Olive and Greens Pasta with Garlic and Lemon

I often make pasta with greens and lemon. Recently I found a recipe for pasta with green olives and feta in the NYT which was very close to what I often whip up.

But I wanted to try and make a completely plant based dish, with no cheese at all.

I was intrigued by a vegan pasta with greens and lemon in Food and Wine: It had white miso to add umami, but this ubiquitous Asian component is not part of our everyday ingredients, so I decided to use sliced Kalamata olives, the Mediterranean umami equivalent…

The resulting pasta is truly delicious, even for non-vegans like us!


See also my humble leftover lentil soup and the Lebanese-inspired Linguine with Spicy Lentils and Caramelized Onions. 

Serves 4-5



1/3 cup olive oil


2 cups chopped leeks, white plus light green parts


5 medium garlic cloves, coarsely chopped


4 cups bitter greens (like chicory or dandelion), or a combination of bitter greens and Swiss chard.  All stems separated and thinly chopped; the leaves coarsely chopped


1 ½ cup pitted, sliced Kalamata olives, drained


Zest from 1 lemon or more, to taste


Salt to taste


1 package Penne or other tubular pasta


¼ cup or more lemon juice, to taste


Fruity olive oil to drizzle over the pasta


Aleppo pepper, or freshly ground black pepper, to taste



Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Heat the oil in a deep, large skillet over medium heat, add the leeks and cook stirring often until soft. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, until it is tender and translucent. Do not let it color.


Add the stems of the greens and 3 tablespoons water and cook for a couple of minutes, until tender. Add a little more water, as needed. Once the stems are tender add the leaves and stir a few times, just to wilt them.

Stir in half the lemon zest and the olives. Let them sizzle for a few seconds, then remove from the heat.


Salt the boiling water and cook the pasta 2 minutes less than the package instructs. Drain, reserving about 1 cup cooking water.  


Add the pasta to the skillet with the greens and olives, and toss, adding ½ cup of the cooking water and the lemon juice. Drizzle with fruity olive oil and cook, tossing often for 1 minute, adding a bit more water if too dry.. Taste and add pepper and salt –the olives are quite salty— or more lemon, as needed.


Drizzle with more fruity olive oil, toss and serve the pasta sprinkling with Aleppo pepper and more lemon zest if you like.





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