a plate of pretty pasta

I Got the Buttered-Noodle Blues

a plate of pretty pasta
Despite its quick cook time, this meal plates well and looks nice enough to serve to your parents.

Nothing says poverty like a big bowl of buttered noodles.

Sure, this plain staple has its charms: few ingredients, low cost, quick prep time. But the downsides are just as plentiful. Plain pasta is boring, tasteless and lacks proper nutrition. It’s not the kind of thing you want to be eating every day.

For only a couple minutes more time, you can transform this carb wasteland into a healthy, zesty meal nice enough to serve to your parents. It requires only a few extra ingredients, most of which you probably own already, and can be made with one pot.

This is also a good way to use up greens like spinach or kale that are getting a bit on the slimy side. And the best part is, there is no measuring. I hate measuring because it takes time and means more dishes. For this recipe, eyeballing-it works just fine.

Penne and Spinache in Lemon Olive Oil Sauce

adding olive oil
Turn a simple bowl of pasta into a
healthy alternative with just greens, olive oil and lemon juice.


  • 1 handful pasta — you can use whatever you want, I used gluten-free penne
  • 1 handful greens — spinach and kale work really well, but you could also add carrot shreds, mushrooms, snap peas or anything else you fancy
  • Olive oil — enough to coat the pasta
  • Lemon juice — just a bit
  • Garlic, pepper or other spices — just a pinch

Step 1: Get a small pot and fill it two-thirds full. The general rule with boiling pasta is to use one part pasta, two parts water. Really you just want to make sure all the noodles are covered so that they get nice and soft. Put the pot on the stove and turn it to medium heat. Let the water come to a simmer, then add the pasta.

Step 2: Once it comes to a rolling boil (think of a hot tub with the jets on), reduce the heat to low. Make sure to stir every now and then so the pasta doesn’t stick to the pot. It usually takes about ten minutes, but it depends on the kind of pasta and the amount. Usually I just fish out a piece


every so often and eat it to test if it’s done. The noodle should be al dente, a fancy cooking word that basically means soft, but not mushy.

Step 3: Now that you’ve decided the noodles are done to your liking, strain the water out into the sink with a collander. If you don’t have a collander, a slotted spoon and some concentration will suffice. The oven can be left on while you do this if it’s electric. Mine is ancient and uses gas, so I turn the flames off while I’m away from it, just in case.

Step 4: Put the noodles back in the pot and add enough olive oil to lightly coat them. Then return the pot to low heat, making sure to stir constantly. If you stop stirring or don’t add enough oil, the noodles will burn to the pan.

Step 5: Add the spinach all at once and stir. I like it best when the spinach has been cooked a little, but still has that bright green color. Forget about that stringy, gross, dark-green spinach you got when you were a kid. Unless you like it that way, then by all means keep it on heat.

Step 6: Add the lemon juice, garlic and any other spices you’d like. Take the pot off the burner and turn off the stove.

That’s it! Add salt and pepper to taste.

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