3/24/2022 | By Diane Rossen Worthington

This springtime pasta dish sings of spring with fresh herbs and spring vegetables. It’s also versatile, with add-ons and substitutes, served hot or cold.

I get tired of making pasta with red sauce or creamy sauces. That’s why I developed this quick recipe, with a plethora of fresh herbs and just-harvested spring vegetables, to mark the arrival of the new season. No tomatoes, no cream here. Simply lots of sweet, crunchy sugar snap peas, slender asparagus, bright green peas, and penne pasta. The sauce is emerald green in color, herbaceous, and slightly spicy with the crushed red pepper flakes. The lemon zest adds a citrus note.

I served this to my family the other night, and they all expressed immense satisfaction with the sweet, salty, spicy flavors of this keeper of a pasta dish. You’ll notice that you reserve some pasta water to add to the pasta and vegetables to develop just the right sauce consistency.

This dish is adaptive to other ingredients. Shredded chicken or Italian tuna packed in oil add protein here. You can also include sun-dried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, crumbled feta, or goat cheese in place of the Parmesan cheese.

I had a good amount of springtime pasta leftover and turned it into a cold pasta salad with extra lemon vinaigrette the next day. If you remove the cheese, you could also add cold shrimp or scallops to the pasta and serve it warm or cold. I enjoyed this pasta dish warm with a baby gem salad with sliced avocado and mango to begin and had a lovely glass of chilled rosé.

Springtime Pasta: Penne Pasta with Spring Green Vegetables and Sauce

Serves 4 to 6


For the sauce:

  • 3 cloves garlic, ends removed
  • 2 tablespoons tarragon leaves
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 1 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill sprigs
  • 2 green onions, cleaned, (white and light green parts), sliced
  • 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

For the pasta and vegetables:

  • Water
  • Salt
  • 20 thin asparagus, cleaned, trimmed, and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/2-pound sugar snap peas, cleaned
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen and defrosted peas
  • 1 pound penne
  • To serve:
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Chopped fresh herbs, for garnish


  1. In a food processor while motor is running mince the garlic. Add all other sauce ingredients except the oil. Add the oil slowly until it becomes a sauce. Set aside.
  2. Heat a large pot of water with salt to a boil. Add the asparagus and sugar snap peas and cook for 2 minutes or until tender. Add the peas and cook another minute or until just done. Remove all vegetables with a slotted spoon to serving bowl.
  3. Cook the pasta in the boiling water for about 9 minutes or until al dente. Reserve 1 cup water. Drain pasta and add to serving bowl. Add enough of the green sauce to the pasta and vegetables and mix to combine with a large spoon. Add a bit of pasta water to make a sauce-like consistency. Sprinkle over the Parmesan cheese and lemon zest and mix to combine.
  4. Divide into shallow bowls, garnish with chopped herbs, if desired, and serve immediately. Serve additional cheese on the side.

© 2022 Diane Rossen Worthington. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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Diane Rossen Worthington

Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Parties,” and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at