You might have noticed my cacio pepe bender is still going strong. You might have been distracted, however, by just how green this green pasta is.
This pasta is somewhat of a hybrid between cacio pepe and pesto pasta. As the pasta is cooked, the greens, lemon juice and pasta water are blended to create a vibrant green sauce. Next, the butter and pepper are cooked and bloomed, leaving a fragrant whack of pepper whose presence is felt even through the bright lemony sauce. Finally, the pecorino is blended into the warm greens, solving the tricky cheese emulsion problem of cacio pepe making.
The dish is an easy, 20 minute midweek meal that is gluten free, vegetarian, FODMAP friendly and nut free. It is equal parts comfort food and healthy dinner, equal parts fitspo and anti-fitspo.
GREEN PASTA NOTES
- Beautiful, fresh basil makes such a difference in this dish. Try and get some at the farmers market, if there’s one near you. It is always better.
- I used Green Olive Organics rice and amaranth pasta for this dish. This is my favourite gluten free pasta, and I buy it at my local health food store. Barilla gluten free pasta (available at the supermarket) is also a good choice.
- You can basically use any greens you like in the sauce. I used two large handfuls of spinach and one of rocket (or arugula.) Next time, I plan to use sorrel, which is my new favourite green.
- Adjust the lemon juice, pepper and salt completely to your liking. This is supposed to be an easy weeknight dish, remember.
- Once the pasta is cooked and sauced, feel free to add anything else you’d like. Extra roasted vegetables, sun dried tomatoes, capers, tuna – whatever works for you.
- You can use parmesan if you can’t find pecorino – both are low in lactose. Make sure you get a vegetarian parmesan if you’d like to keep the dish vegetarian. They are available, despite tradition suggesting otherwise.
- If you’d prefer your extra greens to be more wilted, leave the pasta on the heat until they are just wilted. Don’t leave it too long, or the sauce will change colour.
FOR THE CACIO PEPE PASTA:
- 300 g gluten free pasta
- 50 g butter
- 1 tablespoon freshly cracked pepper
- 1/4 cup pasta water
FOR THE GREEN SAUCE:
- 3 large handfuls of fresh greens I used 2 baby spinach and 1 rocket
- 1 bunch of basil
- Juice of 1 lemon (about 4 tablespoons, or more to taste)
- sea salt to taste
- 1/2 - 3/4 cup pasta water depending on how thick you like your sauce (I like 3/4)
- 100 g freshly and finely grated pecorino
- extra greens to stir through
- Any other additions you fancy
- Fill a large wok halfway with water – enough to cover the pasta, while making the pasta water as starchy as possible. Salt well, and bring to the boil.
- Once the water is boiling, add the pasta, and stir well to separate. Allow to cook until al dente (follow the brand instructions.)
- Place the basil, greens, lemon juice and pasta water (carefully scoop it out as the pasta is cookinin your food processor. I use a Nutribullet, which I love. However, I’m terrified of it exploding when filled with hot liquid. So whatever you’re using, make sure you let the pasta water cool a little before blending. Blend to a thin, smooth liquid.
- Once the pasta has cooked, place a large bowl in a secure spot nearby, and a colander over the top. Drain the pasta water into the bowl – that way you have as much as you need, and you won’t accidentally pour it all down the sink without thinking, like I regularly do.
- Return the wok to the heat, and once dry, add the butter. When it has melted, add the pepper, and cook for a few minutes until fragrant. The mixture should be bubbling up – you can cook it a little longer to make it brown butter, if you like. If not, add the 1/4 cup pasta water, and stir through once the sizzling subsides. Add the pasta back into the pan, stir to coat, and remove from the heat.
- Place the freshly and finely (no packet cheese please!) grated pecorino into your blender, and blend until it has smoothly incorporated into the sauce. It should only take 30 seconds or so. Pour the green sauce over the pasta, and stir to combine. It might appear runny, but the pasta will soak it up.
- Add whatever you plan to mix in, and place the pasta back on the heat to warm through, if you like. Don’t leave it too long or the sauce might go brown. Serve immediately.