Don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for ways to get my leafy greens without actually eating salads. I know, I sound like I’m five years old. But it’s my stubborn approach to veggies that’s led to one of my favorite recipes to date: green sauce pasta.
Don’t get me wrong, I love vegetables and the bounty of flavors they deliver. The textures and colors boast a rainbow of visual inspiration. But I don’t like my vegetables to taste “healthified” and boring. So many of my kitchen experiments involve finding ways to upgrade my vegetables or make them so exciting that I can’t help but eat a whole bucket full of them. This green sauce pasta recipe is one of those recipes.
A few years ago, I got Joshua McFadden’s book, Six Seasons. It spoke to my life philosophy of making vegetables wildly interesting and delicious. No more boring salads filled with guilt-driven obligation. One of his recipes that I came to love was this kale sauce pasta. It was the first time I had come across the idea of blending a vegetable into a silky smooth sauce and using it as an elevated accompaniment rather than an afterthought of tossing in some leaves. I’ve edited and adjusted the sauce a little over the last few years, making some tweaks here and there. It’s my absolute favorite way to incorporate more leafy greens into my meals without eating a salad.
What is green sauce pasta?
Some refer to this as a kale pesto, I prefer calling it a sauce. When I think of pesto, my thoughts go to a chunkier and more textured sauce. This green sauce is silky, luscious, and rich. It’s smooth and clings to the pasta like a warm blanket. In short: it’s heavenly, and I much prefer to eat my greens this way because it doesn’t feel like eating greens at all! The best part? You only need five ingredients. Spinach, olive oil, lemon, parmesan, and basil.
You want to use a good quality olive oil here, as it really elevates the flavor. Blend until the texture is silky smooth, then toss with butter over the pasta. Absolutely divine.
Can I use a different leafy green?
I’ve made McFadden’s original recipe with lacinato kale many times. It’s richly green in color with a nice bitter flavor from the greens. Over the years though, I’ve slowly switched over to using spinach. I almost prefer the milder flavor of spinach and how much smoother it blends up than the more fibrous kale. I also love how well it pairs with the lemon. But know that you can absolutely use any dark leafy green you have on hand! From kale to spinach to arugula, they all function similarly here. Just taste as you go and adjust the sauce as you need. You can even make a half-half blend with spinach and kale.
Do I have to use fresh greens?
I made this recipe using fresh kale and spinach that’s very quickly blanched in boiling water. You can also use frozen spinach because the greens will get blanched and cooked anyway.
One pot + one blender = green sauce pasta
I’m all about a one-pot meal. Luckily, all you need for this green sauce pasta recipe is one extra-large pot of boiling water and a blender. *I will note, if you want to toast some garlic for the sauce, you’ll need a pan. But the clean-up is still easy!
This method is perfect for those of us who want to minimize dishes. Set your pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. First, blanch your greens then transfer those to the blender. Blanch your vegetables and set aside. After that, cook the pasta in the same pot as you just did the vegetables. Once you drain the pasta, everything gets tossed and coated in that same pot. If like me, you decide to eat dinner straight out of the pot, you’ve saved yourself a plate, too!
Can I use a different kind of pasta?
Any pasta you have will work! I used bucatini from Trader Joe’s and loved the sauce getting stuck in the hole in the middle. But this would also be delicious with fettuccine or penne and even classic spaghetti. I also think it would be delicious over ravioli for a yummy cheesy dinner.
What kind of vegetables can I serve with this pasta?
Welcome spring into your kitchen with the season’s best vegetables. I love the sweetness of peas with the green sauce and the savory fresh asparagus. Both of these vegetables also become nice and tender with a quick blanch in the boiling water, saving you time and effort. You could also blanch green beans or broccoli florets to go with this recipe. I think the veggies’ green hue just looks so lovely with the green sauce. But feel free to get creative and use what you like!
- 2 bags of spinach
- 1 bunch asparagus, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups of peas (fresh or thawed from frozen)
- 1/3 cup good olive oil
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan
- handful of chopped basil
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- pasta of choice
- 1 pat of butter
- to serve: burrata, basil, lemon juice, toasted breadcrumbs, salt and pepper
- Fill an extra large pot with water and set on stove. Add a large pinch of salt. Bring up to a boil.
- Blanche the spinach. Blanche in batches by adding spinach to the boiling water and cooking for just under a minute until very bright green. Using a slotted spoon or spider strainer, pull the spinach from the pot and place into a blender. It's okay if some of the water comes with it. Set aside the blender with all the spinach while we prep the veggies.
- Blanche the other vegetables. I used asparagus and peas. Add vegetables to the boiling water and blanche until bright green. Remove from boiling water and add to a bowl. Run under cold water to stop the cooking, then drain. Set aside until ready to serve.
- Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package instructions. While the pasta cooks, make the sauce.
- Add the olive oil, parmesan, basil, and a big pinch of salt and pepper to the blender with the spinach. Blend until silky smooth. Add the lemon juice, taste and adjust as needed. Set aside. **optional note
- Reserve a cup of pasta water.
- Drain the pasta and return to the pot off the heat. Pour over the sauce and stir to combine. Add the vegetables and stir to combine.
- Serve on plates or platter, topped with burrata, chopped basil, additional lemon juice, breadcrumbs, and salt and pepper. Enjoy!
**I have made this without garlic, but if you want to add some garlic, add olive oil to a pan and add a couple cloves of garlic to the pan. Toast until golden and add to the blender with the spinach.
Share this Post