With classic springtime ingredients arriving at grocery stores and farmer’s markets, it’s time to lighten up that suppertime standby, pasta. Spring’s produce not only brings a variety of fresh flavors to the table; it also gives you a broad range of nutritional benefits. Freshly harvested vegetables taste great in spring pasta recipes and they’re full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Pasta makes an ideal partner for the lightest, most delicately flavored spring vegetables.The job of the noodles is to make a substantial, but never heavy, meal. It’s also fitting to celebrate the season’s produce bounty with pasta that’s just as varied, such as, farfalle bow ties, fluted garganelli tubes, long, hollow bucatini noodles or broad pappardelle ribbons. Dried pastas are pantry-friendly and offer a satisfying chew, when cooked al dente. Fresh pasta will also work for these lighter dishes.

Whatever vegetables you use, bump up the nutritional content of your spring pasta recipes by skipping regular white pasta and using whole grain varieties instead. Whole wheat and other whole grain pastas make healthy recipes even healthier because they’re produced using grains that haven’t had their germ and bran stripped from the grain. Leaving the grain intact allows you to gain the benefits of the whole grain, which include extra fiber, B vitamins, protein and antioxidants, as well as minerals like selenium, magnesium and potassium. Studies have shown that whole grains help protect against cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Also, whole grains help with weight control. Luckily, it’s a lot easier to find a variety of whole grain pasta options at the grocery store these days.

Pair hearty pasta with these delicate spring veggies and you’ll create a meal that’s both nutritious and satisfying. As different vegetables turn up at your market, you can change up the recipes for added variety. For the healthiest results, prepare dishes using plenty of fiber-rich veggies, smaller portions of pasta and lean protein to make them extra-filling.

Sauces used in springtime pasta dishes are not heavy or meaty. They might feature light protein, such as tuna or chicken, but they are typically vegetarian dishes. Light lemon sauces, vinaigrette and other thin dressings are most commonly used on spring pasta dishes. Light pesto sauces are also good choices. A simple pasta dish can be dressed with some olive oil, sea salt and grated Italian cheese. Including eggs in the preparation may help the dressing adhere to the pasta, as well as provide additional flavor. Chopped herbs can be added as desired

Some favorite ingredients utilized in springtime pasta recipes are mushrooms and asparagus. Onions are popular inclusions, as are sugar snap peas. Fresh parsley is often included, too. Other fresh spring pasta herbs might include chives and dill. Escarole is frequently utilized in creating spring pastas dishes. Fresh spinach may also be tossed into the pasta. Another popular green used in spring dishes is Swiss chard. 

Pasta Primavera is a very popular spring pasta meal. Zucchini and other squashes are often used in this pasta dish, as can broccoli florets and plum or cherry tomatoes. Tasty elements of crunch or nuttiness, from pine nuts to fava beans, are often included, though many of the spring vegetables, like radishes, can also provide plenty of crisp texture and flavor. Fresh cheeses may also be grated, lightly, on top of spring pastas.

Farfalle with Spring Vegetables

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of sandwich bread, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons snipped chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bunch broccolini
  • 1 pound farfalle
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 fennel bulb—halved, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed, or 1 pound fresh peas, shelled
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350° F. On a baking sheet, toss the bread with 2 tablespoons of the oil and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once, until golden. Let cool, then stir in 1 tablespoon each of the parsley and chives and 1/2 tablespoon of the tarragon. Season the crumbs with salt and pepper.

In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the broccolini until tender, about 1 minute. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the broccolini to a cutting board and coarsely chop.

Boil the pasta in the same pot until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

In a deep skillet, heat the butter and the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the garlic, fennel, scallions, peas and chopped broccolini and cook over moderate heat until the fennel is crisp-tender, about 6 minutes.

Add the pasta, lemon juice and cooking water and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat until the water is nearly absorbed. Stir in the remaining herbs.

Sprinkle the pasta with the bread crumbs just before serving.

