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Easy Pasta Primavera

This Easy Pasta Primavera is packed full of crisp-tender veggies in a light garlic and lemon cream sauce with parmesan cheese. Ready in less than an hour, it’s a delicious meatless dinner that’s perfect for spring and summer!

Friends, this is one of the best ways to eat your vegetables. It’s so pretty with all of those colors that you’ll want to dig right in…and once you do, that fresh and fantastic flavor will keep you coming back for more!

Fun Fact: “Primavera” means “spring” in Italian, but primavera pasta is actually an American dish that was popularized in the mid-1970s by the New York City restaurant Le Cirque and was made with vegetables, pasta, butter, cream, and cheese.

Although it’s often made with fresh spring vegetables, this is a dish that you can make any time of the year using whatever veggies are in-season, that you enjoy eating or that you have on hand.

And it’s actually very easy to make! The most time-consuming part is prepping all the vegetables, but even that doesn’t take very long. You can do it while you are waiting for the water to boil and the pasta to cook, or you can do it in advance.

Now, what I really love about my version of pasta primavera is that it’s not drowning in sauce. I want those fresh veggies to really shine.

So, once they’re cooked to a perfect crisp-tender, I season them with garlic, Italian seasoning and a generous pinch of crushed red pepper flakes for just a little bit of background heat.

Then I finish it off with a few pats of butter, freshly squeezed lemon juice, a generous splash of heavy cream, and some freshly grated parmesan cheese to make a light sauce that just barely coats all of those veggies and pasta but still adds lots of great flavor.

Top it all of with a little more parmesan cheese and some fresh basil, and you’ve got yourself a restaurant-quality dish that you’ll want to make again and again!

Ingredients You Need

Note: Ingredient amounts are in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.

all of the ingredients needed to make pasta primavera in individual bowls
  • Farfalle pasta (aka bowties)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (regular or lighter olive oil can also be used)
  • Carrots
  • Bell peppers (I use yellow and red; choose any color or combination of colors)
  • Red onion (I like this for the purple color; yellow or white onion also work)
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow squash
  • Asparagus
  • Garlic
  • Italian seasoning (homemade or your favorite store-bought blend)
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (for just a little heat; optional but recommended)
  • Butter
  • Fresh lemon juice (you’ll get the best flavor from fresh; bottled can be used in a pinch)
  • Heavy cream (warmed)
  • Parmesan cheese (freshly grated)
  • Cherry tomatoes (or grape tomatoes)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh basil

How To Make Easy Pasta Primavera

cooked farfalle pasta in a colander set over a pot

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to the package instructions; drain and set aside.

carrots, bell peppers and red onions being sauteed in a skillet

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots, bell peppers and onions; cook, stirring frequently for 2 minutes.

zucchini, yellow squash and asparagus added to the skillet

Add the zucchini, yellow squash and asparagus; cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes.

garlic, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes added to the vegetables in the skillet

Add the garlic, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper; stir to combine.

the seasoned vegetables being cooked and stirred in the skillet

Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.

a collage of 2 images; the first is of butter, lemon juice, heavy cream and parmesan cheese added to the vegetables in the skillet, and the second is of everything being stirred together.

Turn off the heat and add the butter, lemon juice, heavy cream, and parmesan cheese; stir until well combined.

a collage of 2 images; the first is of cherry tomatoes and the cooked pasta added to the skillet, and the second is of everything being stirred together

Add the cherry tomatoes and the cooked pasta; stir until well-combined. Let sit for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to allow the pasta to absorb some of the sauce.

one serving of pasta primavera on a white plate sprinkled with parmesan cheese and fresh basil with a for on the side and text that says enjoy

Garnish each serving with parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil; enjoy!

Recipe Tips & Tidbits

  • To make the most efficient use of your time, prep the veggies while waiting for the pasta water to boil and for the pasta to cook.
  • Be sure to generously salt the pasta water so that your pasta is nicely seasoned. It makes a big flavor difference in the final dish!
  • I’m a big fan of only cooking the veggies until they are crisp-tender so you can really taste their freshness, and I think primavera is best this way. Of course, if you like softer veggies, go ahead and cook them a little longer.
  • It is important to warm the heavy cream (I just do it in the microwave for a few seconds), as this will prevent the lemon juice from curdling the cream, which can happen if you add it cold.
  • Get a wedge of parmesan cheese and grate it fresh; it will incorporate into the sauce so much better. Pre-grated parmesan can have fillers and other ingredients that can make the sauce have a grainy texture.
  • This recipe makes 4 generous main-dish servings, but it can also be served as a side dish (you would get at least 8 servings).
close-up of pasta primavera in a skillet with a wooden spoon

