Looking for a healthy pasta primavera that you can customize according to what you’ve got on hand? This Vegetable Primavera with Creamy Lemon Sauce will please the whole family. I used seashell pasta for this one, but I’ve also listed other options for you.
Why You’ll Love This Vegetable Primavera with Creamy Lemon Sauce
If you enjoy pasta, but don’t want a heavy alfredo sauce adorning it (butter, cheese & heavy cream) you’ll love this healthy pasta primavera. With plenty of fresh vegetables and a lightened up sauce, it only tastes indulgent.
Why Is It Called Primavera?
Primavera actually comes from the Latin Primus, meaning first and Vera, meaning Spring. So, first spring. Primavera is an apparent ellipsis of the Italian, alla primavera.
Vegetable Primavera got its public start at the swanky New York restaurant, Le Cirque, where it appeared as a yet-unnamed item on the menu, until Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey wrote an article for the New York Times, catapulting its popularity and requiring a title or designation. Pasta Primavera was born.
Since then, scores of chefs, cooks and bloggers have twisted, bended and tweaked pasta primavera to simply mean pasta with vegetables. Some versions have a cream sauce, others have a tomato based sauce. Others aren’t sauced at all. Some use only fresh tomatoes, others bring an entire garden to the party. Any way you look at it, it’s all good.
What Vegetables Are In Pasta Primavera?
Traditionally, vegetable primavera can be made using many different vegetables. For me, the key is to use what is seasonal and think about the blend of ingredients – do they seem like a good fit together? In this dish I used asparagus, mushrooms, onion and sun-dried tomatoes, but these other garden vegetables would also work well:
- Broccoli (cut into small florets)
- Peas (Frozen, defrosted)
- Zucchini (diced)
- Yellow Squash (diced)
- Eggplant (diced)
- Fresh Tomatoes (seeded and diced)
- Sweet Peppers (diced)
- Cauliflower (cut into bite-sized florets)
- Snap Peas
- Sweet Bell Peppers
Pick 2-4 and mix it up.
- Zucchini + Squash + Peas + Tomatoes
- Broccoli + Cauliflower
- Bell Peppers + Eggplant + Tomatoes
- Snap Peas + Mushrooms + Shallots
- Spinach + Leeks + Peas
Creamy Lemon Sauce For Healthy Pasta Primavera
You really can’t think about pasta without thinking of the sauce, am-I-right? I love a good cream sauce, but they tend to stick to my belly and thighs long after the meal has been enjoyed. Think about this: Just 1 cup of heavy cream has 821 calories, 55 grams of saturated fat and 88 grams of total fat. Holy sweat pants. This lightened up sauce, which makes nearly 2 cups has only 338 calories with 19 grams of saturated fat and 30 grams of fat overall. I’m not saying it’s diet food, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the heavy cream version.
Ingredients for Lightened Up Creamy Lemon Sauce
- Yellow Onion (sautéed)
- Broth (Vegetable or Chicken – preferably low sodium)
- Half and Half
- Lemon Zest
What Pasta Should I Use For Pasta Primavera
Traditionally, long, thin pastas were used, but nowadays there are no rules. In my view, you should look at your ingredients and let them determine the best pasta.
- For instance if you did a spinach, leek and pea combination, I’d say a long noodle would be best, because the leeks and spinach will wrap themselves up in the pasta for twisting.
- If you chop the ingredients into bite sized pieces so that they’ll be easy to scoop or pierce with a fork, shorter pasta work well.
Best Long Pastas For Vegetable Primavera:
- Spaghetti or Thin Spaghetti.
- I don’t recommend angel hair because you need something a bit sturdier to hold up to the creamy lemon sauce. However, if you were using saucing with a broth or light butter sauce, angel hair or vermicelli would work well.
Best Short Pastas For Vegetable Primavera:
- Small Shell or Seashell Pasta
How To Make Pasta Primavera
- Trim the asparagus stalks of the tough bottom portion. The best way to determine this is to pick up a stalk of asparagus holding it at the half way point and the bottom of the stalk. Bend the asparagus until it breaks. The bottom portion is the tougher portion and can be discarded. Line up the rest of the asparagus on a cutting board and trim the remainder, using the broken stalk as a guide.
