Toasted Saffron Pasta Primavera


Finding a new way to cook pasta might seem impossible, and yet, here in this recipe, there’s two fresh ways to transform the pantry staple. First, you’ll toast uncooked spaghetti in olive oil with fragrant saffron, which not only adds nutty flavor to the strands, but also dyes the pasta a gorgeous golden hue. Then, you’ll cook the pasta in the same pan with water and wine, but unlike the one-pot pasta recipes of late, the next step is to drain and toss the hot pasta with fresh raw yellow squash and tomatoes. Add lemon and basil and the result is something refreshingly modern. Serve with the remainder of the wine you used to cook the pasta.

Toasted Saffron Pasta Primavera
This stunning pasta dish benefits from a few smart flavor-boosting techniques. Toasting the spaghetti adds nuttiness, and the acidity of the wine and lemon juice help cut the richness of the butter. Saffron offers subtle floral notes, but if you can't find it, substitute sweet paprika. Get the recipe:Toasted Saffron Pasta Primavera. Photo: Greg DuPree
Hands On Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
25 mins
4 servings


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 12 ounces spaghetti, broken in half

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • ¼ teaspoon saffron threads or paprika

  • 1 cup dry white wine

  • 2 ¾ teaspoons kosher salt, divided

  • 2 small yellow squash, shaved lengthwise into ribbons (about 2 cups)

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes (about 12 oz.), halved

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-in. pieces

  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest plus 2 tsp. fresh juice (from 1 lemon)

  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves


  1. Heat oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium-high. Add spaghetti, garlic, and saffron and cook, stirring constantly, until spaghetti is lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Add 4 cups water, wine, and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until spaghetti is tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup cooking water and drain.

  2. Place hot spaghetti in a large bowl and add squash, tomatoes, butter, lemon zest and juice, pepper, and remaining ¾ teaspoon salt. Gently toss, adding reserved cooking water cup at a time until desired consistency is reached. Add basil and toss to combine.

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