Substitutions & Variations

  • I like using farfalle because it is close to the same size as I cut the veggies and it makes it easy to pick up some pasta and veggies in one yummy bite, but any pasta will work in this recipe.
    • Shorter cuts like penne, fusilli, rotini, ziti, rigatoni, gemelli, cavatappi, etc. are other good options. But you certainly can use a longer pasta, such as spaghetti, linguine or fettuccine if that’s what you prefer.
    • You could even try using a cheese-filled tortellini for something a little different!
  • Instead of chopping the veggies into squarish flat and wider shapes, you could cut them into strips, which would be great when using longer pasta shapes.
  • This combination of veggies is just my favorite; feel free to use whatever veggies you like best. Some other delicious options would be: broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, peas, green beans, and spinach.
    • When cooking with different vegetables, just be sure to start with the ones that take longer to cook first, adding the most delicate/quick-cooking ones last.
  • Want some protein? Add some cooked chicken or shrimp (or serve it on top).
pasta primavera on a white plate with a fork on the side and the pan of pasta in the background

Make-Ahead, Storing Leftovers & Reheating

Make-Ahead

Pasta primavera is at its best when made and served fresh because that is when those veggies will be the most vibrant in color and have that awesome crisp-tender texture (the more you heat it up, the more you lose that freshness).

That being said, I will say that leftovers are pretty darn delicious too…so you can absolutely make this ahead of time if needed (see “Storing Leftovers” below).

Instead of cooking the whole dish in advance, you could just prep all of the vegetables a few hours to a day ahead of time and keep them in airtight containers in the fridge so they are ready to go when it’s time to cook dinner.

Storing Leftovers

Store leftover pasta primavera, once cooled, in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days. Freezing is not recommended, as both the pasta and vegetables can become mushy and the cream can break.

Reheating

Reheat leftover pasta primavera in a skillet over low heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through. If needed, add a splash of cream to loosen things up. You can also reheat it in the microwave.

a serving of pasta primavera topped with parmesan cheese and fresh basil in a white bowl with a fork and another bowl of pasta in the background

What to Serve With Pasta Primavera

This dish is actually quite filling, and so we usually just enjoy it paired with some garlic bread or sliced Italian bread. A simple green salad would also be a nice complement, especially if you’d like to stretch out the servings.

I hope you try this Easy Pasta Primavera recipe and love it as much as I do. Thanks for visiting today!

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More Pasta Dinner Recipes To Try

If you make this recipe, I’d love to know how it went! Please leave a star rating and comment below. Thanks!

pasta primavera in a skillet with a wooden spoon and small bowls of fresh basil and parmesan cheese on the side

Easy Pasta Primavera

This Easy Pasta Primavera is packed full of crisp-tender veggies in a light garlic and lemon cream sauce with parmesan cheese. Ready in less than an hour, it's a delicious meatless dinner that's perfect for spring and summer!
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Author: Michelle
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4
Estimated Calories: 609

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces farfalle (bowtie) pasta
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, regular or a lighter olive oil can also be used
  • 2 cups seeded and chopped bell peppers, about 1" pieces, any color or combination of colors (I use yellow and red)
  • 1 cup peeled and thinly sliced carrots, about ⅛" thick (I slice mine on the diagonal)
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped red onions, about 1" pieces (white or yellow onions can also be used)
  • 2 cups zucchini cut into quarter moons, about ¼" thick
  • 2 cups yellow squash cut into quarter moons, about ¼" thick
  • 2 cups chopped asparagus, about 1" long pieces
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste (optional but recommended)
  • salt, to taste (I use kosher salt)
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ cup heavy cream, warmed (see Note below)
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
  • 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes, or grape tomatoes
  • fresh chopped basil, about ¼ cup or to taste

Instructions

  • Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to the package instructions to al dente (or however you like your pasta); drain and set aside.
    To make the most efficient use of your time, prep the vegetables and other ingredients while you are waiting for the water to boil and the pasta to cook (the prep time for this recipe is based on doing both at the same time).
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot.
    I use a 12-inch skillet with high sides.
  • Add the carrots, bell peppers and onions; cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes.
  • Add the zucchini, yellow squash and asparagus; cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes.
  • Add the garlic, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes (if using), salt, and pepper; stir to combine.
    I use about 1½ teaspoons of kosher salt and about ½ teaspoon of black pepper here. Of course, season to your own personal taste (and keep in mind that, if you are using regular table salt, it is saltier than kosher salt).
  • Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the veggies are crisp-tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.
    If you like your veggies softer, just cook them a little longer.
  • Turn off the heat and add the butter, lemon juice, heavy cream, and parmesan cheese. Stir until well combined and you have a light sauce.
  • Add the cherry tomatoes and the cooked pasta; stir until everything is well combined. Let sit for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to allow the pasta to absorb some of the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed.
  • Garnish each serving with additional parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Be sure to generously salt the pasta water so that your pasta is nicely seasoned. It makes a big flavor difference in the final dish!
  • It is important to warm the heavy cream (I just do it in the microwave for a few seconds), as this will prevent the lemon juice from curdling the cream, which can happen if you add it cold.
  • Get a wedge of parmesan cheese and grate it fresh; it will incorporate into the sauce so much better. Pre-grated parmesan can have fillers and other ingredients that can make the sauce have a grainy texture.
  • This recipe makes 4 generous main-dish servings, but it can also be served as a side dish (you would get at least 8 servings).
  • Estimated calories shown do not include any additional parmesan cheese added as a topping.
  • Please refer to the post for additional tips and info on substitutions and variations, serving suggestions, making ahead, and storing and reheating leftovers.
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