Pasta Primavera--in Mid-Summer, Yes!

Pasta Primavera–in Mid-Summer, Yes!


I think of this dish as the sad dish vegetarian’s are relegated to ordering at restaurants, when traveling. For some reason it popped into my mind the other night when I, as per usual, had random bits of vegetables to use up and a hungry teenager and husband to feed.  Whatever you want to call it, it’s pasta with vegetables, a little cream sauce with a hint of lemon and plenty of fresh herbs. It really can be delicious! 🙂



I could live on salads alone these hot summer days but the rest of my family cannot and I’m guessing some of you are in the same boat. You can halve the amount of pasta noted below and have a very veg-heavy dish to please a variety of palates. 


This dish was invented at the restaurant Le Cirque in New York City in the 70s and does not hale from Italy as the name would imply. It’s really also not limited to spring vegetables–though I look forward to making it next spring with asparagus, peas and more lemon than noted here. I imagine a late summer one with sweet peppers, corn, and cherry tomatoes. . . Have fun with it! 


White sauce (bechamel) seems to have fallen out of favor but it’s a wonderful sauce and a little can go a long way in bringing together a big pot of pasta–and making that pasta (with tons of veg) something my kid will devour. 


Happy cooking, stay cool and I’ll be back with a salad soon!


Pasta Primavera



  • vary the quantity of vegetables to suit your needs–I like a high ratio of veg to pasta
  • double the cream sauce if you want a saucier, richer dish–this amount just coats everything and highlights the veg
  • add diced, cooked chicken


Serves 4-6



2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 1/3 cups milk

1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

Zest of half a lemon, or of the whole lemon if you’re a lemon fan

1 cup grated Parmesan, divided

For the Vegetables

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 medium onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

6 cups vegetables, cut into similar-sized pieces (broccoli, carrots, peas, zucchini/summer squash, fennel, sweet peppers, halved cherry tomatoes etc. )

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 lb pasta such a penne, lumache (above), fusilli, small to medium shells

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil, parsley or a combination

Scallions greens, thinly sliced (optional–I happened to have some that needed using in the above version)


1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly for about 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the milk, mustard, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking often, for about 7-8 minutes or until thickened. Whisk in the lemon zest and half the Parmesan. 


2. Heat the olive oil in the largest skillet you have over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes. Add the remainder of the vegetables (if you’re using some cherry tomatoes, add those at the end of the cooking time–you don’t want saucy vegetables), salt and saute until just tender, about 5-10 minutes depending on what kind of veg and how much you’re using. Turn off the heat before you think they’re quite tender if they’re going to sit for a while before finishing the dish. 


3. Cook the pasta until al dente in well-salted, boiling water. If your cream sauce is quite thick, reserve 1/4 cup of hot pasta cooking water and whisk it into the sauce. Drain pasta and toss with vegetables, sauce and herbs. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt/pepper. Serve, topped with remaining Parmesan. 



5 thoughts on “Pasta Primavera–in Mid-Summer, Yes!”

  • Jennifer Sprague says:

    Sounds wonderful! Looking forward to trying it. I love your directions and using 6 cups of whatever veggies I’ve got, and how to slightly alter how you do it if using tomatoes, for instance!! So flexible! I love that about your recipes. I really appreciate what I’ve learned and continue to learn from you here. Thanks, Katherine!

    • cookwithwhatyouhave says:

      Ah, thanks much! It’s all about making it work for as many folks as possible. . . and thus making cooking more creative, fun and satisfying, not to mention fewer store trips and less expense.

  • Sarah Forrester says:

    Yum, looks great, and easy. White sauce or Bechamel has never gone out of style for me, but I haven’t thought to make it for a long time. Herbing it up and getting that lemon in there will be great. Thanks!

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