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Pasta Primavera may be my family’s favorite way to eat the first vegetables of spring. The dish was ubiquitous on restaurant menus in the 80s. Though the trend has passed for restaurants, anyone who likes a bright bowl of spaghetti that’s ready quickly needs a go-to version. This is mine.

The vegetables change according to what’s available,  but I prepare them all the same way—by braising them very quickly in salty water and butter. This allows me to skip the step of blanching and draining them. Once they are almost tender, in go herbs, lemon zest and a dash of cream. The pasta gets tossed in with a little pasta cooking water and topped with parmesan. 

On the table and in your belly in 15 minutes.  

A note about asparagus: I trim away about a half inch from the bottoms and then peel the bottom third of the stalk. Peel by laying the stalk flat on a cutting board, peeling with a typical vegetable peeler or a sharp paring knife.  This is worth the small effort as you can now cook your asparagus to a bright green al dente, 2 minutes tops.

It goes like this …


1 pound spaghetti

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

Salt and pepper

½ small white onion or 2 leeks—white parts only—thinly sliced

1 bunch asparagus, peeled and sliced on the diagonal

2 cups shelled peas, thawed from frozen are fine too

Zest of 1 lemon

½ cup of cream

A large handful of soft herbs, such as parsley, chives, chervil, tarragon—chopped fine

1 cup parmesan, grated


Bring a large pot of water to boil for the spaghetti. Once it’s boiling, salt the water and stir in the pasta. (If you’re measuring: One quart of water, one Tablespoon of salt for 1 pound of pasta.) Proceed to the sauce while the pasta cooks.

In a sauté pan large enough to hold the pasta for tossing at the end, bring the butter and ½ cup of water to a simmer. Season with salt (a teaspoon if you’re measuring) and pepper to taste.

Add the onion, asparagus, and peas and simmer gently until almost tender, 3–4 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest, herbs, and cream. Turn off the heat and taste for seasoning.

As soon as the pasta is al dente, reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain the pasta.  Add the pasta immediately to the vegetables and stir to combine. Tongs work very well for this. Add the cheese and stir. Add reserved pasta water if you think the sauce needs it, a bit at a time. 

Serve immediately. Serves 4–6.

File it!

Save Sarah’s recipe in your MDK account with one click. Want to print it out? Here. External Link. Opens in new window. is the pdf! We love bringing you hot, fresh content daily. Your purchases from the MDK Shop support it all. Thank you!

About The Author

For Sarah Ross, everyday cooking is about winging it—with a classic or an old favorite recipe given to her by a friend. These are the recipes that get stained with spills from being on repeat, the ones to share.


  • This may be supper tonight

    • Ditto!!

  • Looks delicious and fast.

  • Minimalism like this is so inspiring, Sarah. It reminds me of the rule of writing that it’s harder to write short than long. “I didn’t have time to write it short.” It’s actually harder to make food this simple that still has rich and complex flavor.

    I think your long experience with cooking and food is the key here–you know exactly how each of these ingredients behaves. This dish is not random, even though it’s simple.

    • That is attributed to Mark Twain. Even though I am an unabashed maximalist, I completely agree, Ann!

  • Great meal to prepare on a hot day!

  • This just might be my next favourite pasta dish! Until now, it’s been Jeannette Sloan’s lemon spaghetti! And guess where i got that? Right here on this very site!

    • Thank you for reading and cooking! Hope you love it as much as Jeanette’s wonderful pasta.

  • Gosh that looks good. Really really good.

  • This looks great! It would be nice if there was a ‘print’ button for recipes that reformatted it so that the rest of the mdk template didn’t get included. Or is there already a way to do that & I just can’t find it?

    • Just found the clickable pdf, just before the comment section – thanks mdk!

  • Oh, yum! This is a perfect summer meal idea! Thanks.

  • Perfect Summer meal after a hot day of knitting.

  • First: printable PDF much appreciated! And, if I hadn’t made ravioli with escarole, fresh peas, lemon, chicken broth, pine nuts, and Parmesan last night, I’d be making this right away.

    • OMG Mariosmom! I’m making that too!!! Thanks!

  • When I saw this yesterday I immediately knew what friday night dinner would be. I allready had most of the ingredients at home, and could pick the herbs from my garden. Served with my homemade bread and a glass of wine it tasted absolutely wonderful. Thank you! Best wishes from Norway.

    • Thank you for making this pasta, I am so glad you liked it.

  • Made this the very night it was posted! I had some asparagus but subbed frozen mixed vegetables. A welcome dish from the past!!

    • Frozen mixed veg for the win! Thank you, glad you enjoyed.

  • So good, and so easy, even with haricort verts instead of asparagus. Not everyone in my family will eat asparagus.

    • Thanks for trying it out – I think haricots verts is a great idea and will try that soon.

  • Sarah – thank you so much for this recipe – it sounds delicious – it will be a dinner this week.
    Thx from your friends in Pembroke Pines, South Florida
    Nancy C

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