The bold, bright flavor of basil pesto shines in this pesto pasta primavera recipe! Homemade pesto is paired with the pasta of your choice and a medley of roasted vegetables in this twist on a springtime classic.
While I haven't met a pasta I didn't like, pasta primavera has never been my first choice. I'm all about a sauce, and classic pasta primavera doesn't offer much in that regard. Plus yellow squash...not a super fan.
Still! I love that this pasta dish packs in the springtime vegetables (primavera means 'spring' in Italian). My game-changing twist when I make it at home? Simply add sauce. This pesto pasta primavera is loaded with flavor (and alliteration, especially when you make it with penne) to become a regular in our dinner menu rotation.
Reasons to Love This Recipe
- Fresh basil pesto livens up a classic recipe and complements the roasted vegetables well.
- All of the vegetables are roasted on the same pan (and in the same amount of time) for a big hands-off step. Roasting them also provides a great flavor.
- This pesto pasta primavera doesn't skimp on the veggies, seamlessly working a fair amount of produce into your main dish.
- There's plenty of room for you to mix up the ingredients and make this recipe your own.
- Pasta: Lots of different shapes work for pesto pasta primavera. I like to use smaller bite-size options (penne, farfalle) but a longer noodle like fettuccine works just as well.
- Italian Seasoning: Optional, but adds flavor to the roasted vegetables.
- Squash: Both zucchini and yellow squash are traditional pics for pasta primavera, though only one or the other can be used for convenience.
- Carrots: Slice them into thinner strips so they cook more quickly.
- Asparagus: Brings big-time spring vibes.
- Broccolini: This can also be called baby broccoli. It just might be my favorite vegetable in the mix as it develops a delicious roasted broccolini flavor. This is not the same as the more bitter broccoli rabe.
- Basil: Two well-packed cups yields sufficient pesto to coat one pound of pasta and these vegetables. Another base can be used, see arugula pesto and spinach pesto.
- Parmesan: This or Pecorino Romano. Grating your own or using a high quality pre-grated variety is recommend. I would skip the shelf-stable, green-lidded canister kind.
- Nuts: For use in the pesto. Pine nuts are traditional (but $$$) so I will often sub in walnuts.
- Lemon: A little lemon juice and zest brighten up the pesto and add to the springtime flavors.
And here's a big whoops - I forgot to include olive oil in the above photo. It's used both to coat the vegetables before roasting and as an integral part of the pesto.
- Slice the vegetables into bite-sized pieces as noted in the recipe card. Chopping them intentionally allows them all to roast to fork-tender in the same amount of time. Toss them in olive oil and Italian seasoning, though simple salt and pepper is fine, too.
- Roast the vegetables at 425°F for 15-20 minutes, shaking them up halfway, or until fork-tender.
- Meanwhile set the pasta up to boil and prepare the pesto in the food processor.
- Once cooked, drain the pasta, add it back to the pot, then combine with the pesto and roasted vegetables. Easy as that!
- Gluten-Free - Use a gluten-free pasta made from chickpeas, brown rice, quinoa, etc.
- Dairy-Free - Though Parmesan is naturally lower in lactose, they make fully dairy-free alternatives that can be used here.
- Nut-Free - Replace the nuts in the pesto with sunflower seeds (if suitable).
- Vegetarian - Use a Parmesan or Pecorino variety made without animal-derived rennet.
- More Protein - Add cooked chicken, crumbled Italian sausage, sliced chicken sausages, or cannellini beans.
- Red Pesto - Substituting the basil pesto here for pesto rosso, made with sun-dried tomatoes, is a different but equally good take on this dish. This is a great option if you're a little low on fresh basil as it uses less.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- When timing the different components of this recipe, aim to make the pesto soon before tossing and serving. Basil pesto can begin to oxidize and darken in color the longer it sits (though it's fine to eat).
- Use your largest sheet pan (or two smaller ones) to roast the vegetables. While typically you don't want to crowd the pan, I don't mind packing them in here as we're after cooked, fork-tender vegetables and not crisper, heavily roasted ones.
You can easily mix up the vegetables in line with your tastes. Just make sure they're sliced in a way that they'll all cook in the same amount of time. Other options besides the vegetables listed here are onion, mushrooms, red bell pepper strips, regular broccoli florets, and cherry tomatoes.
Yes, but keep in mind basil pesto often darkens in color as it is stored. It's totally fine to eat, but if you'd like to keep the bright green color for longer, only "dress" the portion of pasta and vegetables you'll eat just prior to serving. Store the remaining pesto in the refrigerator in a jar with a thin layer of oil on the top surface. This retains the bright color as it is not in contact with air.
Yes of course, though nothing beats the bold flavor of homemade pesto made with fresh basil leaves. I've found the quality of jarred pesto to be all over the map, with most so-so. My preference when I need a shortcut is a container of refrigerated Buitoni pesto versus most shelf-stable options I've tried.
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card and/or a comment review below!
Pesto Pasta Primavera
- 2 large carrots peeled and sliced into thin 1 ½-inch strips
- 1 medium zucchini sliced into ½-inch thick rounds then quartered
- 1 large yellow squash sliced into ½-inch thick rounds then quartered
- 8 ounces asparagus spears ends trimmed and sliced into 1 ½-inch pieces
- 1 bunch broccolini ends trimmed and sliced into 1 ½-inch pieces
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¾ teaspoon Italian seasoning optional
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- 16 ounces dry pasta penne, farfalle, etc.
- 2 cups very well packed fresh basil leaves
- ½ cup shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan
- ¼ cup nuts walnuts, pine nuts, etc.
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon packed lemon zest
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ cup olive oil
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Slice carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, asparagus, and broccolini and add to a mixing bowl. Pour in ¼ cup olive oil and Italian seasoning (if using), then season to your liking with salt and pepper. Toss to coat everything well.
- Pour out vegetables onto a large rimmed sheet pan and arrange evenly around the pan in a single layer (it's okay if they're packed in). Roast for 15-20 minutes, shaking the pan up halfway through, until fork-tender. Remove the pan from the oven and let sit if the pasta isn't ready yet.
- While the vegetables are roasting set up a large pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and add it back to the pot.
- Meanwhile, add basil leaves, Pecorino (or Parmesan), nuts, garlic, salt, lemon juice, lemon zest, and pepper to a food processor and process until everything is broken into small bits. Drizzle in olive oil as the food processor is running until a smooth sauce forms. Scrape down the sides as needed.
- Add roasted vegetables and prepared pesto to the pot with the pasta and stir well to combine. Serve with grated Pecorino/Parmesan over top.
- Vegetables - There's a lot of wiggle room here to swap in other varieties, such as regular broccoli florets, cherry tomatoes, onion, green or red bell pepper, mushrooms, etc. Prep/slice them in a way that they'll roast in the same amount of time as the others to keep things easy.
- Pesto - Two packed cups of another base can be used, such as arugula or spinach.
- Basil Oxidation - Homemade pesto with basil often oxidizes and darkens over time. If you'd like to retain a bright green color until the last leftover is eaten (darker, oxidized pesto is totally fine to eat), consider only combining a portion of the pesto with the portion of vegetables and pasta you'll eat in a sitting. Add the leftover pesto to a jar and pour a thin layer of olive oil over the surface. This will preserve the color to be used for leftovers.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.Food Safety and Nutrition Disclaimer