This green pasta is a wonderful end of summer dinner – with such a short cooking time, optionally virtually instant, and using ingredients that are widely available in July, August, and especially September. My garden is chock full with basil, greens, and zucchini right now, often more than I can eat.
Zucchini is quickly sautéed in a pan before blending with the greens, which adds a touch of creaminess and extra flavour from the browned bits. Garlic stays fresh for what’s essentially a twist on pesto, for a very green pasta sauce. It’s a great combination.
Depending on the type of pasta you use and the time it takes to cook, you could hypothetically have dinner ready in less than ten minutes. It took me longer to pick the ingredients for the sauce than it took to actually make the dish.
Why You Should Try This Recipe
This pasta is not only super green, it’s also super speedy – just what’s needed on hot high summer days. Use ingredients from your garden or easily found at markets or grocers at this time of year and have a nutrient-rich meal on the table in a very short period. If that doesn’t convince you, consider:
- It needs less than 10 ingredients: including salt, pepper, and the pasta water! You really just need pasta, greens, basil, zucchini, and lemon.
- It’s creamy without cream: while I’m not averse to added fat, it’s a joy to have a slightly creamy dairy-free recipe that doesn’t need nuts or something like coconut cream. The zucchini makes the sauce surprisingly creamy.
- You can have it on the table in 15 minutes: including the time it takes the water to boil for the pasta. This is very quick, especially if you use fresh pasta and can multitask a bit in the kitchen.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Greens: Any mix of spinach, rucola, chard, and even baby kale can be used here. I used a mix of baby greens that are just coming up for my autumn and over wintering greens, but any blend of hardy greens is fine.
- Pasta: Use any kind of pasta shape you like. Though short pasta is also great, green spaghetti (spaghettini in this case) is even better. If you’re making your own pasta you can also use blended spinach with water instead of plain water to go ultra green.
- Basil: If you don’t have fresh basil, you can fake it by using extra greens and a smaller amount of frozen basil. I don’t recommend dried.
- Start by putting a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. While that’s heating up, chop and sauté the zucchini – this needs about five minutes in a hot pan, stirring frequently.
- While the zucchini is cooking, add the basil, greens, lemon zest and juice, and spices to a container to blend. This can be a small food processor or a container for an immersion blender. Once the zucchini is cooked, add it to the container and blend until very smooth.
- Cook the pasta once the water boils, and reserve 3 tablespoons of the cooking water before draining. Return the pasta to the pot along with the cooking water and the sauce, mix, and serve immediately.
Because I used fresh spelt pasta, which only takes a couple of minutes to cook, and my cooktop boils water in a couple minutes, I usually start the zucchini before anything else. The instructions are written for dried pasta (which needs about ten minutes) so keep that in mind if you’re using fresh/homemade.
The pasta water is part of what makes the sauce so smooth and dreamy. It’s quite starchy, so it helps the sauce stick to the noodles more effectively in addition to thinning the zucchini basil sauce out a bit. Much better than adding tap water.
To increase the protein content and filling aspects of this dish, use about a cup of cooked white beans in place of the zucchini. It’ll add the same slight creaminess to the sauce but keep you full longer.
If you really want to speed things up, you can leave the zucchini out of the equation, or use the bean sub. If you’re in a pinch, this is fine.
How to Store
Storage: like most pasta dishes, barring lasagne perhaps, this is at its very best when served immediately. Leftovers can be refrigerated in a sealed container for a day or two, but it won’t be as good when reheated.
Freezing: the pasta, mixed with the sauce, shouldn’t be frozen. If you would like to freeze the sauce separately, that works quite well. Simple blend and then cool fully before freezing in a sealed container. Thaw in the refrigerator, and then mix in the pasta water from the pasta you cook when ready to serve.
While this is a pretty straightforward recipe, there are some tips and tricks that will make it go as smoothly as possible, and turn our perfectly the first time.
- Salt, salt, salt: As always, make sure you generously salt your pasta water. It’s the first step to a well seasoned pasta dish.
- Prep first: for the smoothest cooking experience, get everything ready beforehand. If you know you take a bit more time to chop zucchini, or need to carefully wash the greens, do that before starting with the recipe steps.
- Check the cooking time: if you’re making fresh pasta, it will only need a couple of minutes (rather than about ten) to cook, so the sauce should be made before adding the pasta to the cooking water.
- Use small zucchini: it’s not a better deal to get the biggest zucchini. They contain more water and seeds, and will have a poor flavour compared to the smaller ones.
If you make this Super Green Pasta or any other vegetarian mains on Occasionally Eggs, please take a moment to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It’s such a help to others who want to try the recipe. For more OE, follow along on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, purchase the Occasionally Eggs cookbook, or subscribe for new posts via email.
Super Green Pasta
- 1 medium zucchini
- 30 grams fresh basil
- 30 grams greens (spinach, rucola, chard, etc.)
- Zest of a lemon
- Juice of a lemon ~3 tablespoons
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon hot pepper flakes optional
- 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil divided
- 200 grams pasta
- 60 ml pasta water
- Start by setting a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta (see note).
- While the water is heating up, cook the zucchini. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Cut the zucchini into small pieces, about 2 cm (3/4 inch).1 medium zucchini
- Add a teaspoon of olive oil to the hot pan, then add the zucchini. Cook for about five minutes, stirring frequently, until lightly browned.2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil
- While the zucchini is cooking, add the basil, greens, lemon zest and juice, salt, pepper, and hot pepper to a container to blend (either a small food processor or one for an immersion blender).30 grams fresh basil, 30 grams greens (spinach, rucola, chard, etc.), Zest of a lemon, Juice of a lemon, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
- If the water for the pasta boils in the meantime, salt it well and add the pasta to begin cooking it.200 grams pasta
- As soon as the zucchini is cooked, add it to the container with the basil and blend until fairly smooth. Add the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil, while blending, until a homogenous sauce forms. Set this aside.
- Once the pasta is cooked, make sure to reserve the cooking water before draining it.
- Add the drained pasta back to the pot with the reserved cooking water and the basil zucchini sauce. Stir to coat the pasta, and serve immediately.60 ml pasta water
* For American cup measurements, please click the pink link text above the ingredient list that says ‘American’.
Nutrition is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate. If this information is important to you, please have it verified independently.
This post was originally published in 2017. It was updated with changes to simplify and improve the recipe and new photographs as of September 2020. The post text was updated as of August 2022 with extra information.