Classic Pasta Primavera

VegetarianBroccoliPasta

Angel hair pasta with a butter, cream, Parmesan sauce, and plenty of fresh vegetables - broccoli, zucchini, asparagus, snow peas, tomatoes, garlic and basil.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Remember the 70s? Please welcome Hank Shaw as he shares one of his favorite restaurant pasta dishes from that era, pasta primavera. ~Elise

Pasta primavera. It’s very name evokes the 1980s, nouveau cuisine, and bad food clichés. Done in its classic form, which is believed to be invented by the chefs at Le Cirque restaurant in New York City in the late 1970s, primavera is a riot of vegetation doused in butter, cream and lots of parmesan cheese. Our version is a pared down rendition of this classic, simplified and lightened up for more modern tastes.

Why resurrect pasta primavera at all?

Because despite all the jokes, it was – and is – a good dish. Any of us who ate in high style in the late 1970s, or really anywhere in the 1980s, has eaten it at some point in our lives. I ate it a lot. My mother first had it at Le Cirque sometime around 1979, and loved it so much she learned how to make it.

For whatever reason, my mother made her primavera with angel hair pasta, which is a gossamer version of spaghetti that cooks in seconds. It has a lovely mouthfeel and really does make the cream and cheese feel lighter when you eat it.

But, angel hair congeals into a gob in minutes, so don’t make the pasta until the sauce is done, and don’t wait to serve it – the angel hair must go from pot to plate at once.

Angel hair, also called capellini, is readily available in most supermarkets. Can you use regular old spaghetti? You bet. That’s what they used at Le Cirque, after all.

Classic Pasta Primavera Recipe

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  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound angel hair pasta or spaghetti
  • 1 small bunch broccoli, about 1 heaping cup of florets
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 4 asparagus spears
  • 1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup snow peas
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 3 Roma or other paste tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 12 basil leaves, chopped
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth (use vegetable broth for vegetarian option)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt

Method

1 Blanch the broccoli, asparagus, snow peas: Get a large pot of water boiling. Salt it well. It should taste like the sea. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Boil the broccoli for 1 minute.

Add the asparagus and boil another minute. Add the snow peas and boil for 30 more seconds.

Remove all the vegetables and plunge them into the ice water. Once they’re cool, drain in a colander.

If you want, you can boil your pasta in the same pot you boiled the vegetables in, or you can start over and boil new water; I use the same water.

2 Sauté zucchini and garlic, then add tomatoes: In a large sauté pan, heat the butter over medium-high heat. When the butter is hot, add the garlic and zucchini and sauté 1 minute.

Add the diced tomatoes and sauté another 2 minutes, stirring often.

3 Add broth, cream, blanched vegetables, peas: Pour in the chicken or vegetable broth and turn the heat to high to bring it to a boil.

Add the cream and toss in all the vegetables you boiled, plus the peas. Stir to combine.

Turn the heat down until the cream-chicken broth mixture is just simmering, not boiling.

4 Add Parmesan: Add the Parmesan cheese and stir to combine. If the sauce seems too thick – it should be pretty thick, but not gloppy – add some more chicken broth, cream or water.

5 Boil the angel hair pasta: If you are using spaghetti, you will want to start cooking it before you begin sautéing the garlic and zucchini. Angel hair will only need 1-2 minutes to cook, vermicelli or spaghetti can take 8-12 minutes.

6 Transfer cooked pasta to sauce and vegetables: As soon as the pasta is done, transfer it with tongs into the sauce and stir to combine.

Add the basil now, and taste for salt. Add salt if needed. Grind some black pepper over everything and serve immediately.

You will want a dry white wine with this, ideally a dry French white.

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Products We Love

Links:

Mom's Pasta Primavera here on Simply Recipes

Pioneer Woman's Pasta Primavera with penne pasta

Chicken pasta primavera from $5 Dinners

Spring vegetable pasta primavera, with video from Food Wishes

Classic Pasta Primavera

If you make this recipe, snap a pic and hashtag it #simplyrecipes — We love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter!

Hank Shaw

A former restaurant cook and journalist, Hank Shaw is the author of three wild game cookbooks as well as the James Beard Award-winning wild foods website Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. His latest cookbook is Buck, Buck, Moose, a guide to working with venison. He hunts, fishes, forages and cooks near Sacramento, CA.

More from Hank

28 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  • Jan

    SO AMAZING!

    Makes a non-veggie type person (even a carnivore loving husband) MMMMMing and MMMMMing over dinner! Yum!
    It was a craving – so, I looked it up and this was the first recipe that popped up!
    I added baby carrots, fresh corn from the cob, mushrooms and subbed the asparagus for cut up brussel spouts. Omitted a lot of the parm cheese and used whole wheat spaghetti.
    It made a lot of food! I feel it will freeze well too. Good thing as I am going to be craving this a lot. A feel good meal, especially after a work out.
    For some heat and bold flavor, I can recommend cayenne pepper and chili flakes.
    This recipe is 5 star worthy and I thank the original poster!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • Jaiden

    I’ve been searching for a Primavera recipe like this for years to no avail and had finally given up until recently pregnancy cravings had me on the hunt again. This dish absolutely hit the spot. As a personal preference I used whole wheat penne, steamed my broccoli and asparagus, added mushrooms, shrimp, extra garlic and topped with BelGioioso cheeses. I kept the heart of the recipe (the sauce) exactly as is. I can’t say enough about it. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this exquisite delight with the world. :)

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • Ja

    This was SO GOOD! I want to eat it every day! But I can’t figure out why it had such flavor. Maybe the vegetables being cooked together?

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • Tess

    Made this tonight and it was delicious! I added chicken bc we aren’t vegetarians. ;)

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • Monica

    Easy and great tasting!

    xxxxxyyyyy

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