Pappardelle with Baby Spinach, Herbs and Ricotta

Fettuccine will also work if you can’t find pappardelle. Have all the ingredients prepped and ready to go before beginning to cook—the pasta needs to be hot when mixed with the other ingredients to create a creamy consistency.

4 servings (serving size: 1 3/4 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces uncooked pappardelle (wide ribbon pasta)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup diced pancetta
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 3 tablespoons grated fresh pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Cook pasta with 1 tablespoon kosher salt according to package directions. Drain in a colander over a bowl and reserve 1 cup cooking liquid.

Combine 1/2 cup reserved hot cooking liquid and ricotta cheese in a food processor or use an immersion blender and process until well blended.

Heat oil in a skillet and saute pancetta and garlic for a few minutes. Add spinach and cook just until wilted.

Combine hot pasta, cheese mixture, spinach mixture and remaining ingredients in a large bowl; toss gently to coat. Add additional cooking liquid to moisten, if needed.

Chicken and Artichoke Fettuccine Alfredo

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound uncooked fettuccine
  • 1 pound Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into strips
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4 cup lowfat milk
  • 4 ounces reduced fat Cream Cheese, cubed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 can (14 ounces) water-packed artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and halved or frozen and defrosted
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

Directions

Cook fettuccine according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat oil and cook chicken over medium heat until no longer pink. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Remove from the pan and keep warm.

Add the milk, cream cheese and salt to the skillet; cook and stir until smooth. Stir in the artichoke hearts, red pepper and Parmesan cheese.

Drain fettuccine. Stir in sauce and chicken; heat through. Sprinkle with basil.

Pasta with Squash and Sage Leaves

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz whole-wheat penne
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 sage leaves
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 medium butternut squash or any squash of choice (about 2 lbs), peeled and seeded, if needed, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Directions:

Cook penne as directed on the package. Drain and reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook sage leaves, turning once, until crisp on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a paper towel.

Add onion and garlic to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and golden, about 3 minutes. Add squash, 3/4 cups pasta water, salt and pepper.

Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until squash softens, 5 to 7 minutes. Add pasta to squash mixture; stir over low heat, add remaining pasta cooking water, if a thinner sauce is wanted.

Cook until pasta is coated, about 1 minute. Serve, garnished with cheese and cooked sage leaves.

Pasta with Arugula Pesto, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Pine Nuts

Pasta with Arugula Pesto, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pine Nuts

Makes: 4 servings 

This twist on classic pesto swaps arugula for basil, making a peppery sauce with toasted pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes. For something extra, grate a little Pecorino or Parmesan cheese on top before serving.

Sun-dried tomatoes come packed dry or in oil and can be found in most grocery stores. In this recipe use tomatoes packed in oil (just drain well) because they give more flavor than their dry counterparts (which need to be reconstituted before using).

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound pasta, such as orecchiette, gemelli, or conchiglie
  • 10 ounces arugula, washed and tough stems removed
  • 5 medium garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and thinly sliced

Directions:

Cook pasta according to the directions on the package. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water.

Meanwhile, combine arugula, garlic, lemon juice and half of the pine nuts in a food processor. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil and process until evenly blended, about 2 minutes. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper and process again to blend in seasoning.

Drain pasta and return to the pot (but do not return to the heat). Add arugula pesto, remaining pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes and  pasta water, if needed. Mix until evenly combined.

Serve immediately.

Linguine with Spring Vegetables

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 3/4 pounds linguine
  • 1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise (quartered if large) and thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces sugar snap peas, stem ends trimmed, halved
  • 1/2 cup half & half
  • 1 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves

Directions:

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 4 minutes just short of al dente; add asparagus, zucchini and snap peas. Cook until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.

Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water; drain pasta and vegetable mixture and set aside.

In the same pot, bring half & half and butter to a simmer. Add in pasta-vegetable mixture , cheese and enough pasta water to create a thin sauce (it will thicken as it stands).

Season with salt and pepper and top with tarragon.

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