Creamy Rainbow Vegetable Pasta with Lemon and Parmesan

This easy creamy vegetable pasta recipe is like springtime in a bowl, no matter the season. Our version of this pasta primavera-style dish features a luxuriously rich, lemony garlic parmesan cream sauce combined with sautéed rainbow-colored veggies all tossed together with perfectly cooked al dente pasta. Its peak comfort food!

colorful sauteed vegetables and penne pasta in lemon cream sauce in a large white pot

Get ready to indulge in this super easy yet elegant creamy vegetarian pasta that’s perfect for any occasion. Whether you’re looking for a quick weeknight meal or a special dinner with friends, this easy recipe has got you covered. We’ve tested and retested it to perfection, and it’s become one of our all-time favorites!

Take your dinner to the next level by serving this creamy vegetable pasta dish alongside our easy Whipped Ricotta Crostini with antipasto toppings. It’s the perfect way to add that extra special touch to your meal. And if you are a lover of rich and creamy pasta dishes don’t miss our Pasta Magnifico recipe featuring fresh linguine noodles in a decadent citrus cream sauce or our Ricotta Pesto Pasta with peas and artichokes.

What makes this creamy vegetable pasta recipe so amazing?

Well, besides being packed with colorful and nutritious veggies like broccoli, squash, bell pepper, and tomato, this easy pasta dish also features the yummiest, most flavorful homemade lemon garlic parmesan cream sauce. OMG you guys, this sauce! Made with fresh lemon zest, garlic, cream, and parmesan cheese, there’s no doubt this flavorful sauce is the star of the show.

And let’s not forget the sautéed veggies, which add a delicious crunch to every bite. The veggies and the creamy lemon sauce come together to create a heavenly symphony of flavors. And did we mention it only takes about 30 minutes to make? Heck yeah. ? So, if you’ve got a pasta lover in your life go ahead and gather your ingredients and get ready to make their day with this nutritiously delicious dish!

Vegetable and herb ingredients for the dish

Ingredient Notes

*For the full recipe including ingredient portions, scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom of the page.

  • Broccoli: Provides a satisfying crunch and loads of nutrients for a healthy and balanced meal.
  • Yellow squash: A tender and subtle veggie that adds an extra layer of texture to the dish. Can be substituted with zucchini if preferred.
  • Bell peppers or sweet mini peppers: A colorful assortment of sweet and juicy peppers that add freshness and vibrancy to the dish. Choose orange or multi-colored to achieve a rainbow of veggie colors in the dish.
  • Red onion: Adds a slightly sweet and sharp flavor to the dish.
  • Cherry tomatoes: Bursting with sweetness, these little gems add a pop of color and freshness to the dish.
  • Fresh basil: A fragrant and aromatic herb that brightens up the dish and gives it that classic Italian flavor.

*Veggie substitutions

Many different combinations of fresh vegetables could work for this creamy pasta, so don’t be afraid to mix and match with what you have on hand. Mushrooms, artichokes, asparagus, and carrots would all be great additions or substitutions.

Pasta and sauce ingredients for the dish
  • Penne pasta: Classic and comforting, penne pasta works great for soaking up all the delicious flavors of the sauce and veggies. You can use regular, whole wheat, or a gluten-free penne pasta like Banza, depending on your preference.
  • Butter: Gives the dish added richness and flavor but you can reduce the amount or omit completely to lighten up on those calories. Unsalted butter is recommended for better control of the saltiness of the final dish.
  • Garlic cloves: Adds flavor and aroma to the dish. Can be finely minced or chopped.
  • Parmesan cheese: Adds a sharp and salty kick to the dish, enhancing its overall depth of flavor.
  • Lemon zest and lemon juice: Provides a bright and refreshing burst of citrus that lifts the flavors of the dish to new heights of lemony goodness.
  • Heavy cream: Provides a luscious and velvety texture to the dish, making it extra indulgent and satisfying. Can be substituted with milk or a non-dairy alternative for a lighter version.
  • Red pepper chili flakes (optional): For those who like a bit of heat, chili flakes add a subtle kick of spice to the dish.
  • Pine nuts (optional): Toasted pine nuts add a crunchy and nutty texture to the dish that complements the veggies and pasta perfectly.

Recipe Roadmap with Images

Time needed: 30 minutes

  1. Cook the pasta.

    Cook the penne pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package instructions until al dente. Return pasta to the pot after draining.

  2. Sauté the veggies.

    Heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add the broccoli, squash, peppers, and red onion to the skillet. Sauté for about 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until the veggies are starting to soften. You don’t want them to be mushy, they should still be a bit crisp.Frying pan with sauteed vegetables

  3. Add the tomatoes.

    Add the cherry tomatoes to the frying pan and cook for another 1-2 minutes until they just begin to soften, then add all of the sautéed veggies to the pot with the cooked pasta.Sauteed veggies in a frying pan

  4. Make the creamy sauce.

    In a small saucepan over medium heat melt the butter and then add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add the heavy cream, lemon zest, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and parmesan. Whisk until heated and cheese is melted and combined, about 3-4 minutes. Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Lemon cream sauce in a sauce pan with a whisk

  5. Combine pasta and veggies with the sauce.

    Pour the sauce over the pasta and vegetables, add the fresh basil, and toss to combine.

