Pasta Primavera ~ Elegant but simple dinner to please all ages

Pasta Primavera

cool supper for a hot night

What can you make ahead that is cool and light, elegant enough for a couple of “foodies”, yet a  two and a half year old will eat it? Pasta Primavera Salad, cubed watermelon and cupcakes!

Our nephew, his wife and little boy were coming for dinner and I knew I would be spending most of the weekend working on an outside project. A make-ahead dinner was in order!

Fresh veggies, handmade fettucine, a watermelon and organic chicken were all purchased ahead at the Farmer’s Market. While there, I spotted some half price gourmet cupcakes (they go on sale near the end of the market day) and bought one each of triple chocolate, red velvet,  cookies ‘n cream and carrot cake. No baking required! I just embellished them a bit with chocolate and fruit I had on hand.

Pasta primavera

Pasta Primavera Salad with chicken


Cubed watermelon with Shiso Perilla & Daisy garnish


My “No Bake” cupcake with fruit & chocolate embellishments

Here’s the make-ahead recipe for the salad, one I found years ago in Bon Appetit magazine. Making it ahead is easier, plus the flavors meld beautifully. It is an old stand-by that always is a crowd pleaser.

Pasta Primavera Salad with Basil Cream Sauce (12-16 servings)


  • 1 pound Italian fettuccine, cut or broken into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup light olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Spanish sherry wine vinegar
  • salt & freshly ground pepper

Directions:  Prepare only 1-3 days ahead, drop pasta into boiling salted water, drain and rinse with cold water. Mix oil, vinegars and toss ligghtly with the pasta. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate.


  • 16 thin fresh asparagus spears cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 to 3 cups broccoli florets cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 to 3 cups of fresh or defrosted green peas
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 pound fresh spinach leaves or arugula
  • 6 minced green onions

Directions:  Prepare only 1-2 days ahead, steam asparagus and broccoli until crisp tender, rinse with cold water, combine with the peas, halved cherry tomatoes and minced green onions. Cover and refrigerate.

Chicken (or seafood): 

  • 2 pounds cubed cooked chicken (bake, broil or grill)
  • 1/3 cup light olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Spanish sherry wine vinegar
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 2 minced green onion
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions:  Prepare only 1 day ahead, toss meat with oil, vinegars, garlic and minced green onion, Cover and refrigerate.

Basil Cream Sauce

Basil Cream Sauce

Basil Cream Sauce Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  •  1 to 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh basil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions:  Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor, puree and refrigerate.

To assemble the salad – on a large platter, place a layer of arugala or spinach leaves, mix the vegetables and pasta together and spoon on top of the greens ,leaving a depression for the meat. Spoon the marinated meat onto the top of the salad and garnish with fresh basil.

Needless to say, everyone had seconds and the meal was a big hit! There was even plenty to send home with our guests and enough for us another night. Best of all, I had time to get my outdoor project done and still pull off a nice dinner! This is a “keeper” recipe as Len calls it – hope you try it and enjoy the meal as much as we did.

Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera Salad with chicken

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