Fifty Shades of Greens

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Many of our recipes are well talked through and planned between the two of us. We write shopping lists, buy enough groceries so we can test cook them properly a few times and make sure to take down notes during the process. I always use the laptop but Luise insists on scribbling on small pieces of paper that often end up in the hands of the kids and their crayons (can somebody please tell that woman to put her fancy new Macbook to use!).

We always feel quite content after having published one of those type of recipes. But it actually seems like the recipes from simple fridge and freezer findings that are whipped together quickly without a moment of planning, seem to spark just as much interest, even though they are very basic. This quick pasta dish with fifty shades of greens started out like that, with two hungry kids, half a package of pasta (made from legumes) and some leftover green vegetables (the ones on the photo obviously look a little less sad than the first time we made it). It ticks all the right boxes for a February recipe. Simple. Comforting. Nutritious. Vegan. Tasty!

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It reminds me of a pasta dish I used to cook back when I was living in Rome. One of my favourite things to buy from the local farm stands were cute baby zucchinis (and they were so cheap!) that I sliced and fried with onion, garlic, thyme, capers, fresh herbs and spinach. Then I poured over a dash of cream and white wine before tossing in the cooked pasta. It was my go-to dinner for one, ready in 12 minutes.

Here we have added even more greens. We are using frozen peas and one whole broccoli, shaving the stem thinly and breaking the rest into small florets. The vegetables are cooked in coconut cream which also adds a little sweetness. When making green vegetable dishes like this, remember not to cook it too long. You just want to soften the vegetables up, not kill them. If you are a quick chopper, you can have dinner ready in less than 20 minutes. And if you are cooking for kids and are afraid that they will dream horrible nightmares from being fed too many vegetables, Elsa’s recommendation is skipping the spinach and add more peas. Because cooked spinach is: “The most horrible thing I have ever tasted in my entire life”.

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Our pasta of choice here is a green pea fusilli pasta which is gluten free but also adds protein. Not to mention, it is green and bring yet another shade to this dish!

More and more alternative pasta/noodle products made entirely from legumes (beans, lentils and peas) are popping up in stores. Not only health food stores but also many supermarkets. We like them because they are nutritious alternatives to regular refined wheat pasta. They are also rich in fiber, made from complex carbohydrates, naturally gluten free and they come in many colours and shapes, which make it more fun for the kids to eat.

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Pea, Spinach & Broccoli Pasta (aka fifty shades of greens)
Serves 4

If you don’t have all the vegetables at home, no worries, just use what you’ve got. You can use frozen broccoli and spinach instead of fresh. If you’ve got some leftover white wine in the house, try adding a splash together with the garlic and onion. And if you don’t fancy coconut milk/cream, you can use ordinary cream, Greek yogurt or a vegan alternative.

2 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
4 cloves of garlic
1 yellow onion
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 tbsp pickled capers (use the brine as well)
½ large zucchini or 1 small, sliced into thin half moons
1 small broccoli, broken into small florets and stem sliced thinly
2 handfuls whole spinach leaves, rinsed
1 small can coconut cream or the solid top layer of a coconut milk (more info here)
1 1/2 cup frozen peas
1-2 tbsp lemon juice and a little zest
sea salt and pepper

chopped fresh parsley, for serving

Pasta for 4 servings, choose the sort you prefer (read about our pasta of choice above).

Bring a saucepan filled with water to boil. Add pasta and let cook until ready (as instructed on the package), then drain and set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Finely chop garlic and onion and add to the skillet. Let sauté until fragrant and then add thyme, capers (and white wine, if using) and cook for another minute. Add zucchini and broccoli and cook until almost tender. Now add peas, spinach, coconut cream, lemon, salt and pepper and cook until the spinach is just wilted. Taste and adjust the flavors to your liking.
Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and mix to combine.
Scatter over fresh parsley and serve. Non-vegans can of course add some grated cheese if they wish.

