This light Mediterranean Pasta is inspired by Mediterranean flavors of garlic, olives, lemon, basil and tomatoes. It’s a great weeknight vegetarian meal in under 30 minutes.
The salty, tangy olives deepen the flavors and the veggies make it a healthy meal in a bowl. I use black Kalamata olives, but so many others would work well too. Here’s a great beginners guide to olives by Serious Eats. A final drizzle of good quality olive oil to finish the dish is a big plus if you have some in your cupboard.
I’m trying to eat less meat and poultry these days. This is one of my go to’s because it’s so versatile and I can get dinner on the table in 20-30 minutes. I rummage through my fridge and use this recipe as a guide, substituting what I have on hand. Exact amounts are not necessary. Just taste and adjust.
For hungry non vegetarian eaters, you can top the pasta with roasted shrimp or grilled chicken. To roast shrimp, toss uncooked shelled and deveined shrimp with olive oil, salt and pepper, then roast them at 425F for 5-6 minutes. For grilled chicken, try our Mediterranean Chicken recipe and skip the marinating if you’re short on time.
So… start with the basics and create your own version with the suggestions below or wherever your imagination takes you. The recipe serves 3 (or two big eaters like my husband).
Tailor To Your Taste
- Vary the vegetables with asparagus, eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms.
- I use a thin spaghetti type pasta, but short pastas like penne and zitti will work fine too.
- Replace the Parmesan with feta cheese.
- Use cherry tomatoes cuts in half instead of a whole chopped tomato. You can also use a small can of whole tomatoes, well drained. Squeeze out some of the seeds and juice.
- Buy pitted olives
- Buy pre-grated Parmesan cheese
- Use fresh baby spinach (pre-washed) and don’t bother roughly chopping it
- Use bottled lemon juice and frozen garlic cubes (or pureed garlic in a jar)
Make Ahead Mediterranean Pasta
- I love leftovers of this pasta the next day for lunch because the flavors have time to blend. I just heat the pasta in the microwave and dig in right out of the container I refrigerate it in.
- 6 oz pasta, about 190g (I use capellini, vermacelli or spaghettini)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 pepper, seeded and chopped red, yellow or orange
- 1/2 cup olives, pitted and chopped (I use black olives)
- 1 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (or 1 large tomato, chopped)
- 3 green onions, chopped into 1 inch pieces
- juice from 1/2 lemon
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 tsp salt
- pinch chili flakes (I use 1/4-1/2 tsp)
- 4 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup basil, chopped
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (or more) for garnish- optional
- COOK PASTA: Add pasta to boiling salted water and cook until desired consistency according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta liquid. Put pasta back in pot and cover to keep warm.
- MAKE SAUCE: While pasta is cooking, In a medium skillet or sauce pan, heat oil to medium high, add red pepper and green onions. Saute for 2 minutes. Add olives, basil, tomatoes, garlic, salt, chili flakes and lemon juice - saute for 4-5 more minutes. If tomatoes are very watery, cook an extra 1-2 minutes. Add spinach and basil, stirring just until wilted.
- COMBINE PASTA AND SAUCE: Add pasta to sauce and mix well, incorporating a bit of pasta liquid at a time to moisten if needed (i.e. if pasta is too dry). Taste and adjust seasonings. Sprinkle Parmesan on the pasta or serve separately as garnish. Alternatively, add roasted shrimp or grilled chicken pieces if desired.
If you make this pasta, please feel free to rate it in the recipe itself (under ‘rate this recipe’) and leave a comment below.