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Pasta Primavera with a Healthy, Kid-Friendly Twist

Spring is good for the soul, no? Pasta primavera is one of those iconic spring dishes, and here’s a healthy, child-approved version. Zucchini noodles are a good way to make this dish even healthier – but let’s face it, zucchini noodles taste like, well, zucchini. I suggest going half and half with pasta (either regular or whole grain; or, my favorite, red lentil) and zucchini. It really works. You can also add a protein, such as cooked chicken or shrimp or chickpeas.

If you have children, by all means let them help choose the vegetables and help make the zucchini noodles with a spiralizer (see note #1). Kids are so much more likely to eat healthy food if they’ve helped choose and prepare it.

Happy spring!

Zucchini Pasta Primavera

Ingredients

  • 3-4 medium zucchini
  • 8 oz short pasta or your choice (kids seem to particularly love bowtie)
  • 2 – 4 cloves garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon dried Italian herbs (or 1 teaspoon each dried basil, thyme, and oregano)

Choice of vegetables, including any or all (see note #2):

  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced thin
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1-2 cups broccoli or broccolini, cut into small florets (see note #3)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 6 asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal
  • 1/2 cup sugar snap peas, halved on the diagonal
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup fresh Parmesan cheese, either grated or sliced into thin strips (optional)
  • Additional optional sauce options: tomato, pesto, etc.

Preparation

  1. Spiralize the zucchini into “noodles.”
  2. Place the zucchini noodles in a colander in the sink.
  3. Heat a large pot of water with a teaspoon of salt, and bring to a boil.
  4. While the water is heating cook the vegetables (except the tomatoes) in one of two ways:
  • Sauté them in batches in olive oil (first add the garlic and herbs) until they’re firm-tender, or:
  • Roast them in a preheated 450-degree oven with in a single layer for 20 minutes or so, turning over halfway and adding the garlic and herbs at that time.
  1. When the water is boiling, add the pasta, and cook according to package directions.
  2. Drain, pouring the hot water and pasta over the zucchini, and reserving about a cup of pasta water.
  3. Toss the pasta/zucchini mixture with the vegetable mixture in a large bowl. Toss with the cherry tomatoes and enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve immediately.

Notes—

Note #1: In my research, I’ve found that the safest inexpensive spiralizer when there are kids in the kitchen appears to be the Joyce Chen Saladacco Spiral Slicer. The cutting mechanism is completely inside.

Note #2: vegetable quantities given are quite arbitrary

Note #3: You can definitely cook and eat the broccoli stalk. Peel or cut off the tough outer edge, and then slice thinly.