Quick and easy, this weeknight spinach pasta recipe is tossed in a garlicky olive oil sauce and flavored with lemon, za'atar, red pepper flakes, and a generous sprinkle of parmesan.

A serving of za'atar garlic spinach pasta in a bowl, with a bite being lifted from it on a fork.
Photo Credits: Ali Redmond

This spinach pasta recipe takes a page from Nonna’s book but with my own Middle Eastern twist. 

Oodles of nutrient and fiber-rich baby spinach (Yes, a good 12 ounces!) and spaghetti are tossed in a garlicky olive oil sauce. Za’atar, a spice blend that combines aromatic wild thyme with tart sumac and nutty sesame seeds adds a surprising—and fully addictive—layer of flavor. Shredded parmesan cheese complements the nutty flavor and adds an umami boost. It’s bright, earthy, slightly nutty, and completely delicious!

While many pasta and spinach recipes use a lot of butter or heavy cream-based sauces, you'll find that good olive oil, coupled with a bit of starchy cooking water, makes a silky sauce to coat the noodles—no heavy cream necessary. It is lighter but just as comforting. And, yes, you can use whole-grain pasta for an even more Mediterranean Diet-friendly option!

Table of Contents
  1. Spinach Pasta Ingredients 
  2. Ingredient Spotlight
  3. How to Make Spinach Pasta 
  4. What to Serve with Spinach Pasta
  5. ​​How to Store Leftovers
  6. More Spinach Recipes 
  7. Jazz up your Spinach Pasta with Za'atar!
  8. Spinach Pasta with Za’atar, Lemon, and Parsley Recipe
Ingredients for Garlic Spinach Pasta including spaghetti, spinach, olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, za'atar, salt, parmesan cheese, lemon, and parsley.

Spinach Pasta Ingredients 

This spinach pasta is made with a handful of ingredients, many of which may already be in your pantry. And, if not, they’re well worth seeking out. You'll need:

  • Pasta: I used spaghetti, but any long, pasta like angel hair or bucatini would work well.
  • Kosher salt enhances the flavor.
  • Extra virgin olive oil is a major component of the sauce, so a high-quality extra virgin variety is essential (I love the peppery notes of the Spanish Hojiblanca from our shop with this recipe.)
  • Garlic adds a sweet and savory depth of flavor. I call for 5 to 6 minced cloves, which is worth doing fresh if you can–see our guide on how to mince garlic for tips. I would not recommend grating the garlic as it’s more likely to burn. 
  • Baby spinach is sweet and tender, but standard spinach will work too. Just trim off the larger ends and cut them into large pieces. 
  • Red pepper flakes add a good kick. For a milder version, try the Aleppo pepper from our shop
  • Za'atar is the secret ingredient in this recipe (more info below). 
  • Parmesan cheese adds a delicious umami, salty quality. Blocks of parmesan tend to be much more flavorful than the pre-grated kind, so try to freshly grate it if you can. 
  • Fresh lemon zest and juice lift the savory flavors. 
  • Parsley leaves add fresh, peppery flavor, and are a good complement to the za’atar. Other tender green herbs like dill or cilantro could work in their place, but I would not substitute with dried ones. 
Jar of za'atar from the Mediterranean Dish shop.
Za'atar from Our Shop

Ingredient Spotlight

Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend that’s savory, tart, nutty, and aromatic. It’s the first jar that consistently runs out in my pantry! No surprise there, though, it’s incredibly useful: Sprinkle it on simple everyday things like popcorn, eggs or to dunk bread along with really delicious olive oil. Or use it to make traditional dishes like Manaqish, a Middle Eastern flatbread.

The exact blend varies depending on the region, family, and spice seller. But generally, it’s made with dried wild thyme, sesame seeds, sumac, and sometimes other various dried herbs like dill or marjoram. 

An overhead photo of za'atar garlic spinach pasta on a serving platter with a fork.

