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Pasta Primavera

February 10, 2023

Pasta primavera, darling of the ‘70s, is worthy of a revisit! Jam-packed with vegetables, and enough butter to keep us interested, it strikes a perfect balance between healthy-ish and hedonistic.

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homemade pasta primavera in a bowl made with zucchini, tomatoes, carrots and basil

Wait—Exactly What Is Pasta Primavera?

“Primavera” means spring in Italian, but the Italian-sounding dish is, in fact, not from Italy at all—it’s entirely American. Though it’s difficult to trace its exact provenance, pasta primavera rose to popularity when it appeared on the menu at New York’s storied Le Cirque restaurant in the ‘70s. It became one of the most buzzy dishes in the city at the time, and quickly trickled down to restaurants—and kitchen tables—across the country. The name is a reference to the huge variety of veggies that define the dish, and is perhaps supposed to imply that the pasta celebrates the arrival of spring. Whatever inspired its creation, we’re just glad it exists.

ingredients for pasta primavera carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, butter, shallots, basil and sun dried tomatoes
shallot and carrot cooked in a pan
zucchini and summer squash cooked in a pan
butter, parmesan, whole milk, dried basil, garlic powder in a pan for pasta primavera sauce

Our Favorite Creamy Pasta Primavera Ingredients

Pasta primavera sauce is a little creamy, and a lot vegetable-y and we adore it. Rather than spring produce, we’ve jumped right ahead and loaded our pasta primavera recipe with summer vegetables! You know what we’re talking about right? Summer squash, cherry tomatoes and zucchini—the kind of veggies that we’ll have a near-problematic bounty of in the garden when August rolls around. They’re inexpensive and they make for a colorful primavera sauce that sings with just a hint of vegetal sweetness. Here’s everything you’ll need to make this easy pasta primavera:

  • Pasta

  • Extra virgin olive oil

  • Shallot

  • Carrot

  • Zucchini

  • Summer squash

  • Butter

  • Parmesan cheese

  • Whole milk

  • Basil, fresh and dried

  • Garlic powder

  • Sun dried tomatoes

  • Cherry tomatoes

  • Red pepper flakes

shallots, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes in a parmesan cream sauce added to a skillet
shallots, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes cooked in a parmesan sauce in a skillet
shallots, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes cooked in a parmesan sauce in a skillet with pasta
shallots, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes cooked in a parmesan sauce in a skillet tossed with pasta

How to Make Pasta Primavera

  1. Get the pasta water started, and while the pasta boils, make the primavera sauce!

  2. Sauté the shallots and carrots. Set them aside and sauté the zucchini and squash. We’re having you cook them separately so that each vegetable is cooked to perfection!

  3. Time to make the creamy primavera sauce. You’ll whisk together butter, cheese, milk, dried basil, garlic powder, pepper and salt over low heat until it’s creamy and smooth.

  4. Add sun-dried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, then add the pasta and toss to coat.

  5. Add the sautéed squash, carrots and shallots back to the pan

homemade pasta primavera in a skillet with a wooden spoon
homemade pasta primavera with zucchini, carrots, tomatoes in a creamy parmesan sauce

What to Serve With Pasta Primavera

While pasta primavera is a meal that stands easily on its own as a one-pot meal, you can round it out into a classic, yummy feast by adding a few sides and an irresistible dessert. We’d serve this pasta primavera with:

Tools You’ll Need:

a plate with pasta primavera made with vegetables and parmesan cheese sauce
homemade pasta primavera on a plate

A Quick, Easy Vegetarian Dinner

Creamy and satisfying, pasta primavera is one of our very faves. We hope you love this recipe, too! When you make it, let us know how you like it, OK? Share a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so that we can see your stuff! Happy eating!

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Pasta Primavera

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time:  20 min
  • Cook Time:  20 min
  • Calories: 550

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces pasta, such as penne or bucatini
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 medium zucchini ¾-inch sliced, halved to create a half circle
  • 1 medium yellow summer squash, ¾-inch sliced, halved to create a half circle
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • ¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (see Note)
  • ½ cup whole milk, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • ⅓ cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1½ cups halved cherry tomatoes
  • Chopped fresh basil or flat leaf parsley, optional
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, for serving, optional

Method

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions, about 8-12 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet, over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and carrots, stirring until softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer the shallots and carrots to a plate. Add the remaining tablespoon olive oil, swirl to coat then add the zucchini and squash in a single layer. Cook until golden brown on each side, about 6 minutes total, transfer to the plate with the carrots.

  3. Add the butter to the skillet. When melted, whisk in the Parmesan, milk, basil, garlic powder, salt and pepper, until smooth. Stir in the sun dried and cherry tomatoes, until warmed through. Remove from heat.

  4. Drain the pasta. Add the pasta along with the carrot and zucchini mixture to the skillet and toss to coat (see Note 2).

  5. Serve with additional Parmesan, fresh basil and crushed red pepper flakes if desired.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories550
  • Protein15 g
  • Carbohydrates59 g
  • Total Fat30 g
  • Dietary Fiber7 g
  • Cholesterol62 mg
  • sodium1632 mg
  • Total Sugars17 g

Pasta Primavera

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

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  • Bobbie

    What abour using cream rather than whole milk? Would I need to add more or less?

    Thanks! Thinking this will be a nice change to use up some late summer zucchini!

    We haven't tested it with cream so we couldn't give you an exact amount to sub. If you try it we'd love to hear how it goes!

  • Ali

    What do you think about subbing coconut milk for whole milk in this? Looks like a great recipe!

    Full fat coconut milk would probably work just fine! Give it a try and let us know how you like it!

  • disqus_obuRZU0iiS

    if we don't like parm, can we add mozz? thank you!

    We love mozzarella, but in this case would probably make for a stringy mess. Instead, we'd suggest swapping in a cheese that has more in common with Parmesan—something aged and quite hard that you can grate into fine shavings like pecorino or manchego. You could also just leave it out! It would alter the recipe a bit—it'd be a bit less salty for sure—but it would still be delicious!

  • Brenda

    This was amazing, I made a few small additions. I had asparagus on hand so it cut into 1 1/2” pieces, crush three cloves of garlic and cooked both with shallots and carrots. I also used penne pasta.

    Thanks Brenda, we are so glad you loved it!

  • Antoinette

    This turned out SOOOO good!!! I used cashew milk instead of whole milk and it was absolutely amazing. My kids gobbled every bit of it up. Winner for me 👍🏾

    AMAZING! So happy to hear that Antoinette! We love win a recipe wins over the kids!

  • Jessica

    This was absolutely delicious!!! Came out wonderful - perfect for summer!