Primavera means Spring in Italian and the popular Pasta Primavera traditionally is pasta, usually spaghetti but other pasta shapes can be used, tossed with a variety of spring vegetables like asparagus, tomatoes and fresh herbs. In spite of it’s name, it doesn’t mean you can only make this for dinner in the spring. Pasta Primavera is a very versatile dish which allows for a wide range of vegetables to be used when they are at their best and their cheapest. Throughout the year, the dish will change depending on whatever is in season. I typically sauté whatever fresh vegetables looked the best at the market with garlic and olive oil, then braise in a bit of vegetable broth to make a nice sauce. If my husband isn’t around, sometimes I will swirl in a spoonful of plain yogurt to add creaminess, then top with parmesan. Yum!
Today’s pasta has the gorgeous baby squash and zucchini that I couldn’t resist at the market due to their pure cuteness, as well as peas. I didn’t see any good fresh peas so I used frozen, which are a good option. They are frozen right after picking so sometimes they are actually fresher than ‘fresh’ peas that have been sitting around for a while. If you are using fresh peas in a pod, choose pods that are smaller. The large pods are often filled with over mature peas that are tough and woody and only good in soups and stews. The smaller pods usually have younger, sweeter peas. I also added fresh basil and mint plus cherry tomatoes and lemon zest from my garden.
To make this a healthier dish, use a whole grain pasta. It’s easy to find good pasta made from whole grains like rice, quinoa or amaranth, all of which provide more protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber than pasta made from white flour. Don’t be fooled by packaging on regular pasta that says ‘fortified with iron or other nutrients’. That just means that nutrients like B vitamins were removed during the refining process, and some of them are added back in. Whole grain pasta has come a long way from when it used to be soft and gluey, so give it a try if you haven’t. Livestrong suggests going half regular and half whole grain pasta if you’re having trouble making the switch to whole grain.
3/4 lb dried penne pasta
Pasta Primavera with Summer Squash, Peas and Arugula
1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas, shelled
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1 small summer squash, thinly sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 red chili pepper(or dash of red pepper flakes – optional)
1/2 cup fresh basil, cut into ribbons
1/4 cup fresh mint, cut into ribbons
1-2 cups arugula or spinach
2 large shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsn lemon zest
3 Tbsn butter, olive or coconut oil
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
3/4 lb dried penne pasta