One-Pot Pasta Recipe with Greens, Olives & Feta ♥

Ever wish for a one-pot pasta dish?
Today's vegetarian recipe: A one-pot pasta recipe. Cook the greens first, then cook the pasta in the same water. Toss with olives and feta. Devour! Weight Watchers 6 points.

Two problems with pasta recipes.

1) They take too long to get to the table. Pasta is supposed to be fast, right? -- zip, zip, done. But it takes forever to bring the water to a boil. SOLUTION: Use an electric kettle to boil the water. At the same time, heat up the cooking pot with just an inch or so of water. Together, this makes a big improvement, time-wise. If the idea appeals, I have a small electric kettle from Presto but there's an electric kettle style for every taste for anyone who's interested.

2) They take too many pots, some times three. THIS RECIPE's SOLUTION: Cook the greens and the pasta separately but in the same water then toss in the remaining ingredients. Aha - a one-pot pasta recipe.

I loved the simplicity of this pasta recipe, one developed for the April 2008 issue of Bon Appetit by Molly Stevens of All About Braising fame. (Is it just me or is Bon Appetit really ramping up their use of vegetables in recipes? Every issue, I find myself tagging more and more recipe possibilities for A Veggie Venture.)

The cooked pasta and greens are topped with a mix of parsley, lemon zest and minced raw -- very raw -- garlic. I found this superfluous so next time will skip the parsley entirely and just toss the zest and garlic into the hot pasta.
Mustard greens seemed like a good choice of greens. The idea was that their slight 'bite' would contrast well with the soft pasta, salty olives and tangy feta. Instead, the mustard greens melted into a big mass of messiness, hard to distribute throughout the pasta. Next time I'll use spinach leaves (not baby spinach, too tender to hold up) or broccoli rabe or kale.

As always, I allowed only two ounces of pasta per person - while we might want to eat more, this is the sensible portion, despite the four ounces that recipes typically call for. To her credit, Molly Stevens allows only 2 - 2-1/2 ounces per serving.)
I also dropped the olive oil from 5 tablespoons to one, a big calorie saver. There's no knowing of course how good it might have been with more olive oil, but then again, when savoring this noodle by noodle, I wasn't thinking, "Gosh, this sure could use some more fat."
With Dreamfields pasta, this technically falls into low-carb territory.

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Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time to table: 30 minutes
Serves 4

Salted water

1 pound leafy greens, preferably spinach (not baby spinach) or broccoli rabe or maybe kale, thick stems removed, cut into one-inch strips (makes about 10 cups gently packed)
8 ounces penne pasta (I used Dreamfields Pasta, the low-glycemic pasta so good for low-carb diets and diabetic regimens)
Salt & pepper to taste

Zest of a lemon
1 clove garlic, minced fine
1 tablespoon olive olive (reduced from 5 tablespoons)
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)

Bring the water to a boil. Add the greens and cook until just tender, 1 - 6 minutes depending on the greens. With a slotted spoon, lift out the greens and let drain in a colander. Return the water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until done, stirring occasionally. Lift out the pasta into the colander, then drain the pot -- but save a couple of cups of liquid.

Return the pasta to the hot pot. Stir in the greens and olive oil. Season to taste. Toss in remaining ingredients plus enough of the cooking liquid to just moisten. Serve immediately.

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© Copyright 2008

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Hi Alanna! I love the idea of saving time, and maybe also electricity. But I don't understand how this electric kettle concept works. I have always been told to boil pasta in *plenty* of water. So how do you have enough water when you fill the pasta pot with 1" of water, put the burner on high, cover it, fill your *small* electric kettle with water, wait for the kettle to boil, and pour it? Do you have to keep refilling the electric kettle several times?

    Also, what temperature water do you use? I remembering hearing that hot water can have deposits and other impurities in it, so I usually use cold or filtered room temperature water.


  2. Hi M ~ Excellent melding of concepts, it's so interesting how something simple can have many angles.

    You're right about boiling pasta in plenty of water. Maybe my tea kettle is bigger than what I think of as 'small'? It holds six cups. And my favorite pasta pot is actually a Dutch oven so I suspect that an inch of water is perhaps another two cups. Anyway for me, refilling the kettle would be a total pain.

    As for impurities, that's not anything I've heard. As for temperature, I use plain old (good, here in St Louis) tap water, whatever temperature happens to come out when I fill the pot or the kettle!

    OH: When making soup, for some years, I've always used the microwave to heat up the water/broth in the microwave in a four-cup Pyrex cup. It takes seven or eight minutes, not a problem with soup since all the chopping and sautéing takes that long too.

    I must always be looking for another way to speed up the cooking process for every-day meals. :-)

  3. AnonymousMay 12, 2008

    Will try this for our supper tonight, the pasta part anyway. Great idea!

  4. Pasta and greens with olives? I am so there.

  5. I had marked this recipe, too -- and thanks to Dreamfields, I'm eating pasta again -- but I like your adaptation. Eating more dark leafy greens is one of my goals for this year. Apart from spinach, which I adore, I have to really force more greens into my diet, and any recipe that mitigates the bitterness of the greens works for me.

  6. I suppose I am preaching to the choir but just a reminder: always cover the pot when you are bringing water to a boil. Much quicker.


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna