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Pasta Primavera

Updated: May 12, 2020

Literally meaning “spring noodles,” this dish features a colorful mix of vegetables as an ode to the season.  

Over the years, Pasta Primavera has unfairly earned a bad rep as some sort of random hodgepodge, an afterthought, a cop out of sorts. When made right, though, it is a fresh and bright one-dish wonder. There are no absolute rules for which vegetables to choose when making a stellar Pasta Primavera.  Use what you have, so long as the choices are colorful!  This recipe features lemon zest and juice, a touch of cream and pasta water, and some freshly grated Parmesan to form a bright and simple sauce to bind the dish.

Essential equipment: large saucepan or stockpot; ladle; colander or strainer; dry and wet measuring cups; measuring spoons; large sauté pan or wok (optional); microplane; box grater; large spoon or tongs


1 pound dried pasta, such as gemelli, penne, rotelle, or fusilli

½ cup sliced bell peppers

½ cup small broccoli florets

½ cup asparagus spears (cut into 2-inch pieces)

½ cup sliced mushrooms

1/3 cup freshly shelled peas, cooked (or frozen)

½ cup grated Parmesan (plus extra for garnish) 1-2 cups pasta water

zest and juice of two lemons

½ cup heavy cream (optional)

1-2 tablespoons of lemon oil salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Place a large pot of water plus a scant tablespoon salt over high heat to bring to a boil.

2. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve 2 cups of pasta water in a measuring cup and set aside.

3. Drain the pasta in a colander and run under cold water to prevent sticking. Set aside.

4. Heat a large sauté pan or wok, if using, over high heat. Alternatively, heat the large pot you used to boil the pasta. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the vegetable, stirring frequently, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.

“ILOC tip: it is best to use fresh vegetables to achieve the best result, but you can use frozen vegetables if that is all you have available.”

5. Return the drained pasta to the pan with the vegetables and stir well to combine. Add the Parmesan and 1 cup of the pasta water. Toss well to coat.

6. Stir in the juice and sprinkle with zest, stirring well to combine. If using the cream, add it now and stir. Add more reserved pasta water, ½ cup at a time, if needed, to reach the desired creaminess.

“Even though you have reserved two cups of pasta water, do not feel compelled to use all of it. You might decide that you do not want or need any additional water, or you might find that you need to use most of it. Remember: you have reserved 2 cups so that you have more than enough, not just enough. You know the drill: it's about technique, not torture!”

7. Drizzle with the lemon oil and toss well to coat one final time. Serve immediately with shaved Parmesan.

Makes 4 servings.

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