  6. Serve and enjoy!

    Serve with extra parmesan cheese, chopped basil, and toasted pine nuts on the side. creamy pasty with vegetables in a bowl with a glass of wine and some bread

What to Serve with Creamy Vegetable Pasta

Side dishes

When it comes to serving our creamy vegetable pasta, we’ve got some yummy suggestions for you!

  • For a light and refreshing side, a simple green salad with a bright vinaigrette is always a great choice.
  • You could also serve the pasta with some crusty bread or focaccia bread to soak up all that delicious sauce.
  • If you’re in the mood for something a bit heartier, add some of your favorite protein to the pasta. Roasted or grilled chicken, shrimp, or salmon would pair perfectly.
  • You could also add a side of steamed or roasted vegetables, like asparagus or carrots, to round out the meal.
  • Consider pairing this pasta with another of our favorite recipes, Panzanella Salad with Fresh Mozzarella! ?
panzanella salad on a large white serving platter with wooden serving spoons
Panzanella Salad with Fresh Mozzarella

Wine pairings

Here are some delicious wine pairings that can bring out the flavors of creamy vegetable pasta:

  • First up, a crisp and acidic Sauvignon Blanc that can balance the richness of the cream sauce and add some citrus notes to complement the lemon and garlic.
  • Another great option is the light and refreshing Pinot Grigio with its subtle fruitiness that can complement the veggies and lemon garlic sauce.
  • For those who prefer a buttery and oaky white wine, a Chardonnay can be a great match for creamy pasta dishes, adding some depth and richness to the flavors.
  • If you’re looking for a more aromatic wine, try a Viognier with its notes of peach, apricot, and floral flavors that can complement the sweetness of the sautéed veggies and the creaminess of the sauce.
  • Last but not least, don’t forget about Rosé! This dry wine with its fruity and floral aroma can be a refreshing and versatile pairing with pasta dishes, especially during warmer months.

Ultimately, the choice of wine pairing will depend on your personal taste preferences, but these options can help enhance the flavors of creamy lemon vegetable pastas. Cheers!

creamy-pasta-primavera-in-pot-closeup-angle

Storage Tips

Generally, creamy pasta dishes will last in the refrigerator for 2-3 days if stored properly in an airtight container. It’s important to note that the longer the pasta sits, the more the sauce will be absorbed, and the texture may become less desirable.

Can you freeze pasta with cream-based sauce? Yes, you can freeze pasta with cream sauce, but the texture and quality may be affected. Cool it before freezing and consider freezing the pasta and sauce separately. Add a splash of milk or cream when reheating and use it within 2-3 months.

To reheat the leftover pasta, you can follow these simple steps:

  • Take the pasta out of the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature for about 30 minutes.
  • Add a splash of milk or cream to the pasta to help revive the creaminess of the sauce.
  • Transfer the pasta to a microwave-safe dish and cover it loosely with a microwave-safe lid or plastic wrap.
  • Microwave the pasta for 1-2 minutes on high, stirring halfway through, until the pasta is heated through.
  • Check the pasta’s temperature to ensure it’s hot all the way through, and then serve and enjoy!

Alternatively, you can also reheat the pasta on the stovetop by adding it to a saucepan with a splash of milk or cream, and gently warming it over low heat while stirring frequently. Just be sure not to overheat the pasta, as this can cause the sauce to break and become greasy.

creamy-pasta-primavera-in-cooking-pot

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a rating in the comments below and let us know how it turned out. Your feedback is important to us. Thank you for visiting Maplevine Kitchen!

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creamy-pasta-primavera-in-a-cooking-pot

Creamy Rainbow Vegetable Pasta With Lemon and Parmesan

This easy creamy vegetable pasta recipe is like springtime in a bowl, no matter the season. Our version of this pasta primavera-style dish features a luxuriously rich, lemony garlic parmesan cream sauce combined with sautéed rainbow-colored veggies all tossed together with perfectly cooked al dente pasta. Its peak comfort food!
By: AllieAllie Cleveland
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 6
Calories 675 kcal

