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!