On busy evenings, I think many people (including us) find it easiest to cook some pasta. It's hearty, quick to make, and generally a crowd pleaser. However, pasta made from refined flour and a jar of store-bought sauce don't necessarily make the most nourishing meal. Let's rethink the quickie pasta dinner, shall we?
I've designed this colorful pasta primavera to meet those needs, but in a much more nourishing format. In particular, I wanted to design something that could (a) come together very quickly, (b) be very flexible with regards to ingredients, and (c) still nourish the body. This is a recipe that we enjoy again and again, and each time it's a little bit different based on what veggies I have on-hand. Make sure to bookmark this one, since I'm confident you'll keep coming back to it too!
All you'll need is a handful of veggies (even frozen veggies work fine if that's all you have!) and about 20 minutes to bring this dish together. If you don't mind multi-tasking, you can boil the water and cook the pasta at the same time you prepare the veggies and sauce. Even on the busiest evening, I still think it's important to make a nice meal, and this one is sure to be a savior at the end of a chaotic day.
My version of pasta primavera has a couple key nutritional upgrades over the classic. Because of that, it's a meal that's not only easy but also good for the body and something you can feel good about eating regularly.
The first upgrade is to use a bean-based pasta. There are so many great options available now, and they've made me fall in love with pasta again after a long hiatus. Look for versions made with only one ingredient (i.e., chick peas, red lentils, green lentils, etc). If you swap a bean-based pasta in for a wheat-based pasta, this entire meal just becomes a big bowl of beans and veggies: a real nutritional winner! (If you're a pasta lover, make sure to check out my Nourishing Taco Pasta and my Lemon Blueberry Thyme Pasta Salad too!).
The second upgrade is the sauce. I've seen many pasta primavera recipes that call for loads of butter or oil to bring richness to the dish; sadly, this takes an otherwise okay dish nutritionally and really downgrades it. But in this version, you'll use just a bit of olive oil to cook the veggies. The rest of the richness comes from a decadent, creamy, lemony tahini sauce you'll drizzle on top! I'm a long-term lover of Seeds of Collaboration tahini, which is unbelievably creamy and smooth, with a neutral-enough flavor to use in a dish like this. Make sure to use the code ROGUE to save 20% on your order!
Make It Your Own
This is an incredibly flexible dish, meaning you can make it work with pretty much anything you have on-hand. Feel free to use a different cut of pasta, switch up the crunchy garnishes, add some chick peas for additional protein, use more or fewer veggies, or even serve it cold as a pasta salad. See the photo below for a totally different version that uses corn and fresh parsley!
Want to switch up the veggies? The sky is the limit! Anything you can get your hands on will be great; the more the merrier. My only suggestion is to stick with veggies that cook quickly, and to add them to the skillet from hardest to softest to make sure they'll all cook fully. You can also easily use some frozen veggies in the mix if that's what you have access to. You can even theme this dish seasonally, for example by making a zucchini, corn, and tomato version at the height of summer and an asparagus version during spring.
Let's Talk Ingredients
Here's what you'll need for this recipe, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.
Red lentil or chick pea pasta. A protein powerhouse! I'm a huge fan of Tolerant Foods; their rotini is shown in all these photos. Feel free to use your favorite pasta shape.
Lemon. You'll use both the zest and the juice for extra flavor.
Salt and pepper
Bell peppers. I like to use both a red pepper and an orange pepper for extra color, but feel free to use what you love.
Green kale. You can easily swap in your greens of choice here. If you use a hearty green, like kale, allow it to cook just the tiniest bit. If you use a delicate green like spinach, you might want to add it at the very end to prevent it from getting wilty.
Roasted salted almonds
Sesame seeds. Optional, but they're such a fun, pretty garnish and make so much sense with the tahini sauce!
Isn't this the perfect quickie dinner? It's fast, flexible, easy, and sure to please everyone. Yet it's also good for the body, unlike many other fast meals. This is definitely one that you can feel good about throwing together in a pinch (even if that pinch seems to happen more frequently than you'd like to admit!).
My tip: always keep a couple boxes of red lentil rotini in your pantry, some citrus and tahini in the fridge, and a few bags of veggies stashed in the freezer. Cabbage keeps for ages in the fridge too. I pretty much always have these ingredients on-hand and can whip this up even if we get back from traveling and haven't been to the store in a couple weeks. As long as you have some pantry and freezer staples, there's always a nourishing meal that can be made!
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
Disclosure: Seeds of Collaboration is a long-term partner. I receive free product from Seeds of Collaboration and take a small commission on sales using the discount code. However, all opinions and thoughts are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep The Rogue Brussel Sprout running.
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12-oz box of red lentil or chick pea rotini (or other short cut of pasta)
0.25 c creamy tahini
Juice of a lemon
Generous splash of rich, flavorful olive oil
Generous salt and pepper
2 large carrots
Red bell pepper
Orange bell pepper
Small wedge of red cabbage
Several large leaves of green kale
Few sprigs of fresh basil
Handful of roasted salted almonds
Palmful of sesame seeds
Boil a large pot of water, salt the water liberally, and cook the pasta as directed.
Zest the lemon and set the zest aside, then juice the lemon.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the tahini and lemon juice. Add the lemon juice slowly, just until you achieve a rich, thick sauce that you can drizzle.
While the pasta cooks, heat a generous splash of olive oil in a large skillet. Slice the carrots and add them to the skillet with salt and pepper. Sauté until barely tender.
While the carrots cook, dice up the bell peppers. Once the carrots are barely tender, add the peppers to the skillet. Sauté for another few minutes.
Cut the red cabbage into thin ribbons and add them to the skillet. Cook for another minute or two, until the cabbage is tender but not wilted.
Remove the ribs from the kale leaves and then cut the leaves into ribbons. When the other veggies are tender, add the kale and turn off the heat.
Add the lemon zest to the cooked veggies and toss it while still hot; this will release the fragrant oils from the lemon peel.
Add the pasta into the skillet of veggies, or transfer everything into a large mixing bowl if it won’t all fit into the skillet. Mix well so that the oil and salt from the veggies coats the pasta. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer to a serving dish. Garnish the pasta with a very generous drizzle of the lemon-tahini sauce, torn basil leaves, almonds, and sesame seeds. Serve additional tahini sauce on the side for drizzling on individual portions.