Grilled Pasta Primavera
Pasta primavera was once my answer to an almost weekly problem—what to do with loads of veggies from our CSA. For me, roasting whatever bounty we received that week and then tossing them with pasta was an easy, and consistently delicious, solution. The repetitiveness of the CSA ultimately led me to jump ship, but pasta primavera has remained in my life as a fairly healthy meal that's quick enough to put together on a weeknight and makes for good leftovers. I'm not sure why, but I've always roasted my veggies in the over for this and never thought of utilizing my grill until recently, which is a shame, because the results were decidedly even more awesome.
I guess the reason I never really used the grill before is because it just makes more sense to make the meal all in one place. Having to cook part of the meal inside and part outside left me considering an ideal strategy for getting all the pieces together in two different locations. Before grilling, I decided to cook the pasta, choosing to use twisted gemelli. Once the pasta was al dente, I drained it and reserved a bit of the cooking liquid to use to make a sauce with later on.
While I waited for the water to boil and pasta to cook, I prepped all the veggies. I'm not sure if pasta primavera has a right or wrong mix of vegetables—I've always just used whatever I have on hand. For this recipe, my line-up was purely based on items that work well on the grilling. This included bell peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, red onions, and asparagus.
I tossed all the veggies with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then laid them out over a hot fire. I kept a close eye on how each individual item was cooking, flipping them once they were nicely browned, and removing them when they were still crisp-tender to keep a little crunchy contrast to the soft pasta.
Man, is that beautiful board of vegetables or what! The natural sweetness of the vegetables paired with light char and fresh flavor is so good that I normally would just serve them like this—it's a cookout side dish that's hard to beat.
Of course this wasn't a cookout and my end game was a great pasta primavera, so I took to dicing up all those peppers, squash, onions, and asparagus into bite-sized pieces.
Once I had the veggies done, it was back inside to assemble a sauce. I kept it simple and started with sauteeing garlic and red pepper flakes in oil. When those were fragrant, I added in heavy cream and the reserved pasta water and let it cook until warm and slightly thickened, then finished the sauce with a bit of lemon juice.
With all the components ready, I tossed the pasta with the sauce and vegetables in a large bowl until everything was well distributed.
After plating the pasta, I topped it was fresh basil and parmesan. The final dish had a pleasing mellow sweetness from all of the grilled veggies, while the sauce brought a brightness from the lemon juice and added robustness without it feeling rich. The parmesan was a good nutty and salty contrast to the vegetables and sauce, making it feel complete. All-in-all, it was one of the better pasta primaveras I've made, and having made so many by necessity in the past, that's saying a lot.
Grilled Pasta Primavera
- Yield 4-6 servings
- Prep 20 Minutes
- Cook 20 Minutes
- Total 40 Minutes
- 1lb gemelli or pasta of your choice
- 2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed and cut into 1/4-slices lengthwise
- 2 medium yellow squash, ends trimmed and cut into 1/4-slices lengthwise
- 2 medium bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 4 flat portions
- 1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch rounds and skewered horizontally
- 1/2lb asparagus, ends trimmed
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon freshly minced garlic (about 1 medium clove)
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice from 1/2 a lemon
- 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh basil
- Grated parmesan cheese, for serving
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cook pasta according to package directions in salted water. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking liquid.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Brush all vegetables with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place vegetables on grill and cooked until browned on both sides, 2-3 minutes per side for zucchini, yellow squash, and peppers, and about 5 minutes per side for onions. Transfer vegetables to cutting board and cut into a fine dice.
- Place 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until fragrant and bubbles start to form around garlic, 30-60 seconds. Stir in heavy cream and reserved pasta cooking liquid; heat until warmed through. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.
- Place pasta in a large bowl and toss with warm cream sauce. Stir in chopped vegetables and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Plate pasta and sprinkle with parmesan cheese before serving.
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Kevin Sandridge Thanks for this post! Always nice to have extra 'verdent' options for dining. My significant other is not a meat eater - so I keep a recipe collection of different veggie options she and I can enjoy and share together. Appreciate this post and recipe!
Chad Thompson Kevin, I am in the same boat with my daughter! Thank goodness she hasn't gone the Vegan route or I couldn't use this cream sauce :)
Nice looking veggies, Josh! You are a braver man than me with the asparagus. Every time I try grilling them they usually fall through the grates!
Josh @Chad If your asparagus is thick enough, you can skewer a bunch together and that keeps them from falling through the grates.