- Cut the tender stalks into 1″ pieces.
- Blanch and shock the asparagus. If you’re not familiar with those terms, it just means that you bring a pot of water to a boil, add the asparagus and cook until it’s just tender (2-3 minutes). Then use a slotted spoon or spider to transfer the cooked asparagus to an ice bath (ice and water in a bowl). This stop the cooking and keeps the asparagus that beautiful bright green color. If you skip this step, the asparagus will continue cooking and won’t look as appetizing.
- Saute the mushrooms in olive oil until tender and transfer to a small bowl.
- Get the water started for the pasta, so it’s ready to go as soon as the sauce is complete.
- Saute the onions in the pan until tender, then add the butter and flour, stirring until you have a bubbly paste — about 1 minute.
- Stir in the broth and heat to boiling (stirring constantly) until slightly thickened and saucy. Add the half and half and lemon zest and stir to combine – this is the creamy lemon sauce — it’s not overpowering but rather, light and fresh.
- Stir in the cooked pasta, followed by the grated cheese until the pasta is coated.
- Next come the add-ins. Add the asparagus, ham, cooked mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and mix to combine.
- Finish the healthy pasta primavera with a final sprinkle of cheese and fresh herbs (if using). Serve.
Can I Add Chicken Or Shrimp?
Of course. Use what you’ve got on hand.
What To Serve With Pasta Primavera:
- Homemade Crescent Rolls
- Simple Citrus Almond Salad
- Citrusy Hearts of Palm Salad
- Parmesan Black Pepper Buttermilk Biscuits
More Pasta Recipes:
- Vegetable Ratatouille Cottage Cheese Lasagna
- Italian Roasted Vegetables and Sausage Pasta
- Lobster Shells and Cheese
- Mushroom and Kale Stuffed Shells
I have to be honest, when I make this healthy pasta primavera for a weeknight dinner, we eat it straight outta the skillet (less dishes) but if I were serving this for company, I’d probably pull out a nice serving bowl.
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Mushroom Asparagus Pasta with Creamy Lemon Butter Sauce
For Vegetable Primavera with Ham
- 1/2 pound asparagus trimmed, cut into one inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 ounces button mushrooms wiped clean, sliced into bite size pieces
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 1/2 pound shell pasta cooked to al dente
- 1 cup ham diced
- 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes diced, drained if oil-packed, reconstituted and drained if dried,
- 1 cup parmesan cheese grated
- salt and pepper to taste.
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil chopped, optional
- 2 tablespoons fresh italian parsley chopped, optional
For Creamy Lemon Sauce
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 1/2 tablespoon flour
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth
- 1/4 cup half and half
- 1 lemon zested
- In a medium sauce pan, boil 2 cups of water. Add asparagus and cook for 3-4 minutes until crisp tender. While asparagus blanches, fill a medium-sized bowl with ice and water. With a slotted spoon or spider, transfer blanched asparagus to the ice bath and plunge it into the ice water to stop the cooking.
- Fill a 3 quart saucepan with water and a pinch of salt. Heat to boiling. Add shells and cook until al dente according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add mushrooms and cook until lightly browned 3-5 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to a bowl. Liquid will collect from the mushrooms as it sits, be sure to drain it off before adding mushrooms to the final dish.
For Creamy Lemon Sauce:
- Add butter and onion to the pan and saute until the onion is softened.
- Stir in flour until everything is well combined and no dry bits of flour remain. Cook and stir for one minute until bubbly.
- Add chicken broth a little at a time to the flour mixutre, stirring and scraping the pan constantly. Cook until mixture begins to thicken and takes on the consistency of a sauce. Stir in half and half and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
- Drain the asparagus and pat dry with paper towels.
- Add the pasta and parmesan cheese to the sauce mixture and toss well to combine. Stir in the asparagus, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, ham to the pasta and heat through over medium heat. Stir in the basil and parsley just before serving.
- Use remaining parmesan as a garnish, served on the side.
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