This spinach-and-ricotta sauce gets the name "green spaghetti sauce" because, well, that's what it looks like. It's a riff on a Pasta Verde recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook.
A silky green sauce packed with lots of spinach, fresh herbs, cheese, and the best part is it only takes a few minutes to make!
Unlike my make ahead classic spaghetti & meatballs with sausage recipe which is super cozy in the winter, this green "spaghetti sauce" is packed with fresh greens and perfect for summertime!
About Green Spaghetti Sauce
Pasta Verde was a childhood favorite, though I knew it by it's more-fun nickname: Green Spaghetti Sauce.
My mom used to make this green spaghetti sauce all the time when I was growing up. She got it from one of the Moosewood cookbooks, where it's called "Pasta Verde."
In our house it was known as “green spaghetti sauce,” probably because kids don’t get super excited about something called “pasta verde” and even less excited about something called "spinach pasta sauce."
I don't like spinach, but I do like this sauce.
It's unfortunate that I spent a decade not making this because I so associated it with being a "kid" meal that it never occurred to me to make it as an adult. But I dug the recipe out a few years ago, after Smitten Kitchen posted a recipe for making homemade spinach pasta because I thought they'd go well together (they do!).
The sauce was good but didn't have quite as much flavor as its vibrant green color suggested, so I did some tinkering to make it more interesting to my adult palette.
I've added Pecorino Romano cheese, doubled the amount of basil, upped the garlic quantity, and used freshly grated nutmeg instead of the pre-ground stuff. I also replaced 4 ounces of the ricotta with goat cheese, for an even smoother, richer, and creamier texture.
A heavier handed squeeze of lemon juice plus fresh parsley add hints of brightness and freshness, and the crunch of the toasted almonds sprinkled on top adds a nice bit of textural variety.
Here's what you'll need to make green spaghetti sauce. See recipe card (at the end of the post) for quantities.
- Spinach - Baby spinach or adult spinach (regular spinach? normie spinach?) whatever you call it will work.
- Ricotta cheese - I like Galbani's full fat/whole milk ricotta, but skim ricotta will work too.
- Goat cheese - One log of plain goat cheese, or 4 ounces of fresh homemade goat cheese.
- Olive oil - For sautéing the spinach, garlic, and onion.
- Onion - White or yellow onion. I've provided a weight measurement, but you're looking for a medium sized onion, maybe the size of a baseball.
- Garlic - I usually grate it on a Microplane zester, but you can mince, use a garlic press, or even the jarred stuff if that's your preference.
- Lemon juice - From half a lemon. You can use the bottled stuff if you prefer.
- Dried basil - I use this because it's easiest to have on hand year-round, but you could totally throw some fresh basil leaves in if you wanted, too.
- Fresh parsley - The dried stuff just won't give you the same bright, fresh, slightly grassy herby flavor!
- Nutmeg - I always recommend grating it fresh on a microplane zester. I buy it from Spicewalla — a small tin will last you for YEARS and won't lose flavor as quickly as pre-ground nutmeg will.
- Salt and pepper - Season to taste!
- Pecorino Romano - I like adding this because it adds some complexity to the cheese flavor, bringing a nice sharp nuttiness to the mix.
- Slivered almonds - Toasted and served as a garnish on top. These add some really nice crunch, and work nicely with the pecorino and nutmeg to bring those toasty, nutty flavors to the surface in a really nice way.
You'll also need pasta — whatever shape you prefer! I like fettuccini, linguini, or even a fancy long pasta shape like mafaldine with green spaghetti sauce but it's also great with rigatoni or penne or any other pasta shapes you like.
How to Make Green Spaghetti Saue
One of the best things about green spaghetti sauce is just how quickly it comes together. Who doesn't love a good dinner-by-way-of-blender moment?
Boiling your pasta is probably the longest step of the whole process. Other than that you're just sautéing onions, wilting spinach, and then dumping your onions and spinach into a blender with the rest of the ingredients and letting the blender do the hard work for you. Dinner, done!
If you're really craving a protein with this dish, pick one with a bit of salt, like bacon, sausage, pancetta. Something plain like chicken will be too bland.
Use the skillet you used to wilt the spinach to cook your protein (no extra dishes!). Then add it to the noodles when you toss them in the sauce or crumble it over the top with the almonds.
Use a Good Blender for Best Results
I've made green spaghetti sauce with a two different blenders over the years. The first was a $30, 12-speed model that worked fine, but stopped short of fully liquifying the sauce.
Green spaghetti sauce made in that blender was paler and had visible flecks of dark green spinach, parsley, and dried herbs throughout. It had a little more texture to it because the blender couldn't fully liquify the sauce.
