This beautiful and delicious Pasta alla Primavera dish is springtime in a bowl. It's bright and herby and loaded with vegetables, but unlike most Pasta alla Primavera recipes, it scales way back on the heavy cream, so it actually feels light and "springy." It also utilizes chicken sausage for both flavor and protein, and makes for a delicious, well-balanced meal.
Precooked chicken sausage links
I choose to make this Pasta alla Primavera recipe using precooked chicken sausage links for a few reasons.
First of all, they're easy to find. Many grocery stores in my area of Brooklyn sell precooked chicken sausage links but not ground chicken sausage. You can use ground if you have access to it and prefer it. If you happen to be substituting the precooked chicken sausage links with raw chicken sausage links, remove the meat from the casings and crumble it prior to cooking it.
Secondly, I've been highly successful with developing caramelization on the precooked chicken sausages, and doing so rather quickly. This caramelization helps build a more meaty flavor and enjoyable texture throughout the dish without sacrificing precious time. This pasta dish is meant to come together quickly, something you can whip up after an afternoon outdoors.
For this recipe, try to find a chicken sausage with simple flavors. Sweet or spicy Italian works well. I stay away from flavors like mushroom, thyme, and sun dried tomato which distract from the rest of the flavors in the dish.
Using Spaghetti for Pasta alla Primavera
Spaghetti is my preferred pasta for this Pasta alla Primavera recipe and most recipes that call for the pasta water method. It's strong enough to hold up to the vegetables, chicken sausage, and vigorous stirring, but thin enough to cook quickly and finish cooking in the sauce created by the pasta water. Other shapes I've enjoyed in this recipe are linguine, farfalle, penne, and fusilli, but spaghetti wins.
Pasta alla Primavera Vegetables
Zucchini, tomatoes, and frozen peas are all excellent vegetables for making pasta alla primavera. They're colorful and tasty, and they soften nicely without overwhelming the somewhat thin pasta shape we're using. Again, time is a factor since the vegetables and sauce come together while the pasta cooks, so these three fast-cooking vegetables are perfect.
The Pasta Water Method
You may know it by now, but the pasta water method is one of my favorite cooking techniques of all time. I truly believe it is a technique every chef, at any level, should know how to implement, as it works so well for transforming a mixture of tasty ingredients into a true sauce.
In this recipe, adding slightly undercooked spaghetti to the deglazed sausage and vegetables along with grated Parmesan cheese and pasta water creates a thick, creamy sauce in which the spaghetti finishes cooking. It sounds more complicated than it is. In fact, its very simple, and once you try it, you'll use this method all the time.
I've written about The Pasta Water Method before, and how it has changed my pasta cooking habits for the better. Once you learn to use this technique, a world of saucy opportunities awaits. You can read more about it below, or find other pasta recipes on my site that call for the technique.
Other Pasta Water Method Recipes from On the BiasPrint
- 1lb spaghetti
- 2 small zucchinis, sliced into quarter moons
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 3 pre-cooked chicken sausage links, sliced into rounds; or 7-8 ounces of ground chicken sausage
- ⅓c white wine
- The juice of 1 lemon
- Olive oil
- Salt, Pepper, Crushed Red Pepper
- ¼c parsley and/or basil, chopped
- ½c parmesan cheese
- ½c frozen peas
- 2Tb light cream (optional)
- Heat a large pot of salted water over high heat and cover. While water comes to a boil, slice and dice vegetables, herbs, and sausages as stated above.
- When you're done chopping, heat 2Tb olive oil in a large Dutch Oven or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, arrange chicken sausage rounds in an even layer so most of them make contact with the pan. Allow them to sear for 2 minutes undisturbed, or until the bottom side of each piece is deeply golden. At this point you can stir the sausage.
- The pasta water should be boiling by now, but if it isn't, lower the flame on the sausages down to low and continue to toss them occasionally until pasta water comes to a boil. Once the water is boiling, drop spaghetti into the water, and add the zucchini, tomatoes, and garlic, along with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes to taste, to the pot with the sausage.
- Sauté vegetables for 5-6 minutes until they soften and tomatoes become jammy. Add the white wine and cook for another minute, just until the alcohol smell burns off. Add the frozen peas and lemon juice.
- When pasta is almost cooked, but still a little too hard to eat, use tongs to transfer it directly from the water to the veggie/sausage mixture. Stir the pasta into the veggie/sausage mixture along with ¼c pasta water and ¼c parmesan cheese until a thick sauce forms. Then stir in another ¼c pasta water and ¼c cheese, until a thick sauce forms again. At this point, pasta should be fully cooked. If not, you can continue the process of adding pasta water and stirring until pasta is cooked to your liking.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the light cream and herbs. Serve immediately.