52 Comments

  • Claudia
    Gorgeous! We just had this for dinner with spelt pasta, just skipped the capers. Absolutely delicious. I told our teenie that it's called "fifty shades of green". He: "Hm. Broccoli, zucchini, peas, spinach ... ?" Me: "Yep. Plus thyme and parsley." He, looking very sceptical: "I see ... but: fifty?"
    • Haha, smart kid. We figured that every vegetable has like 10 different shades/nuances of green and then the name actually isn't too far-fetched ;)
  • Such lovely shades of green! Looks absolutely delicious!
  • I miss the fresh and cheap vegetables I could by in my Country - Greece.Now I live in UK and I find it hard with vegetable shopping!But I will try this one on Saturday and I am sure I will love it! http://www.2activelab.com
  • This is what I want to eat for dinner every night!!! It's so lush and green and I'm so exciting for spring to come so I can make this with all the spring veggies <3
  • I love all these shades of greens thrown into one plate. It reminds me that spring is just around the corner!
  • Grazia
    Hi, this recipe looks great. Being Italian I simply don't understand why you cook the pasta before and put it aside. You should first cook the vegetables and when ready or almost ready you can cook the pasta and add it to the veggies. Doing so you will avoid the pasta to get gluey and cold. :-)
    • Hi Grazia, good point! Actually we meant that you should cook the vegetables while the pasta is cooking, to save time. We should have explained it better and will try to do so. /David
      • Grazia
        Thank you for confirming this! And thanks for sharing! I also love cooking and I am happy when I can read about my same passion! :-)
  • The more green, the better! This pasta sounds incredible!
  • I agree with Elsa - cooked spinach is a step too far for me! I just cannot handle that texture (or lack of texture)! Bean pasta is not something I've ever heard of, but we do have coloured pasta - I'm not sure if it still has wheat in as well. A delicious recipe, I had pasta with courgette last night and it was so tasty. It didn't look as photogenic as this though!
  • Love how simple, quick and green this is! I'm so excited that more and more supermarkets have started selling protein-rich pasta! Haven't seen green pea pasta yet though, so I'll probably use red lentil pasta instead!
  • oh my goodness this looks so gorgeous! Love the idea of adding pickled capers, probably helps with the earthiness.
  • Sounds delicious. Another great gluten-free, protein-rich pasta is quinoa pasta. So great.
  • Hello, Your photographs look so pretty! All the best! Aish
  • Thank you very much for your blog and so healthul recipes! And I have a few notes on garlic and broccoli: If you crush garlic 10 minutes before cooking, then one of its most healthul and relatively heat stable component- allicin- will be formed. The same thing in case of broccoli: if you chop it (and also Brussels sprouts, kale, collards, or cauliflower) first and then wait 40 minutes, sulforaphane - the main active component in broccoli will be formed; but in case of immediately cooking process will not. All this healthful vegetables may be much more healthhful)
  • marilyn
    This inspired me to jump out of my chair & make it right away, even though it is 11pm here in Calif. I used asparagus ravioli, spinach,capers & coconut milk- it was really yummy! I'll definitely do it again - so quick! The part about Rome did it for me- reminded me of younger days living in Paris.Thanks so much for all the inspiration! Your little girl really couldn't be cuter!
  • This looks incredible. Wish I was eating it now? If I don't have coconut cream on hand would you go with milk or cream?
    • You can simply use coconut milk instead. And if you don't have that, go with cream, ricotta or Greek yogurt. /David
  • Louise
    This looks delicious. Where do you purchase the green pea fusilli pasta?
    • We actually get out from the supermarket, apparently Sweden is quite ahead on these things. But it's also available in most health food stores. Ask for bean pasta, legume pasta or pea pasta.
      • Laura B_S
        I can proudly say that I found it (and a red lentils one) at the supermarket in Milano as well! Italy is finally looking for healthier alternatives to wheat as well ;) (Probably someone from Napoli would kill me, but I'm an italian "northern" girl at heart). Anyway, the recipe is super, we loved it <3
        • Grazia
          Hi Laura, it's true that now all over Italy you can find organic shops full of alternatives to white flour. I am from Napoli and I don't see why should I kill you?? :-)
          • Laura B_S
            Just kidding Grazia, it's just that some of my friends from Roma and Napoli don't understand this "healthy trend", as they call it, and keep telling me that pasta HAS to be made of wheat :D Anyway, I found this peas-pasta at Carrefour supermarket not at my local organic shop, so I was really startled!
  • Absolutely love this recipe! It sounds + looks delicious. Quick fridge and freezer finds often end up being the most satisfying. Love the name of the recipe. And, Elsa - that girl is too funny:D Great work as usual - super inspiring! xx
  • Alice
    Åh så gott! Var hittar jag grön ärtpasta? Den ser riktigt härlig ut! Finns det i vanliga matbutiker eller hos hälsokosten?
    • SJ
      Jag hittar det överallt, men det är brukar billigast hos Willys!
  • Jess
    Is coconut cream the same as "cream of coconut"? I pinned this b/c I've got leftover cream of coconut onhand (an interrupted pina colada experiment) and this looks a great unexpected use for it!
    • To be honest, I had to google this to be sure. But it seems like yes, basically it is the same. The thick part of coconut milk. Although cream of coconut can apparently sometimes be artificially sweetened, which I imagine would add a weird taste to the dish. Check the ingredient list of your can and if it's not sweetened you know what to do with it! /David

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