A very green pasta, with a couple of options for a speedy green pasta sauce featuring a mix of basil, leafy greens, and zucchini. Dinner is ready in the time it takes pasta to cook!
This 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. 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.
Scroll to the bottom of the post or click “skip to recipe” above to see the recipe card with full ingredient measurements and instructions.
- Pasta of your choice (I used spelt pasta)
- Fresh basil
- Fresh greens (see substitutions)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Hot pepper flakes (optional)
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. Not every piece needs to be browned, just cooked.
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 serving immediately.
Tips and Notes
Because I used fresh 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.
As always, make sure you generously salt your pasta water. It’s the first step to a well seasoned pasta dish.
If you really want to speed things up, you can leave the zucchini out of the equation, or use the bean sub described below. If you’re in a pinch, this is fine.
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.
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.
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.
Use any kind of pasta shape you like. I’m doing a homemade pasta only kind of thing this year, and though short pasta is also great, green spaghetti (spaghettini in this case) is extra fun. If you’re making your own pasta you can also use blended spinach with water instead of plain water to go ultra green.
More Quick Dinner Recipes
- 1 medium zucchini
- 30 grams (2 cups) fresh basil
- 30 grams (2 cups) greens (spinach, rucola, chard, etc.)
- Zest of a lemon
- Juice of a lemon (~3 tablespoons)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes (optional)
- 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
- 200 grams pasta
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) 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 2cm (3/4 inch).
- Add a teaspoon of olive oil to the hot pan, then add the zucchini. Cook for about five minutes, stirring frequently, until lightly browned.
- 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).
- If the water for the pasta boils in the meantime, salt it well and add the pasta to begin cooking it.
- 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.
• If the idea of cooking and mixing things simultaneously stresses you out, make the sauce before starting on cooking the pasta. It can sit for a few minutes while the pasta cooks.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 215Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 819mgCarbohydrates: 40gFiber: 4gSugar: 4gProtein: 8g
This data is provided by a calculator and is a rough estimation of the nutritional information in this recipe.
This post was originally published in 2017. It has been updated with changes to simplify and improve the recipe, additional information, and new photographs as of September 2020.