Pasta Primavera literally means "spring pasta" and it's one of the first dishes I think of in spring. It's characterized by light and fresh flavors, aromatic herbs, and beautiful, colorful vegetables. Although many versions have a heavy cream sauce, somehow that doesn't seem like such a great idea when swimsuit season is around the corner. This version is originally from Cooking Light magazine and although the sauce tastes very luxurious, it's great to know that it fits within a healthy lifestyle. The sauce contains a small of amount of cream and white wine which both add to the rich flavor without adding a lot of calories or fat. Lemon juice, garlic, grated fresh Parmesan and lots of parsley and basil make the sauce incredibly flavorful and fresh-tasting. Some pasta primavera versions also add shrimp or chicken, but the traditional version is meatless. Feel free to add either if you want a more substantial meal, but I like it just as it is.
Since vegetables are the focus, it's important that they're beautiful and perfectly fresh. Baby vegetables are particularly appropriate in this dish, such as the tiny asparagus tips and miniature bell peppers that I found. If you can find tiny carrots or pattypan squash they would be great also, or feel free to substitute your favorite vegetables for any of the ones listed in the recipe.
Along the same lines, feel free to substitute your favorite type of the pasta for the bow ties - I just thought they looked festive. The pasta, vegetables and sauce are tossed together for a minute or so over medium heat to allow the sauce to coat everything well, and the dish is served warm or at room temperature - perfect for a spring dinner.
Note: any combination of your favorite vegetables may be used – baby carrots, sugar snap peas, baby pattypan squash, zucchini, and yellow squash all work well. Cooked chicken or shrimp may be added also.
8 ounces bow tie pasta (or penne or cavatappi)
3/4 cup frozen peas (not thawed)
1 ½ cups small asparagus tips
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup seeded and sliced multi-colored bell peppers
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup dry white wine
1/3 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
¼ cup thinly sliced fresh basil
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Lemon slices or quarters for garnish (optional)
Bring a large pot of water to boil and add pasta; cook according to package directions. During the last minute of cooking, add the peas and asparagus tips to the pasta water (if the asparagus tips are medium to large, increase cooking time but still add the peas during the last minute). Drain and return to the cooking pot.
While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add peppers; sauté 1 minute. Add salt, pepper and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Stir in wine, then add cream and juice and cook 1 minute. Pour the sauce over the hot pasta vegetable mixture; add cheese and toss for a minute or so over medium heat to allow the sauce to coat all. Remove from heat; stir in basil and parsley.
Serve in shallow bowls garnished with lemon (optional).