How to Make Spinach Pasta 

This spinach pasta recipe boasts big flavor and it’s on your table in 30 minutes or less. Here are the steps:

  • Cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season well with kosher salt. Once the water is ready, add the pasta and cook to al dente according to package instructions (about 8 to 9 minutes). Next, reserve 2 cups of pasta water, then drain. An overhead photo of spaghetti boiling in a pot of water.
  • Soften the garlic. In a large pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer,  add the garlic to the pan and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute (you want some color but do not burn the garlic). 
  • Wilt the spinach. To the pan, add the lemon juice and a splash of the pasta cooking water (about ½ cup). Add the spinach in batches, stirring until wilted and season with a pinch of salt as you go. Once all of the spinach is fully wilted, about 5 minutes, stir in the crushed red pepper flakes and 1 tablespoon of za’atar.Spinach and spices being sauteed in pan with a wooden spoon.
  • Combine the pasta and sauce. Add the pasta to the pan with the spinach and toss everything to combine. Once you have mixed the pasta and spinach, add the remaining za’atar, parmesan, lemon zest, and parsley. Toss until everything is well combined. If the pasta looks a bit dry, add a little more olive oil or a splash of the pasta cooking water and stir until it’s glossy. The ingredients for the za'atar garlic spinach pasta in a sautee pan, just before being mixed together.
  • Serve. Finally, divide the pasta into bowls, and serve with more cheese and za’atar on the side. (I know I always add more of both to my bowl.)Two bowls of the za'atar garlic spinach pasta, one with a fork. Next to this is a platter of the pasta and a small bowl of parmesan cheese.

What to Serve with Spinach Pasta

I recommend serving this spinach spaghetti with extra parmesan cheese and za'atar on the side. You’ve covered your greens intake already, but I do love a fresh salad alongside.

Something crunchy and colorful to complement the silky green pasta is especially welcome, Bell Pepper Salad with Mini Sweet Peppers

A serving of za'atar garlic spinach pasta in a bowl with a fork.

​​How to Store Leftovers

Store leftover pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat quickly on the stovetop over medium heat, adding more olive oil or a splash of water as necessary to prevent it from drying out.

More Spinach Recipes 

Browse all Mediterranean recipes.

Visit Our Shop.

Jazz up your Spinach Pasta with Za'atar!

This exotic blend of wild thyme, toasted sesame seeds, sumac, and a dash of oregano will transform your cooking. There are so many delicious ways to use it!

a jar of za'atar spice blen by zandz.
4.87 from 98 votes

Spinach Pasta with Za’atar, Lemon, and Parsley

Suzy Karadsheh
An overhead photo of za'atar garlic spinach pasta on a serving platter with a fork.
This spinach pasta gets a Mediterranean-style twist with a garlicky olive oil sauce, lemon, za'atar, red pepper flakes, and a generous sprinkle of parmesan.
Prep – 10 minutes
Cook – 15 minutes
Total – 25 minutes
Cuisine:
Mediterranean
Serves – 5 servings
Course:
Main Course

Ingredients
  

  • ½ pound spaghetti (or other long, thin pasta)
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ to ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 to 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 12 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons za'atar, divided
  • ½ cup to 1 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley

Instructions
 

  • Cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season well with kosher salt. Add the pasta and cook according to al dente according to package instructions (about 8 to 9 minutes). Reserve 2 cups of pasta water, then drain.
  • Soften the garlic. In a large pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute (you want some color but do not burn the garlic).
  • Wilt the spinach. Add the lemon juice and a splash of the pasta cooking water (about ½ cup). Begin adding in the spinach in batches, stirring until wilted and seasoning with a pinch of salt as you go. When all of the spinach is fully wilted, about 5 minutes, stir in the crushed red pepper flakes and 1 tablespoon of za’atar.
  • Combine the pasta and sauce. Add the pasta to the pan of spinach and toss everything to combine. Add the remaining za’atar, parmesan, lemon zest, and parsley. Toss until everything is well-combined. If the pasta looks a bit dry, add a little more olive oil or a splash more of the pasta cooking water and stir until it’s glossy.
  • Serve. Serve with more cheese and za’atar on the side (I know I always add more of both to my bowl).

