toasted saffron pasta primavera

Here’s a flavorful pasta dish that is ready in thirty minutes. Prepared in one pan. Can’t go wrong with this one.

How enticing are those bright colors? Looks like a summery meal waiting to happen. This may sound crazy, but the spaghetti is broken in half and placed in your preheated skillet along with olive oil, chopped garlic and a small amount of saffron.

This is where the “toasted” part comes from. Don’t walk away from the stove …the process is a quick one. And you will need to stir constantly to make sure all spaghetti strands have a chance to toast. I find that if I use tongs to continuously grab a bunch of spaghetti and lift it from the bottom of the pile to the top, it’s the best way to get it all toasted.

After about three minutes, the spaghetti will have taken on several shades of a golden hue and a yummy nutty flavor …thanks to the saffron and the toasting. This is when you’ll add the water and wine. Let that simmer until the pasta is tender.

In the meantime, prepare the veggies. This is some super easy prepping. To create the yellow squash ribbons, use a vegetable peeler. So easy. The cherry tomatoes are halved and the basil is very roughly chopped. I remove the zest from the entire lemon so that there’s extra for serving. Not necessary but adds that extra hit of lemony flavor for those who like that sort of thing.

When the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain it and save any cooking water that may remain. If there is none, that’s okay. It’s used to add to the finished dish if it tends to be a bit dry. You can always add some veggie or chicken broth, should you find that necessary.

The drained pasta is returned to the skillet or can be placed in a large serving dish or bowl. Add the butter and lemon. Once all is incorporated, the squash strips and halved tomatoes are folded in. Just before serving, toss in the basil.

This is a light delicious meal when served with a green salad. Or try it as a side dish, along with some grilled shrimp, fish or chicken. Either way, this is one of those must-try dishes to add to your list.

toasted saffron pasta primavera

Adapted from Real Simple

Serve as a main course with a salad.  Or as a side dish with grilled shrimp, fish or chicken.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 servings


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 ounces spaghetti, broken in half
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads (or paprika)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 small yellow squash, shaved lengthwise into ribbons (about 2 cups)
  • 12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved (about 2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (plus more for serving, if desired)
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • freshly grated or shaved parmesan cheese (for serving, if desired)


  1. Heat oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat.  Add spaghetti, garlic, and saffron.  Cook, stirring constantly, until spaghetti is lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Be sure to lift and stir the spaghetti continuously.  

  2. Add the water, wine, and salt.  Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until spaghetti is tender, 8 to 10 minutes.  Reserve 1 cup cooking water and drain.

  3. Place hot spaghetti in a large serving bowl or return it to the skillet.  Add the butter, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  Stir to incorporate.  Fold in the squash ribbons, halved tomatoes, and freshly ground black pepper.  Gently toss, adding reserved cooking water a 1/4-cup at a time until desired consistency is reached.  Alternatively, vegetable or chicken broth can be used, if needed.  Add basil and toss to combine.

  4. Serve immediately.  Offer grated or shaved parmesan and additional lemon zest, if desired.

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