You’ve probably heard of pasta primavera, but what the heck is it, and where did it come from? It’s a classic, popularized in the 1970s at the famous restaurant Le Cirque, in New York City. The dish never made it on the official menu; it was always a special the guests could ask for. Le Cirque’s pasta primavera uses a variety of vegetables, from plum tomatoes and asparagus tips to mushrooms and zucchini, covered in a hearty cream-based sauce. While the name pasta primavera implies a celebration of spring—“primavera” translates to “spring” in Italian—I find the combination of vegetables to be pretty random. It’s time for an upgrade.
My green pasta primavera recipe is bright and vibrant, taking advantage of the wonderful seasonal produce that spring brings our way. Farmers markets are abundant in crisp alliums leading up to summer—so we’re using lots of leeks, scallions, and green garlic. While their presence might sound overwhelming, I assure you it’s not. This pasta is well balanced by the sunniness of lemon (juice and zest!), the crunch of broccoli, and the freshness of parsley.
When it comes to substitutes, this recipe is forgiving, so feel free to use the best spring produce available in your area. Can’t find green garlic? Use ramps or wild garlic instead. Your go-to grocery store is out of scallions? Don’t hesitate to buy a bunch of chives instead. Make this recipe your own!
You might notice I skipped the traditional heavy cream. I believe cream often dilutes pasta sauces, bringing richness but not much flavor. The butter or olive oil in this recipe brings a perfect level of decadence and flavor to the sauce, while letting the beautiful vegetables shine through.
- Prep time 15 minutes
- Cook time 15 minutes
- Serves 4 to 6
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
your favorite pasta
extra-virgin olive oil or melted butter, plus more for serving
scallions, thinly sliced
green garlic stalks, thinly sliced (or 3 garlic cloves, minced)
broccoli head, chopped
green beans, thinly sliced, or green peas
freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
finely grated lemon zest
grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add a couple of big pinches of salt, then cook the pasta until al dente (slightly undercooked). Reserve 2 cups of pasta water, then strain the pasta.
- Heat the oil or butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the scallions, leek, and garlic. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until they soften slightly. Add the broccoli and green beans to the pan and season with salt and pepper (keeping in mind the added pasta water will be salty). Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
- Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, grated Parm, cooked pasta, and 1 cup of pasta water to the vegetables. Stir everything together, then cook for 3 to 5 more minutes over medium low heat, until the sauce has emulsified—it should be visibly thicker and creamy. Add more pasta water as needed. Take the pan off heat and mix in the parsley.
- Serve with more cheese and oil or butter on top.