Video

Notes

  • Shop this recipe: Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including the olive oil and za’atar used in this recipe.
  • Leftovers: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat quickly on the stovetop over medium heat, adding more olive oil or a splash of water as necessary to prevent it from drying out.

Nutrition

Calories: 397.7kcalCarbohydrates: 41.8gProtein: 8.9gFat: 23gSaturated Fat: 3.3gSodium: 72.4mgPotassium: 616.7mgFiber: 5gSugar: 2.2gVitamin A: 7605.7IUVitamin C: 48.7mgCalcium: 151.4mgIron: 6.5mg
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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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4.87 from 98 votes (59 ratings without comment)

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Comments

  1. Rebecca says:

    This was SO delicious- amazingly flavorful! The zaatar was clumping to the spinach, any thoughts on how to get it to distribute more evenly?

  2. Marguerite says:

    5 stars
    I made this earlier this week; followed the recipe (pretty) closely, but did add some shredded rotisserie chicken (my husband is definitely a carnivore, and I wanted a "one pot meal") and chicken broth, instead of additional pasta water, to loosen up the sauce. We also followed the suggestion to add a little more Za'atar (which I discovered ten years ago, and am thrilled to find new ways to use it) and more parm. Loved it! The leftovers were even better!

  3. Mary says:

    Fabulous!!!

  4. Beebee says:

    Excited to try this! Would a green like kale or arugula work?

    1. TMD Team says:

      We've never tried this with kale or arugula before, but I don't see why either wouldn't work!

  5. Andrea says:

    How is this five servings for a main course? It's only 1/2 pound of pasta, so less than 2 ounces per person? Also - calorie count seems wrong. At five servings, the whole dish would be approximately 2,000 calories - but the pasta and the cheese together don't seem to add up to more than 1,000 calories for the whole pot. So I am wondering if the number of servings is wrong, or the calorie count, or both.

  6. Mary says:

    This is one of my favorite dishes! So much flavor! I make it for lunch at work and eat on it all week long!

    1. TMD Team says:

      So glad this is a tried-and-true one for you, Mary!

  7. Nick S. says:

    This is a total do-again. I used home-made za'atar, Aleppo pepper, home-made spaghetti and added some grilled chicken for protein. Totally making this for my parents when I visit them on a couple weeks. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Joy M Jakubowski says:

    5 stars
    This was delicious! Our Trader Joe's did not have angel hair for whatever reason, but they did have a lemon pasta, which was an excellent sub. We made everything else exactly as the recipe instructed and it was perfectly seasoned. This would be an excellent side for a simple grilled protein. We were planning on salmon but sadly did not thaw it in time. With all the spinach, this felt hearty enough for a main course.

  9. Sharon says:

    5 stars
    So simple to make and so tasty for so few ingredients. Will definitely be making this frequently.

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hope you love it, Sharon!

  10. Cheryl says:

    Looks delicious! Can't wait to try it. Do you think you could use dukkah instead of za'atar?

    Also thinking pine nuts would be delicious.

    1. TMD Team says:

      Ooo! I think both of those ideas sound delish!!

  11. Jean says:

    Can you include somewhere which recipe book the recipe can be found?

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hi, Jean! This recipe isn't included in Suzy's cookbooks, but it's always available here! Enjoy!

  12. Jesse says:

    Made as is, over salted the water so was way too salty (not a fault of the recipe) it was cool, although it was too salty we wanted to not waste the food. We saved it by reheating the leftovers in a non stick pan with some heavy cream and it turned out amazing. If you can do dairy I highly recommend reheating this way. Makes a garlicky citrusy Alfredo like sauce.