By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
Leave it to the Italians to name a pasta dish after Spring…Featuring vibrant, seasonal veggies fresh from the garden, Pasta Primavera is a nourishing medley of vibrant flavors, colors, and textures. Hearty yet light, it’s an ideal first course or main meal pasta to enjoy outside on a warm evening. Of course, the more veggies you use, the better it is for you! I like my Primavera to be about two parts veggies and one part pasta, unless that pasta is high protein (more on that below*). And the secret sauce? Olive oil…whether you chose extra virgin or a flavored olive oil, you get powerful health benefits and flavor!
My Pasta Primavera Recipe
Serves 2. Choose organic ingredients when possible. You’ll need:
- Pasta – 2-3 cups of cooked white semolina or 3 to 5 cups of high-protein pasta (lentil or chickpea)
- 4 to 8 cups of any combination of veggies:
- Broccoli and/or cauliflower florets
- Zucchini and/or summer squash, quartered and then sliced into small quarter wheels
- Bell peppers – green, red, orange and/or yellow, diced
- Cherry tomatoes, red, yellow, orange, halved
- Asparagus spears, sliced into 1” rounds
- Carrots, very thinly sliced into small rounds
- Celery, thinly sliced pieces
- Spinach, torn into bite sized pieces
- Peas, fresh or frozen
- Green beans, sliced into ½” pieces
- Onions, chopped. Alternately, garnish dish with chopped scallions
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced (alternately use garlic olive oil)
- Fresh herbs – basil leaves, torn into bite sized pieces and/or fresh rosemary (Alternately, use basil olive oil and/or rosemary olive oil)
- Olive oil – EVOO or flavored olive oil(s)
- Natural salt and pepper, to taste
- Optional: white beans or chickpeas (if not using a high-protein pasta)
- Optional: grated Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese
- Optional: a sprinkle of Olive Oil Dipping Spice Blend or jalapeño garlic flavored olive oil for a kick of hot chili heat.
Wash and cut all the veggies. Boil the pasta water.
In a medium saucepan, sauté the garlic, onions and carrots in 2 to 3 Tbsp of olive oil (EVOO or your choice of flavored olive oil) over low-medium heat until translucent.
Cook the pasta according to directions on the box/bag.
Add the rest of the veggies you’re using except for spinach, tomatoes and peas and sauté until al dente (cooked, but still crisp).
Next, stir in sliced cherry tomatoes, fresh herbs, spinach, peas and optional beans, and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until the spinach is wilted.
(If you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, instead of sautéing all the veggies, you can lightly steam the carrots, broccoli, zucchini, peppers, asparagus, green beans until al dente, then add them to the onion and garlic mixture at the same time as the spinach, tomatoes, peas, beans and herbs.)
Add the pasta to the veggie mixture. Drizzle with a few Tbsp of EVOO or flavored olive oil of your choice, add freshly ground salt and pepper, to taste, and optional Dipping Blend and/or grated cheese.
Is Pasta Healthy?
*As I wrote in my The Pasta Diet ebook, you CAN eat pasta as part of a heart healthy diet, as long as you mind “the 3 Ps.” One of these P’s is Portions. If you’re eating white semolina pasta, limit each serving to 1 to 1 ½ cups of cooked pasta to avoid overloading on simple carbs. To satisfy hunger, double (or triple) up on the veggies, which will help promote a healthy blood sugar response while providing heart-healthy fiber and antioxidant nutrients. Alternately, if you want to eat more pasta, use one that’s naturally high in protein, like a lentil or chickpea pasta. I like pastas with at least 15 grams of protein per serving (which is like eating a 2 oz steak). Add some healthy monounsaturated fat like olive oil, and you’ve got a recipe for great health!
©2020 Stephen Sinatra, M.D. All rights reserved.