With summer just around the corner, it’s time to turn off the oven and focus on quick, easy, healthful meals. Pasta remains a summertime no-brainer for every home cook, and it’s easy to jazz up old standards by tossing in some of your favorite greens. Use our guide to discover which greens make great pasta, and the best flavors to pair them up with.
Popeye’s favorite veggie makes a welcome addition to pasta dishes. Whether you’re cooking a simple spaghetti with garlic and olive oil, or whipping up linguine with shrimp and tomatoes, toss in a few handfuls of these hearty greens. They’ll add a pop of color and ramp up the nutrient profile of your dish. Spinach is also rich in iron, vitamin C and K, among others, according to BBC goodfood. We like to cook spinach with light, simple sauces — it just drowns in anything heavy — and prefer it wilted instead of mushy.
Rapini, also known as broccoli rabe, makes frequent appearances on restaurant pasta menus. It’s used less often at home though — perhaps since plain old broccoli takes center stage there. The leaves, stems and heads of broccoli rabe are all edible and should be sautéed thoroughly, says Gourmet Sleuth. If you don’t like this vitamin A-laced veggie right away, don’t be surprised. Due to its astounding bitterness, broccoli rabe tends to be an acquired taste. To succeed in pasta, it needs to be accompanied by strong tastes and firm textures that stand up to it — Real Simple recommends adding Italian sausage and red pepper flakes for a spicy meal.
The veggie-of-the-moment is at it again. With just over 30 calories per cup, this intensely bitter green is a great way to liven up your pasta dishes. The nutrients in kale do everything from beefing up your immune system to promoting eye and bone health to alleviating asthma, according to VegKitchen. Like spinach, kale performs well among simplicity — we like tossing it with tomatoes and white beans, or the tried-and-true garlic and Parmesan. To remove the kale’s bitterness, the Huffington Post recommends massaging it first.
Long a Southern favorite, collard greens are increasing in popularity across the country. These large-leafed greens are incredibly good for you, supporting the body’s detox, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory systems. Like kale, collards tend to be bitter, so for best results with pasta, slice them thinly and sauté them quickly. Collards do well with a simple mixture of red pepper, lemon and Parmesan, but if you’re feeling indulgent, replace the lemon with bacon and go to town. You (and your taste buds) won’t be disappointed.