotted spoon to stop cooking then drain in a colander.
Tip: do not drain the pot of salted water used to cook the vegetables. You can use it to boil the pasta.
Cook the penne until al dente – do not overcook.
In a large Dutch oven or pan with high sides, cook the garlic, zucchini, and yellow squash, for 1-2 minutes, then add the cherry tomatoes and green onion. Cook for another 2 minutes or so.
Stir in the broth and half-and-half (or heavy cream) and bring to a simmer. Add the blanched vegetables and the cooked pasta. Gently mix to combine.
Finally, stir in the shredded parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add additional broth or cream, as needed.
Garnish with fresh chopped parsley, fresh cracked black pepper, and fresh lemon juice.
Do I Need to Blanch my Vegetables?
When you blanch vegetables, you’re simply plunging them into boiling water for a short amount of time before transferring them to an ice bath to stop cooking. Blanching starts the cooking process (so you don’t want them in there for too long) and brightens the color of some vegetables (especially green vegetables like broccoli and peas).
Tips and Tricks
- Try not to overcook your vegetables. This can be said for the vegetables that are blanched and those that are sauteed with garlic. Overcooked vegetables turn soggy and mushy and lose their fresh-looking appeal.
- The same can be said for the pasta. Nothing is worse than overcooked pasta noodles. Penne will take between 6-9 minutes to reach al dente. I know, a huge range – so check frequently.
- Season with salt and pepper as you cook. I didn’t specify each and every opportunity to add salt, but it’s a good idea to add a pinch of salt here and there as you cook.
- Chop the veggies ahead of time – Chopping the vegetables is the most time-consuming part of this entire recipe. If you plan to make this as a quick family dinner, prep and chop the vegetables the night before – simply store them in sealed containers in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- You don’t have to add cream if you don’t want to. It’s true. However, just that little splash of cream adds a ton of flavor, so if you can, I highly recommend it.
- Save the pasta water. As in the water that was used to boil the noodles and blanch the vegetables. That water (should be) heavily salted, making it a great addition to the sauce if it needs a little thinning.
How to Serve
Pasta primavera is a healthy and satisfying meal within itself, simply fill a bowl and call it dinner.
Unless you (like me) love a little protein in your life. If that’s you, I highly recommend serving this dish with baked chicken breasts, simple steak bites, salmon, or shrimp.
Looking for more pasta recipes? Try these reader favorites:
- Spinach Pasta Salad Recipe with Strawberries
- Creamy Cajun Shrimp Pasta Recipe
- Spring Pea Pasta with Prosciutto and Burrata Cheese
- Easy Baked Ziti Recipe (How to Make Baked Ziti)
- American Goulash Recipe (One-Pot)
- 15 Minute Angel Hair Pasta Recipe with Chicken
Have you tried making this Easy Pasta Primavera Recipe?
Tell me about it in the comments below! I always love to hear your thoughts. And tag me #theforkedspoon on Instagram if you’ve made any of my recipes, I always love to see what you’re cooking in the kitchen.
Pasta Primavera Recipe
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- ½ pound asparagus - woody ends removed and chopped into 1” pieces
- 1 cup peas - fresh or frozen
- 1 red bell pepper - seeded and chopped
- 1 orange bell pepper - seeded and chopped
- 10 ounces penne pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 5 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 medium zucchini - halved and sliced
- 1 yellow squash - halved and sliced
- 10 ounces cherry tomatoes
- ½ cup green onions - chopped
- ⅓ cup vegetable broth
- ½ cup half and half
- ½ cup parmesan cheese - grated
- 2 tablespoon fresh parsley - minced
- Lemon wedges - for serving
- Blanch the broccoli, asparagus, peas, and bell pepper - Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Fill a separate bowl with ice and water and set aside. Once the water comes to a boil, add the broccoli and boil for 30 seconds before adding the asparagus, peas, and bell pepper. Boil everything for 1 minute. Use a large slotted spoon to transfer vegetables to the ice water bath (reserve the pot of salted water to boil the penne) to stop cooking and lock in color. Once cool, drain in a colander and set aside.
- Cook the penne - Return the pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the penne and cook until al dente (approximately 2-3 minutes less than the recommended time). Drain and rinse with warm water. Set aside.
- Sauté the garlic and squash - In a large pan with high sides, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, zucchini, and yellow squash, and cook for 1-2 minutes stirring often. Add the cherry tomatoes and green onion and continue to cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Stir often.
- Add the broth, half and half, and blanched vegetables - Add the vegetable broth and half and half (or full cream) to the pan. Increase heat to high and bring to a low boil. Add the blanched vegetables and cooked pasta to the pot and mix well to combine. Reduce heat to low.
- Stir in the shredded parmesan - Stir in the shredded parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve - Serve garnished with fresh chopped parsley, fresh cracked black pepper, and fresh lemon juice, if desired.
- Squash - yellow squash, zucchini, butternut squash
- Bell peppers
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)
Lokelani Antonio says
This recipe was delicious! My wife and I loved it so much. I added a little bit of mozzarella cheese and it was the perfect.
Delicious! I used delicata squash, mushrooms, and zucchini with the peppers. I will make this again..we have enough for leftovers tomorrow night!
Can the leftovers be frozen?
Jessica Randhawa says
I wouldn’t, I don’t think it will reheat well.
I made this last night and it was delicious! I added mushrooms and green beans, but omitted broccoli and peppers. The finely grated Parmesan mixed in beautifully. Lots of pepper and no herbs. Spiral pasta was easy to eat with all of the fresh veggies.
This dish was delicious served warm but I was needing a side salad dish to serve tomorrow. Will this dish be as good after being refrigerated?
Jessica Randhawa says
Thanks for the kind feedback 🙂
As with most refrigerated noodle dishes, you will find the noodles stick together. For best results when reheating, add a couple of tablespoons of vegetable or chicken broth and reheat on the stovetop or microwave.
OK, so I made this last night and I’m wondering what I did wrong. I followed the directions to a T but my parmesan was in big blobs here and there. I feel like it might have worked better to put the parmesan in before adding pasta and blanched vegetables so the sauce would have a creamy, almost Alfredo type consistency. Flavor was great though and this made a bunch (I’m single so have plenty for leftovers!)
Jessica Randhawa says
There are a number of things that could have been a factor. The shread size, the type of parmesan, anticaking(ie from a can)? I used a fresh finely shredded parmesan from a block for reference. That said, I am happy it tasted good. Maybe next time add the parmesan to individual serving bowls.
What do you think of adding a bit of lemon juice to the sauce? I’m making this tonight!
Jessica Randhawa says
Yes, I think the sauce would be good with a bit of lemon.
I love your recipes and descriptions, try letting that butter brown a little though(or a lot.) Sweet, mapely, and deep