Heading into the summer and my belly is craving all this new season has to bring. Summer squash, tomatoes upon tomatoes, lemons, leafy greens, and refreshing fruits. But just because it’s summer, doesn’t mean we can’t eat pasta. This vegan and gluten-free White Bean Pasta Primavera is a light but satisfying dish that’s easily customizable.
Dish on This
Believe it or not, Pasta Primavera isn’t even an Italian-created pasta dish. It literally means “springtime pasta” and features a mixture of spring (and sometimes summer) vegetables. Today, you’ll find countless varieties of this dish around the world. We’re making this White Bean Pasta Primavera plant-based and gluten-free with as much color as we can fit in the pot.
Pasta & Carbohydrates
Pasta gets a bad reputation in today’s diet culture for reasons this dietitian will never understand. For starters, pasta itself is a great source of carbohydrates which are needed for energy for basically every bodily process. Many different pastas are also great sources of fiber qualifying it as a complex carbohydrate source. Fiber-rich carbohydrates are essential to our health because this particular fiber feeds our good gut bacteria, increases satiety, reduces cholesterol, and helps stabilize blood glucose levels. So slurp up those noodles!
Pasta in the Kitchen
Aside from the carbohydrates in noodles lending a hand to our health, pasta is such a versatile base for a meal. We can enjoy pasta anytime of year using different vegetables, seasonings, and sauces. Make the dish lighter in spring and summer by tossing in garlic oil like in this seasonal White Bean Pasta Primavera. Or make it creamy and comforting during the colder months by making a cashew-based Alfredo sauce or cauliflower-based “cheese” sauce. The pasta-bilities are endless! I love teaching my clients how to create recipes on their own with just a few basic cooking skills.
- Gluten-free pasta: We chose to use a chickpea-based linguine noodle, but use whichever pasta shape you fancy. If you are gluten-intolerant or sensitive, I highly recommend choosing a pasta made from beans, lentils or quinoa. These will provide more protein and fiber than a pasta made from a gluten-free flour blend. Depending on the legume pasta, these noodles provide a variety of vitamins and minerals, too.
- White beans: (or Cannellini beans or Great Northern beans) Protein, fiber, calcium, copper, B vitamins, iron… the list goes on here. Eat your beans, folks.
- Extra virgin olive oil: I prefer using extra virgin olive oil most of the time aside from cooking at very high temperatures, but you can also use any ole olive oil you choose (or avocado oil). Adding this “healthy” unsaturated fat ingredient helps the body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins found in the other ingredients – vitamins A, D, E, and K.
- Italian seasoning blend: Flavor up! Dried herbs and spices are a great way to sneak in more fiber, antioxidants, and medicinal powers.
- Broccolini: Also known as “baby broccoli” because of its smaller florets, broccolini is actually a blend of broccoli and Chinese broccoli. These tiny florets with longer stalks have nutritional benefits similar to traditional broccoli – high in fiber and both calcium and magnesium.
- Zucchini & yellow squash: These summer squash are extra hydrating made mostly of water. Zucchini is full of the antioxidant zeaxanthin known to help prevent oxidative stress in the body. Try to buy your squash regionally if you want the most bang for your buck.
- Grape tomatoes: Another thirst quenching ingredient for these warmer months, all types of tomatoes are full of vitamin C, potassium, and the antioxidant lycopene which is known to have a cancer-reducing effect.
- Power greens: I love keeping a bag of the Trader Joe’s Power Greens in my refrigerator due to the mixture of dark, leafy greens (spinach, baby kale, and baby chard). These are all great sources of plant-based iron, calcium, and vitamin K.
- Garlic: Don’t fear the garlic breath! Load up on garlic in this pasta recipe because it is the main flavor component. Freshly chopped garlic has amazing anti-inflammatory properties and is known to help reduce cholesterol, maintain heathy blood pressure, and support a healthy immune system.
- Lemon juice: A hefty drizzle of vitamin C helps absorb the non-heme iron found in the leafy greens and white beans. Lemon juice keeps this pasta light and refreshing compared to a heavy sauce.
In the Kitchen
When I volunteered at Cooking in Tuscany, a cooking school in Italy, I learned one very important lesson about cooking – keep it simple. Especially pasta! My goal is not only to keep the ingredients simple, but also the clean up. This pasta dish only requires a large pot for cooking the pasta and a large rimmed skillet for cooking the vegetables and mixing it all together.
As you’re prepping, it helps to have a colander to drain and rinse the canned white beans and cooked pasta. This recipe has just a bit of chopping, so make sure your knife is sharp and ready to go. Have #noshame in using pre-minced garlic or a garlic chopper to speed things up (I like this 2 in 1 garlic press).
Make it Your Own
I love using this White Bean Pasta Primavera as a base recipe to get started, then making simple ingredient substitutions to change it up when I make it again.
- Change up the pasta. There are SO many different types of pasta in the store lately, so change it up each time you make a pasta dish. Chickpea, black bean, red lentil, quinoa… Or if you’re not gluten-sensitive, you can choose from whole-wheat or buckwheat pasta noodles.
- Mix up the veggies. The ingredient list calls for mostly spring and summer vegetables, but you can swap these with whatever is in season near you. Or simply change up the colors. Add any color bell pepper. Mix in red or white onion. Swap baby kale for spinach. The world is your oyster for veggie options!
- Vary your protein source. White beans go well in this dish as they generally have a neutral flavor which helps keep the spotlight on the vegetables. Fresh green peas or even chickpeas are also great sources of plant-based protein for this pasta.
Are you hungry yet? 😉
White Bean Pasta Primavera
- Chef's knife
- Cutting board
- Stock pot with lid
- Large rimmed skillet
- Large cooking spoon
- 8 ounces uncooked gluten-free pasta noodles (we used chickpea linguine noodles)
- 3 tbsp olive oil (divided)
- 6 ounces thin broccolini (if too thick, slice in half lengthwise)
- 12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 small zucchini, sliced into half moons
- 1 small yellow squash, sliced into half moons
- 1 (15-oz) can white beans, drained and rinsed
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium lemon juice
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning, more as desired
- 2 handfuls spinach or baby kale, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh basil (optional)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- nutritional yeast or shredded dairy-free parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap & warm water.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside. (If using gluten-free noodles, rinse cooked noodles with cold water to prevent noodles from sticking.)
- Heat a large rimmed skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to coat the pan. Add broccolini and toss to coat in oil. Cover skillet with lid and let broccolini cook for 3-5 minutes until just starting to blacken.
- Remove the lid and add an additional 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add tomatoes, zucchini, and yellow squash and desired salt & pepper. Cook for about 4-6 minutes, or just before tender, stirring occasionally.
- Reduce heat to low. Add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, white beans, garlic, lemon juice, and Italian seasoning. Allow garlic to cook for 1 minute, then stir to incorporate. Add spinach/kale and stir until just before completely wilted.
- Add cooked pasta to the skillet and stir. Garnish with fresh basil and additional seasonings if desired.
- Serve warm with your choice of cheese or nutritional yeast.
- Allow leftovers to completely cool before storing leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days.
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