Easy Pasta with Winter Greens
Easy Pasta with Winter Greens

This vegetarian pasta has a silky, colorful sauce made with chard, garlic, lemon, and Parmesan cheese.

In this recipe

  • Best greens for pasta
  • Choosing your pasta
  • How to do
  • Tips and Tricks
  • recipe variations
  • How to save
  • What to serve with it

I’m constantly on the lookout for a quick weeknight meal that feels restaurant quality – it should make a Tuesday special without making a huge mess in the kitchen or taking up all of my precious free time.

Enter Joshua McFadden and Martha Holmberg’s instant classic, Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables. While there are many excellent recipes in this cookbook, the “kale sauce with any pasta” keeps coming back to me.

I tweaked here and there to suit my tastes – adding more garlic, reducing the cheese, using different leafy greens and pasta shapes, and adding lemon and red pepper flakes until I got it just right. The sauce is creamy without a drop of cream. It’s garlicky, salty from the parmesan and bright from the lemon. It’s crowd-pleasing enough for the whole family.

The best greens for pasta

While McFadden calls for kale, my favorite green for this pasta is Swiss chard. It’s easy to make, cooks quickly, and mixes together into a super smooth deep green sauce. It also goes effortlessly with garlic, lemon and parmesan.

This sauce goes well with any winter vegetable, such as lacinato or kale, spinach, collards, or a mix of these. In fact, it’s an excellent way to use up random greens from a CSA box.

When using chard, I recommend the white- or yellow-stemmed leaves. Red stem chard works well, but it adds a muddy color to the dish. If using spinach, larger, riper varieties work better than baby spinach. Just break the stem off the leaf and you’re good to go.

Any pasta shape will work here. I prefer bold, fun shapes like rigatoni, but the sauce’s smooth texture works with many shapes like orecchiette, pappardelle, and spaghetti. It’s also a fun choice for gnocchi or even cheese ravioli.

Since this is an easy dish, I suggest choosing quality pasta and cooking it al dente, as the texture will make a noticeable difference.

How to make pasta with wintergreen

This recipe is an exercise in multitasking, but don’t let that put you off. It’s easier than it sounds!

While your large pot of water is coming to a boil, prepare your veggies, then cook the garlic. Once the water is boiling, add your prepared veggies. They cook for just a few minutes, until dark green, limp but still vibrant.

Don’t drain the pasta water—scoop out the veggies with tongs or a slotted spoon and drain. Use the now green water to cook the pasta and while the pasta is cooking mix the sauce and add some fresh lemon juice.

Mix everything together with the cheese and some pasta water and it’s ready in less than 30 minutes.

Tips and tricks for the perfect pasta sauce

Although this recipe is easy, there are some important tips for success if you are preparing it for the first time:

  • Don’t burn the garlic. Make sure your heat is set to medium-low. Keep an eye on it and make sure it turns light brown on both sides and adjust the heat as needed.
  • Don’t drain the water. Try not to switch to automatic mode and accidentally drain the water after the vegetables are cooked. No need to boil a whole new pot of water – use the same water to cook the pasta.
  • Save some pasta water. Reserve about a cup of the cooking water before draining the pasta. Aside from putting something straight into the blender for the sauce, you’ll want something handy to fluff up the sauce after it’s tossed with the pasta.

recipe variations

This vegetarian pasta is easy to adapt:

  • Vegan: Swap out the parmesan cheese for a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast.
  • Gluten free: Swap for your favorite gluten-free pasta.
  • More Lemon: Add some extra flavor and lots of lemon flavor by adding up to 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest to the sauce.
  • Add herbs: Place a large handful of fresh basil or parsley leaves in the blender. It contributes to a fresh taste and an even lighter green color.
  • Extra creamy: Add a squirt or two of heavy cream as you toss the pasta and sauce together.
  • Extra cheesy: Add a large spoonful of ricotta and stir with the sauce.

How to store leftovers

This dish is much, much better served and eaten immediately after preparation, as it loses its characteristic texture over time. You can halve the recipe for two servings, especially if serving with a salad or side dish.

If you end up with leftovers, store them in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Add some water and cover loosely before microwave until warm.

What to serve with Winter Greens Pasta

This pasta can be served as part of a hearty dinner for four alongside a simple side dish or light main course. Try serving it with one of these recipes:

  • Radicchio salad with green olives, chickpeas and parmesan
  • Boneless skinless chicken breast
  • Simply Baked Salmon
  • Three Bean Salad

More quick pasta recipes

  • Pasta Carbonara
  • Pasta Puttanesca
  • Pasta with spinach, artichokes and ricotta
  • Fly pasta with peas, prosciutto and arugula
  • Pesto pasta with spinach and avocado

Simple pasta with winter vegetables

preparation time
10 mins

cooking time
18 minutes

total time
28 minutes

up to 4 servings

This recipe calls for Swiss chard. Feel free to use equal amounts of kale, spinach, collards, or a mixture of these.


  • 2 bundles (approx 20 ounces) white or yellow stemmed Swiss chard

  • 1/4 Cup Extra virgin olive oil

  • 3 big cloves garlicsmashed

  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakesor to taste

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher Saltor to taste, plus more for cooking pasta

  • 12 ounces uncooked pasta like rigatoni or orecchiette

  • 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

  • 1/2 Cup fine grated parmesan cheeseplus more for garnish


  1. Prepare the green:

    Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

    Rinse the chard well and shake it over the sink to dry it a bit. Lay a chard leaf flat on a cutting board and run a sharp knife down either side of the stalk, removing the stalk and leaving the green leaf in two long pieces. Repeat with the remaining leaves, cutting the extra large pieces crosswise into smaller pieces.

  2. Cook garlic:

    In a small skillet over medium heat add the olive oil. Once hot, add the garlic. Fry on one side until lightly browned and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Flip the garlic and add the red pepper flakes. Cook until garlic is light brown on other side, another 2 to 3 minutes.

    Scrape the garlic, pepper flakes, and oil in a blender to cool slightly.

  3. Cook Vegetables:

    When the water is boiling, season generously with salt. Add the prepared vegetables and press down with tongs to dip into the water.

    Cook until wilted and dark green, 2 to 3 minutes. Use tongs to scoop out the greens without emptying the pot. Place them in a colander to cool and drain.

    Let the water in the pot boil. You will use it to cook the pasta.

  4. Cook pasta:

    Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook al dente according to package directions. Set aside 1 cup of pasta water and drain pasta.

  5. Make the sauce:

    Add the cooked veggies, 1/2 teaspoon salt, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup pasta water to the blender with the garlic and chili oil.

    Keep the lid of the blender slightly ajar and cover with a kitchen towel. Blend until smooth and silky, adding more pasta water, tablespoon at a time, if needed. Taste and season with salt, noting that the cheese adds some saltiness.

  6. Assemble noodles:

    Put the noodles back in the pot and pour the sauce over them. Add the Parmesan cheese and toss to coat until the cheese melts.

    Add the reserved pasta water, little by little, to achieve a silky consistency. It should effortlessly coat the noodles.

    The sauce will continue to thicken, so make it a little looser than you’d like. You will most likely be using between 1/4 and 2/3 cup pasta water.

  7. Surcharge:

    Divide into individual portions and garnish with some parmesan.

nutritional information (per serving)
523 calories
18g Fat
73g carbohydrates
18g protein
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Hello everybody, Even if you're limited on time and money, I believe you can prepare wonderful food with everyday products. All you have to do is cook cleverly and creatively!