Each spring, our social media feeds are filled with a flurry of recipes for pasta primavera, an Italian-sounding dish based around a sauce of spring vegetables (primavera is Italian for ‘spring’). It’s seemingly very popular too – a search for #pastaprimavera on Instagram pulls up more than 18,000 posts to date. But a quick glance suggests that few, if any, of the people making this dish are Italian. Not only that, but it’s very rare to find pasta primavera on menus in Italy (as our Head Chef Roberta D’Elia will attest). So what’s the story behind the dish?
What is pasta primavera?
With this dish, it’s very much spring by name, spring by nature. Pasta primavera makes the most of the first vegetables of spring: typically asparagus, broad beans, peas and spring onions, although some versions incorporate courgette, broccoli and even fresh tomatoes. Whatever the mix, fresh vegetables are always the star. These vegetables are lightly cooked, before cream, stock and hard Italian cheese are added to create a rich primavera sauce. This sauce is then used to dress pasta, with most recipes calling for ribbon shapes like tagliatelle or pappardelle.
Is pasta primavera Italian?
Pasta primavera; it certainly sounds Italian. But this dish was actually first made popular in 70s America, not Italy (albeit by an Italian). Sirio Maccioni, the Tuscan co-owner of famous New York restaurant Le Cirque, initially introduced pasta primavera as an off-menu special. Maccioni was in charge of front of house and his guests – knowing he was Italian – often requested pasta. Maccioni is said to have taken a dish of pasta, vegetables and cream his wife had cobbled together from a hunger-induced raid of their fridge, refined it and started serving it to his guests. Maccioni’s partner, French chef Jean Vergnes, was so opposed to the idea that he refused to allow it to be made in his kitchen. Instead, the dish was prepared at a makeshift station in the kitchen hallway. Despite its humble beginnings, pasta primavera gained huge popularity amongst diners and critics, eventually being adopted by home cooks in America and beyond.
Our pasta primavera recipe
Although you’re more likely to find authentic pasta primavera in New York, rather than Italy, we’ve taken the liberty of reimagining the dish with some typically Italian touches. Gone is the rich cream, which is used very sparingly in Italian cooking. Instead, we’ve opted for a simple sauce of butter and stock that allows the real star of the show – the vibrant spring vegetables – to truly shine. We think our primavera sauce works best with fresh tagliatelle, so we’ve included tips for making your own, but you could also swap in fresh fettuccine or dried tagliatelle.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Calories per serving: 499 kcal
Fancy making your own pasta from scratch? You can follow along with Chef Roberta in the video below as she takes you through the process, step by step.
For more tips check out our in-depth guide to making fresh tagliatelle.
For the fresh tagliatelle:
- 400g 00 flour (plus more for your work surface)
- 4 eggs
For the primavera pasta:
- 480g fresh tagliatelle, or 400g dried
- 350g asparagus spears, halved
- 100g peas, fresh or frozen
- 100g podded broad beans, fresh or frozen
- 6 spring onions, thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
- 50g butter
- 40ml olive oil
- 150ml light stock (vegetable or chicken)
- 50g pecorino cheese, grated
- In a frying pan, gently cook the spring onions and garlic in butter and oil until they soften.
- Next, add your asparagus, peas, broad beans and stock. Stir, then allow to bubble away on a medium heat for 5 minutes.
- While your vegetables are cooking, bring a pan of well salted water to the boil and cook your pasta.
- Once your pasta is al dente (3-4 minutes for fresh tagliatelle), drain and add it to your pan of vegetables, along with half of the pecorino.
- Toss everything together until your pasta is completely coated in sauce, then serve your primavera pasta topped with the remaining grated pecorino.