That all changed with my shiny Vitamix 5200. (This is not sponsored, I paid for it with my own money, and I wouldn't recommend it if I didn't genuinely love it.)
The blender I have now is a diesel af Vitamix 5200 which absolutely pulverizes anything you put in it. It completely breaks up all the ingredients, producing a smooth, bright green, fully emulsified sauce with no visible flecks. (I wrote more about the Vitamix in my post about kitchen tools over $100.)
This isn't to say that you need a monster blender in order to make this recipe. People have been making green spaghetti sauce long before super-powerful home blenders were on the market. It will work for you regardless.
But if you're thinking of getting a new blender — look for one that at least has a "liquify" setting. You'll get a much silkier, smoother sauce that way.
A note for parents of small children (and messy adult eaters)
My mom always called green spaghetti sauce a "before bath dinner" because of it's unique ability to get literally everywhere. Your kids will probably love it, but the mess it makes is legit.
Be prepared with bibs, hats, rain ponchos, drop clothes, etc. if serving it to tiny humans who don't appreciate how much you spent on that carpet, goddammit.
Even making it now, as a childless adult, I'm consistently surprised at how intent the sauce is at getting on everything. Hand-wash your blender/any bowls you use to make this. Even after a trip through the dishwasher, you’re likely to find flecks of spinach on all your other plates.
Green spaghetti sauce is best eaten same day. You can maybe get an extra night out of it if you refrigerate it.
To reheat, use a double boiler or toss the cold sauce with hot pasta to warm it up. If you try to microwave green spaghetti sauce the cheese will curdle and the sauce will separate. It's not a pleasant texture!
If you've refrigerated the pasta with the sauce on, toss it in a pan with a bit of oil and stir until it warms up.
Green spaghetti sauce FAQ
Yes, go right ahead!
Go right ahead! You might need to adjust the other ingredients to taste depending on what greens you use. I often use green spaghetti sauce as an excuse to use up other fresh herbs I have around — you can certainly add fresh basil, some kale, or even arugula to your green spaghetti sauce.
Yes, you can. The original recipe did. But I find you get much better flavor from freshly grated nutmeg. I love Spicewalla's whole nutmeg; a small 1.6 oz tin will literally last you years. Just use a microplane or the small holes on a box grater to grate it into the blender.
Green Spaghetti Sauce (Pasta Verde)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 130 grams onion (¾ cup, chopped)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 100 grams raw spinach (about 3½ cups, packed)
- 140 grams ricotta cheese (a heaping ¼ cup)
- 113 grams goat cheese (one small log)
- ½ cup fresh parsley (roughly chopped)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (about half a small lemon)
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- ¼ teaspoon whole nutmeg (freshly grated, always!)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt (or more, to taste)
- 10 grams Pecorino Romano (¼ cup, finely grated)
- ½ cup slivered almonds (toasted)
- 4 ounces goat cheese (to replace 4 ounces ricotta)
- Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 350°F. Rinse the spinach in a colander or salad spinner and set it aside, don't worry about getting it too dry.
- Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil in on the stove and cook pasta according to package directions.
- While the pasta cooks, sauté onions and garlic in oil over medium-low heat until onions are translucent.
- Tear the still-damp spinach into large pieces, and add it to the skillet with the onions and garlic. Reduce heat to low, cover pan and allow spinach to wilt, about 3-4 minutes.
- Toast the almonds on a sheet pan in the oven oven for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally). Remove to a small bowl.
- While the spinach wilts and the almonds toast, add the remaining sauce ingredients to the bowl of your blender. When spinach is wilted, but still very bright green, add it to the blender bowl and puree until very smooth. Taste and add salt or additional lemon juice if needed.
- Strain the pasta into a colander, than add it back to the empty pot. Toss with the green spaghetti sauce to coat (or serve the sauce ladled over the pasta separately).Top the bowls with more grated Pecorino Romano and lots of crunchy toasted almonds to serve.
- If you’re really craving protein, pick one with some salt, like ground hot Italian sausage, bacon, or pancetta.
- If you make enough for leftovers, the best way to reheat the sauce is in a double boiler (to avoid curdling), or by tossing it with hot pasta and letting the pasta heat up the sauce. You could also serve it cold on crackers or on bread, tbh (maybe in a grilled cheese of some sort?).
- It’s best to hand-wash your blender/food processor/any bowls you use to make this, because the green sauce is pretty stubborn. Even after a thorough trip through the dishwasher, you’ll find flecks of spinach on all your other plates.
- Recipe adapted from The Moosewood Cookbook.
This post was originally published on 8/23/2019.