By Aliza Abarbanel
Pasta is a year-round love affair, but after a winter of marinara sauce, I’m ready for a change. Blame Daylight Savings time or a few precious, unseasonably warm March days, but my current cooking fantasies are fueled by asparagus and sugar snap peas. Unfortunately, my aspirations for peak-spring cooking are decidedly out of sync with the reality of my Brooklyn supermarket aisle (and the stubbornness of sweater weather). Luckily, I’m getting through the seasonal transition with endless bowls of broccoli and zhoug spaghetti.
Broccoli Spaghetti Is the Seasonal Transition Pasta You Need
Meera Sodha’s recipe is perfect for when my heart craves pasta but my body needs salad: The vibrant green sauce uses a whole head (!) of broccoli, stems and all, plus a prodigious amount of tender fresh herbs for the zhoug, a punchy Yemeni condiment made from blending chili peppers with flat leaf parsley, cilantro, and fragrant ground spices.
Sodha’s version uses a food processor to quickly meld the herbs with ground coriander, cumin, and cardamom, plus zesty lemon juice and olive oil. She also uses that food processor to blitz down that whole head (!) of broccoli without any fussy knifework, then cooks it down in a non-stick pan with a bit of salt and olive oil until it’s soft and sweet.
Most of my go-to weeknight pasta recipes rely on grated Parmesan and butter to build an enviable glossy sauce. But this entirely vegan version simply combines that zhoug, starch-rich pasta water, and softened broccoli fluff in a pan. After a bit of vigorous stirring, each spaghetti strand is coated with a silky, perfectly spiced, and extremely green, sauce. The final bite is herbaceous and aromatic, combining broccoli’s signature earthy sweetness with gently lingering jalapeño heat.
Eager to get cooking? Queue up your favorite cooking playlist or borrow mine (featuring plenty of Erykah Badu and Buena Vista Social Club). Then read below for the full recipe lowdown.
My Cook’s Notes (to Embrace or Ignore)
1. Fresh coriander is cilantro.
Sodha is British, so her recipe list calls for fresh and dried coriander. My fellow Americans probably know the fresh leafy stems as cilantro, and the dried seeds as coriander. Despite the difference in naming convention, they’re both part of the same plant: Coriandrum sativum.
2. Use up those wilty herbs.
This recipe is already a sustainability win, thanks to Sodha’s smart use of shaved broccoli stems. They’re mildly sweet and crunchy, like kohlrabi crossed with jicama. But go ahead and riff with the fresh herbs (mint! basil! dill!) based on what is wilting in the crisper for an untraditional, but still delicious, sauce.
3. Work with the tools you’ve got.
If you only have a small 3-cup food processor (same!) work in batches to avoid overcrowding the machine. Learn from my mistakes and get a bowl ready to hold the chopped ingredients!
Don’t have a food processor? It’ll take a minute, but the broccoli can be finely chopped by hand and the zhoug can be made in a mortar and pestle or blender (just be careful not to over-process).
Lacking a non-stick pan? Don’t let that stop you from making this pasta. Just add a little extra oil to your pan to prevent the broccoli bits from sticking to the bottom, and take care to scrape your spoon across the bottom while stirring if you see anything browning (or, er, burning).
4. Play with pasta shapes.
Don’t have any spaghetti in the cabinet? Use any long noodle for maximum slurp-ability, or use a short pasta like orecchiette or rigatoni for maximum pasta salad vibes.
5. Eat it hot or cold, inside or outside.
Nothing is as cozy as a bowl of warm pasta, but I speak from experience when I say that this recipe tastes just as delicious straight out of the fridge. Better yet, package up a serving and take it outside your kitchen to your favorite sunny spot. Turn up Mother Earth’s Plantasia and eat forkful after forkful while absorbing Vitamin D for maximum springtime vibes.
Get the recipe: Meera Sodha’s Broccoli and Zhoug Spaghetti from The Guardian.