Lemony Herb Pasta Primavera
This fresh take on Pasta Primavera is loaded with tender-crisp veggies and finished with a light drizzle of lemon and herbs. Ready in less than 30 minutes, and it makes a terrific main dish or side for sharing.
When spring rolls around, the produce offerings multiply, which is a beautiful thing! This dish is a classic and very delicious way to put all those fresh, colorful veggies to work in your kitchen.
What is pasta primavera?
Pasta primavera is a simple combination of pasta and fresh or lightly-cooked vegetables.
Although “primavera” literally means spring in Italian, this is a thoroughly American dish. As is typical, the exact origin of pasta primavera is of some debate, but it seems clear that the meal became famous in New York restaurants during the 1970s.
Many recipes call for a light cream sauce, and while I have made a creamy pasta primavera in the past, for this round I was interested in something lighter. A spritz of lemon juice and fresh herbs keep this dish brilliantly light yet full of flavor.
- Penne or another medium-sized pasta shape.
- Fresh veggies – for this recipe we’re using shredded carrots, crispy asparagus, crunchy bell pepper, tangy red onion, sweet yellow squash, and vibrant cherry tomatoes. You definitely don’t need to use all of these, though they are delicious together. You also can easily make swaps, as outlined below.
- Lemon juice – this makes the perfect very simple “sauce.” I highly recommend using fresh lemon juice if possible.
- Garlic and herbs – I like to use dried herbs to season the veggies while they cook for simplicity’s sake, and sprinkle on a few fresh herbs to brighten up the plate at the end.
Can I use other vegetables?
Yes! One of the beauties of pasta primavera is how versatile it is. This is the perfect dish for using up any and all seasonal produce. Broccoli, peas, zucchini, asparagus, green beans, shallots, or mushrooms are also good veggies to include.
Can I add chicken or shrimp?
Absolutely. This makes a great meatless meal, but if you want to add a protein, throw in some cooked rotisserie chicken, grilled chicken breasts, or cooked shrimp.
If you need to sauté shrimp for the dish, you can throw it into the skillet right along with the veggies, as long as your pan is pretty big. Shrimp usually cooks in 3-5 minutes.
How to make it
- Cook pasta just to al dente.
- Sauté veggies in a smidge of olive oil. You’ll want to add them in batches, because some require more or less cooking time, so closely follow the order and times outlined in the full recipe (scroll down for it!).
- Combine pasta, veggies, lemon juice, and another small drizzle of olive oil.
- Toss in some Parmesan and top with fresh herbs. That’s it!
- Salt the water very well before adding the dried pasta — it should be salty like the sea. This is your one chance to add subtle flavor to the pasta itself, which is an easy way to add oomph to the whole dish.
- Have all the veggies chopped before you start cooking. Each batch cooks quickly, and you don’t want to leave them on too long, or they’ll get too tender and not at all crisp. Plus, it makes the actual cooking process a breeze to have everything prepped.
- Don’t skimp on the Parmesan, and use fresh-grated if you can. It’s SO GOOD.
What to serve with pasta primavera
This is very filling and certainly packs in the veggies all on its own, so it makes a great one-bowl meal in my book! That said, no one has ever complained to see it served with garlic bread, garlic knots, or crescent rolls.
Again, if you want to add a protein, chicken or shrimp make great pairings.
I love serving this for a zippy dinner that celebrates the start of warmer weather. It also makes a terrific side or contribution to a potluck. Sort of like a pasta salad, but better!
More easy pasta recipes for spring
- Lemon Asparagus Shrimp Pasta with Pistachios
- Fresh Pesto Pasta with Peas
- Tortellini with Roasted Veggies and Basil Vinaigrette
If you try this Lemony Herb Pasta Primavera, don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. I love hearing how recipes turn out in your kitchen, and it helps other readers, too.
Lemony Herb Pasta Primavera
- 8-10 ounces penne or other pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1/2 medium red onion sliced
- 1/3 cup shredded carrots
- 8-10 asparagus spears cut into 2-3” pieces
- 1 red bell pepper sliced
- 1 medium yellow squash sliced into half-moons
- 3-4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- kosher salt & black pepper
- 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes halved
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 1-2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley or basil
- Boil a large pot of water, add a large pinch of salt, and cook the pasta to al dente, according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining and setting aside.
- While pasta cooks, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sliced red onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add carrots, asparagus, and bell pepper, then cook 2 minutes more. Add squash and cook 1-2 minutes more. The veggies should remain crisp on the outside but be tender enough to pierce with a fork.
- Add garlic, oregano, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the skillet. Saute 30-60 seconds, just until fragrant. Remove from heat and stir in the tomatoes.
- Return pasta to the pot or place in a large serving bowl, then add the veggies. Drizzle on lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, then toss well to combine. Add some of the reserved pasta water if desired. Mix in Parmesan and fresh parsley or basil, and serve with extra Parmesan on top.