Equipment

  • Large pot or Dutch oven
  • Large skillet
  • Small saucepan
  • Box grater

Ingredients
  

  • 12 oz penne pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 head broccoli cut into bite-sized florets (about 2-3 cups)
  • 1 yellow squash cut into bite-sized slices (about 2 cups)
  • 1 large bell pepper (or several mini sweet peppers) cut into bite-sized slices (about 1½ cups)
  • 1 small red onion chopped (about ¾ cup)
  • 1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes cut in half if they are large
  • cup fresh basil chopped or torn
  • 2 tablespoons butter unsalted
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 3 oz Parmesan cheese freshly grated (about ¾ cup)
  • 1 lemon zested and juiced
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup pine nuts toasted (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Prepare your ingredients (cut the veggies, zest and juice the lemon, grate the parmesan).
  • Cook the penne pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package instructions until al dente. Return pasta to the pot after draining.
  • Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat.
  • Add the broccoli, squash, peppers, and red onion to the skillet. Sauté for about 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently, until the veggies are starting to soften. You don’t want them to be mushy, they should still be a bit crisp.
  • Add the cherry tomatoes to the frying pan and cook for another minute or so until they just begin to soften. Remove from heat. After the pasta is done, add all of the sautéed veggies to the pot with the cooked pasta.
  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and then add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute.
  • Add the heavy cream, lemon zest, lemon juice (start with 2 tablespoons and then taste and add more to adjust if desired), red pepper flakes, and parmesan. Whisk until heated and cheese is melted and combined. Add salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.
  • Pour the sauce over the pasta and vegetables, add the fresh basil, and toss to combine.
  • Serve with extra parmesan, basil, and toasted pine nuts on the side. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

Recipe notes

  • Many different combinations of veggies would work in this pasta, so don’t be afraid to mix and match with what you have on hand. Mushrooms, artichokes, asparagus, and carrots would all be great additions or substitutions.
  • Cut your veggies into evenly sized pieces and stir frequently during cooking to ensure they cook evenly. Remember, they are meant to retain a bit of crispness so be sure not to overcook them.
  • Be extra careful with the tomatoes. You want to just barely cook them before combining them and the other veggies with the hot cooked pasta and sauce. Otherwise, they will quickly break down and become part of the sauce. But either way, it will still taste great!

Serving suggestions

  • For a light and refreshing side, a simple green salad with a bright vinaigrette is always a great choice.
  • You could also serve the pasta with some crusty bread or focaccia bread to soak up all that delicious sauce.
  • If you’re in the mood for something a bit heartier, roasted or grilled chicken, shrimp, or salmon would pair perfectly with the pasta.
  • You could also add a side of steamed or roasted vegetables, like asparagus or carrots, to round out the meal.
  • Consider pairing this pasta with another one of our favorite recipes, Panzanella Salad with Fresh Mozzarella! ?

Leftovers and storage

Generally, creamy pasta dishes will last in the refrigerator for 2-3 days if stored properly in an airtight container. It’s important to note that the longer the pasta sits, the more the sauce will be absorbed, and the texture may become less desirable.
Can you freeze pasta with cream-based sauce? Yes, you can freeze pasta with cream sauce, but the texture and quality may be affected. Cool it before freezing and consider freezing the pasta and sauce separately. Add a splash of milk or cream when reheating and use it within 2-3 months.

Nutrition

Calories: 675kcal | Carbohydrates: 75g | Protein: 21.7g | Fat: 30.6g | Saturated Fat: 15.3g | Cholesterol: 63mg | Sodium: 350mg | Fiber: 13.2g | Sugar: 5.9g

*Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Maplevine Kitchen makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.

Keyword pasta, vegetables
Did you make this recipe? Leave a comment below and let us know how it was!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is pasta primavera?

Pasta Primavera is a classic Italian-American pasta dish that typically consists of spaghetti or fusilli tossed with a variety of sautéed vegetables. The dish is typically served with a light sauce made of olive oil, garlic, and sometimes cream. The name “Pasta Primavera” translates to “Spring pasta” in Italian, and it is believed to have originated in the late 1970s in New York City’s Le Cirque restaurant. The dish was created by chef Sirio Maccioni, who wanted to create a fresh, seasonal dish that celebrated the flavors of springtime vegetables.

What can I use instead of heavy cream for creamy pasta?

Some alternatives to heavy cream for creamy pasta include whole milk, cream cheese, crème fraîche, Greek yogurt, and cashew cream. Keep in mind that you may need to adjust the seasoning and liquid to achieve the desired consistency and taste.
milk or cream being poured and splashing


What is the difference between frying and sautéing?

The main difference between frying and sautéing is that frying involves cooking food in hot oil at a higher temperature and with more oil, while sautéing involves cooking food in a small amount of oil or butter over high heat. Frying produces crispy and crunchy food, while sautéing aims to retain the natural flavors and textures of the food.

How do you make sautéed vegetables not soggy?

To prevent soggy sautéed vegetables, use high heat, cut them evenly, avoid overcrowding the pan, cook in batches, dry them before cooking, and add salt at the end.

Are sautéed vegetables healthy?

Yes, sautéed vegetables can be a healthy addition to your diet as they are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. When sautéing vegetables, it’s important to use healthy cooking oils such as olive oil or avocado oil and to avoid overcooking them to preserve their nutrients. Additionally, sautéing vegetables can help enhance their flavor and texture, making them more enjoyable to eat.

Sauteed veggies in a frying pan

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