Pasta Primavera Packets with Lemon Balsamic Glaze are a deliciously fun way to eat ~ imagine unwrapping your own steaming packet of pasta topped with crisp veggies, fresh herbs, and cherry tomatoes roasted to the point where they burst their skins and provide an instant sauce with every bite ~ a tangy lemon balsamic glaze wakes it all up.
Pasta primavera is truly an American invention, hailing from New York City in the 1970s. I’ve ordered it so many times, and everyone does their version a little different, but for something so simple it’s surprising how much can go wrong. The two main pitfalls for pasta primavera are overcooking, and lackluster flavor. Vegetables are so easy to over cook, and when that happens they lose their vibrancy and flavor. Cooking them this way, by steaming them briefly in packets, retains the colors, flavors, and nutrition of the contents.
Vegetables by themselves can be bland, even when cooked perfectly, so I’ve added lots of toasted pine nuts and a zingy lemon balsamic glaze give a boost to their delicate flavor. The glaze is amazing, it beats out POMEGRANATE MOLASSES for the most intensely delightful condiment I’ve ever tasted, and it takes 2 seconds to make.
The key is to under-cook everything. The pasta itself is cooked for only half its usual time in boiling water. All the vegetables are finely cut and the more tender ones will steam perfectly in the packet, while the denser ones are flash-blanched first.
It starts with fresh young vegetables. The farmer’s market is the perfect place to find them, but the grocery stores will have some at this time of year too.
I like to vary the mix a little because the same old carrots and zucchini can get boring. This time I found baby artichokes and baby beets. I cut them in small wedges for quick cooking.
The par-cooked pasta and veggies get tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs and then I spoon out serving sized portions onto squares of parchment paper and wrap them up. You can do this ahead if you want to.
Fold up the sides of the parchment squares like you would a lunch sack, folding over two times, Then do the same on each end, folding the edges under to keep the package secure while it bakes. Cut a couple of small slits in each bag to vent the steam.
They only need to bake for about 20 minutes. If you’re starting them cold from the fridge, add 5 minutes.
Then unwrap, shave a few shards of Parmesan cheese onto the pasta, drizzle with the lemon balsamic glaze, and dig in.
Shaped pasta works best in these packets, so use any kind you like. I think orzo might be a nice choice for kids.
- 6 oz pasta, cooked for only half the recommended time
- 6 +Tbsp good olive oil
- 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 yellow or red bell pepper, cut into matchstick slices
- 1 small yellow summer squash, cut in matchstick slices
- 1 pint mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes
- 2 handfuls baby asparagus, sliced in 2 inch pieces
- 2 baby artichokes, trimmed and cut in small wedges
- 2 baby beets, peeled and cut in small wedges
- salt and fresh cracked pepper
- fresh dill and thyme
- Parmesan cheese for garnish
- 4 sheets of parchment paper, approx 15"x15"
- 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
- juice of 1 lemon
- Set oven to 350F
- Take half of the cherry tomatoes and cut them in half. Leave the rest whole.
- Toss the cooked pasta the olive oil, along with the pine nuts, onions, bell peppers, squash and tomatoes.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanche the artichoke and beets for about 2 minutes, or just until the raw edge is gone. Add the asparagus in for the last minute. Drain and add to the pasta.
- Toss everything well, along with the fresh dill and thyme leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Add more olive oil if the mixture seems a little dry.
- Spoon individual portions onto the parchment paper. Bring up two sides and fold over like a lunch bag. Fold the opposite sides, tucking them underneath so the packet will stay closed.
- Cut a small slit in each bag for steam venting.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
- Open the packets and add some shavings of Parmesan and a drizzle of the Lemon Balsamic Glaze.
- To make the glaze, heat the vinegar and lemon juice in a small saucepan until it comes to a boil. Simmer for about 3 to 4 minutes until reduced and thickened. Set aside.
- To toast pine nuts, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a pan, and toast the nuts, stirring constantly, until they turn a golden brown. You can also toast them in a dry pan.