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Simple Mediterranean Spaghetti (22 Minutes)

This quick and easy vegetarian Mediterranean spaghetti is bursting with traditional Mediterranean flavors of garlic, olives, lemon, basil, and tomatoes. Ready in 22 minutes and perfect for busy weeknights.

I rummage through my fridge and use the recipe as a guide, substituting what I have on hand.

Mediterranean spaghetti in a white bowl on wood table.

Anyone who loves Mediterranean cuisine or follows a Mediterranean diet will enjoy this recipe, especially if you use whole-grain pasta. It’s loaded with traditional vegetables and it’s vibrant and super tasty.

What to expect

Fast, healthy and versatile – exact amounts are not necessary. Just taste and adjust. Start with the simple ingredients listed in this recipe or give it your own twist with the fresh herbs and veggies you have on hand.

The recipe serves 3 (or two big eaters like my husband).

Leftovers are delicious the next day.

Ingredients – tailored to your taste

oil, tomatoes, peppers, seasoning, basil, baby spinach, green onions, spaghetti, garlic.

Pasta – I use spaghetti, spaghettini, capellini or angel hair pasta.

Olives: The salty, tangy olives deepen the flavors. I use black Kalamata olives, but so many others would work well too.  Here’s a great beginners guide to olives by Serious Eats.

Olive oil: A final drizzle of good good quality olive oil to finish the dish is a big plus if you have some in your cupboard.

Tomatoes: Use a whole chopped tomato, grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes cut in half. The tomatoes will break down to form a vegetable sauce.

Other vegetables: Common Mediterranean cuisine vegetables include eggplant, artichokes, bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, green beans, zucchini, spinach, onions, garlic and olives. Asparagus would also be good.

Variations and substitutions:

  • Pasta options: Instead of thin spaghetti pasta, you can use penne, ziti, fusilli, orecchiette, and orzo. For a healthier option, whole grain pasta has lower calories and higher fiber.
  • Olive substitute: Try capers or artichoke hearts instead.
  • Tomato alternative: You can substitute fresh tomatoes with a small can of whole tomatoes, well-drained. Squeeze out some of the seeds and juice if you’re using very juicy tomatoes. Feel free to add (not substitute) sun-dried tomatoes too.
  • Cheese choices: Parmesan cheese is traditional in this Mediterranean pasta recipe. But it can be replaced with creamy feta cheese or fresh mozzarella cheese. For a vegan version, leave out the optional Parmesan or replace it with nutritional yeast.

Step-by-step instructions

sauteed vegetables in skillet.
Cook pasta. Sauté veggies, seasonings and tomatoes in a large skillet or wok. 
sauteed vegetable sauce in skillet with spinach added.
Cook until sauce breaks down. Add spinach and basil and cook for 1 minute until they wilt.
Mediterranean spaghetti in skillet.
Stir in the cooked pasta.
Mediterranean spaghetti in a white bowl on wood table.
Serve Mediterranean spaghetti in a large bowl, family style, or in Individual servings, topped with Parmesan cheese if you like.

Tip

For lower calories and carbs, increase the amount of vegetables and reduce the amount of pasta you use. I do this all the time 🙂

In addition, try using whole-grain pasta which has higher fiber and lower calories according to Healthline,

What to serve with Mediterranean spaghetti

Serve the pasta as a side dish or on its own as a main dish with some fresh bread such as garlic bread, warm crusty bread or naan bread.

To step it up a notch, try serving the pasta with a starter like a salad with crusted goat cheese or a vegetable lentil soup.

Add a protein like shrimp or grilled Mediterranean chicken for hungry non-vegetarian eaters or tofu for vegetarians.

Some good side salad choices are: broccoli and cauliflower salad, citrus salad on greens, or fig and pomegranate salad.

Shortcuts

  • Buy pitted olives
  • Buy pre-grated Parmesan cheese
  • Use fresh baby spinach (pre-washed)
  • Use bottled lemon juice and frozen garlic cubes (or pureed garlic in a jar)

Make Ahead 

I love leftovers of this pasta dish the next day for lunch because the flavors have time to blend. It will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days. I reheat the pasta in the microwave and dig in right out of the container.

You can also serve the pasta at room temperature or as a cold pasta salad.

Mediterranean spaghetti in skillet.

Other vegetarian pasta recipes

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Mediterranean spaghetti in a white bowl on wood table.
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Simple Mediterranean Spaghetti (22 Minutes)

This quick and easy Mediterranean spaghetti is bursting with traditional Mediterranean flavors of garlic, olives, lemon, peppers, basil, and tomatoes. Make this simple weeknight vegetarian meal in 22 minutes.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time12 minutes
Total Time22 minutes
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Diet: Vegan, Vegetarian
Servings: 3

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces spaghetti, Note 1
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pepper, seeded and chopped red, yellow or orange
  • 1/2 cup olives, pitted and chopped, Note 2 (green or black olives)
  • 1 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved, Note 3
  • 3 green onions, chopped into 1 inch pieces (or use 1/2 sweet or red onion instead)
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic in jar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • pinch red pepper flakes (I use 1/4-1/2 tsp)
  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

Garnish (optional)

  • Parmesan cheese, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, feta cheese, pine nuts, and/or fresh parsley or fresh oregano.

Instructions

  • COOK SPAGHETTI: Bring a large pot of salted, cold water to a boil. Cook spaghetti according to the package instructions until al dente or the consistency you like. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup/118 ml 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 heat, 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, about 1 minute.
  • 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. Garnish with optional suggestions listed in the ingredients. Alternatively, add tofu, roasted shrimp or grilled chicken pieces if desired.

Recipe Notes

  1. Pasta options – I use spaghetti, spaghettini, angel hair pasta or capellini but any pasta will work. A few examples are penne, zitti, fusilli, orecchiette, and orzo. Whole grain pasta has lower calories and higher fiber.
  2. Olives: I use black Kalamata olives, but so many others would work well too.  Here’s a great beginners guide to olives by Serious Eats.
  3. Tomato options: Use a whole chopped tomato or cherry tomatoes cut in half. You can even use a small can of whole tomatoes, well-drained. Squeeze out some of the seeds and juice.
  4. Variations for vegetables: eggplant, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, green beans, zucchini, asparagus.
  5. Make Ahead: I love leftovers of this pasta dish the next day for lunch because the flavors have time to blend. It will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days. Reheat the pasta in the microwave. Or serve the pasta room temperature or as a cold pasta salad. While technically possible, I don’t recommend freezing the spaghetti as the texture could change. 
 
Nutrition value estimates do not include optional garnishes.

Nutrition

Calories: 369kcal | Carbohydrates: 52g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 591mg | Potassium: 641mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 5671IU | Vitamin C: 82mg | Calcium: 89mg | Iron: 3mg
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