Pasta night just got better! Quick and easy, this weeknight Spinach Pasta is tossed in a garlicy olive oil sauce and flavored with lemon, za'atar, red pepper flakes, and a generous sprinkle of parmesan.

Close-up of garlic pasta with spinach

Way better than your typical spinach pasta!

I've always been a big fan of olive oil pasta for an easy midweek dinner. In this version, oodles of baby spinach--yes, a good 12 ounces--and spaghetti are tossed in an appropriately garlicy olive oil sauce, and flavored with lemon, za’atar, red pepper flakes, and a sprinkle of shredded Parmesan cheese.

This is not your typical spinach spaghetti, and you may not expect use za'atar as a seasoning for pasta, but the heady blend of toasted sesame seeds and wild thyme will add a bright, earthy, and slightly nutty flavor that truly elevates this simple pasta dish.

And while most recipes of pasta and spinach use a lot of butter or heavy cream-based sauces, you'll find that good olive oil, coupled with a bit of the starchy cooking water, makes a silky rich sauce to coat the noodles. It is lighter but still comforting. And, yes, you can use whole grain pasta for an even more Mediterranean diet-friendly option!

Overhead view of garlic spinach pasta ingredients

What you'll need to make it

This spinach pasta is made with just a handful of ingredients. Here is what you'll need:

  • Thin pasta - Spaghetti is my go-to for this recipe though other varieties will work.
  • Kosher salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil - You'll want a quality EVOO for this recipe that is rich and delicious, you'll find my favorites at our online shop.
  • Garlic - You'll want at least 5 to 6 cloves of garlic for this pasta dish!
  • Spinach - Fresh baby spinach works best in this recipe.
  • Red pepper flakes - For a bit of warm flavor.
  • Za'atar - A blend of wild thyme and toasted sesame seeds, which will add an earthy and slightly nutty flavor, plus great texture. Find it here.
  • Parmesan cheese - Freshly shredded parmesan
  • Lemon - Both the zest and juice of the lemon are used in this recipe.
  • Fresh parsley - Parsley is one of the main flavors of this dish and pairs nicely with the spinach and za'atar.

What kind of pasta to use?

There is no right or wrong pasta to use in a simple recipe like this, but with olive oil based sauces, I tend to go with a thin pasta like spaghetti, linguine, or angel hair. I've found these thin pastas are best because the sauce coats them well, without weighing them down.

Close-up of spinach pasta

How to cook spinach for pasta?

I love this recipe because I am able to use a good bit of spinach. My 12 ounces of spinach looks like a lot to start with, but once cooked, it will You'll need to cook the spinach separately, prior to stirring it into the pasta. Baby spinach is easy to cook in the olive oil with a bit of the pasta water until it wilts and softens nicely. It takes 5 minutes tops, working in batches and adding more as each batch wilts down.

Wilted spinach in a skillet

How to make spinach pasta

There's just a few easy steps to making this garlic spinach spaghetti! It all comes together in just 20 minutes. Here's a quick visual of how it goes, but be sure to scroll down for the print-friendly recipe with the full ingredient list:

  1. Cook the pasta. Boil a pot of water and season with kosher salt. Spaghetti will cook in about 8 minutes, but just before it is fully cooked, and before you drain it, reserve at least 1 cup of the pasta cooking water water.
  2. Make sauce and add the spinach. While the pasta is cooking, warm a good bit of olive oil (about ¾ cup) over medium heat and cook the garlic until fragrant. Add a little bit of the reserved starchy water (start with ½ cup and increase later as needed), and the lemon juice.

    Add the spinach to the sauce, you'll do this in batches. Season with salt and cook until the spinach is fully wilted. Add in red pepper flakes and a bit of the za'atar.
  3. Toss the cooked pasta with the spinach and garlic olive oil sauce. When the pasta is ready, drain it well. Add the cooked spaghetti to the pan and toss to combine.
  4. Finish with more za'atar, lemon zest,Parmesan, and parsley. Toss to combine and serve!

Tips for success

It's hard to go wrong with this simple garlic spinach spaghetti, but here are a few things to keep in mind

  • Don't overcook the pasta. You'll want the pasta to cook to just al dente before draining it and adding it to the other ingredients. It will still soften a bit as it gets tossed with the other ingredients and too-soft pasta with spinach just isn't the texture you want.
  • Season well. Don't be afraid of adding salt to the pasta water or to the spinach. I usually add more salt with each batch of spinach.
  • Cook the pasta while also making the sauce. I heard this saying from an Italian friend, "the sauce waits for the pasta, not the other way around." Because we need the pasta cooking water for the sauce, begin cooking the pasta, but take some of the pasta cooking water out a bit before the pasta is finished cooking. This way, you can begin working on the sauce before the pasta is fully cooked.
  • The starchy pasta cooking water is your friend! When draining the pasta, be sure to reserve an extra bit of pasta water as you may want to thin out the sauce a little bit more. You always want to use the starchy cooking water for the sauce, not regular water. This is what will make the sauce extra silky and rich!
Close-up of spinach pasta

Serving suggestions

I recommend serving this spinach spaghetti with extra parmesan cheese and za'atar on the side. As with most za'atar recipes I make, I always find myself wanting to add more of the citrusy, nutty flavor to my dish! And, who doesn't love a little more cheese?!

How to store leftover cooked pasta?

Store leftover garlic pasta with spinach 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 easy pasta recipes:

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4.87 from 95 votes

Za'atar Garlic Spinach Pasta

Suzy Karadsheh
Spinach spaghetti in a skillet
Quick and easy, this weeknight Spinach Pasta is tossed in a garlicy olive oil sauce and flavored with lemon, za'atar, red pepper flakes, and a generous sprinkle of parmesan.
Prep – 5 minutes
Cook – 15 minutes
Total – 30 minutes
Serves – 5 servings
Main Course


  • ½ pound spaghetti ( or other 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)
  • Parmesan cheese (shredded), to your liking (anywhere from ½ cup to 1 cup)
  • 1 lemon (zest and juice)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley


  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season well with kosher salt. Add the pasta and cook according to al dante according to package instructions (about 8 to 9 minutes). You will need 1 cup or so of the cooking water later.
  • When the pasta is nearly done, work on the olive oil sauce and the spinach. In a large pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic. Cook briefly until the garlic is fragrant (you want some color but do not burn the garlic). Add a little bit of the pasta cooking water (start with ½ cup and add more as needed), and lemon juice, then add the spinach in batches, seasoning with Kosher salt as you go. Toss the spinach and cook until it is fully wilted (about 5 minutes). Add crushed red peppers and.1 tablespoon of za’atar.
  • When the pasta is ready, drain, keeping a little bit more of the cooking water still.
  • Add the pasta to the pan of spinach and toss everything to combine. Add the remaining za’atar, cheese, lemon zest, and parsley. Toss until everything is well-combined. And if you need to, add a little more olive oil or a bit of the pasta cooking water. Serve with more cheese and za’atar on the side (I know I always add more of both to my bowl).



  • 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.
  • Browse Our Shop for quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils and spices used in this recipe. 


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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  1. 5 stars
    Delicious pasta recipe, my mouth is singing with the flavors of lemon, parmesan and za’atar. Your recipe is a delight that I will cook again and again! Thank you for another favorite!!

  2. 5 stars
    Delicious!!! I only had a small container of spinach, but made it anyways!! I added a 355 ml can of chickpeas/garbanzo beans to bulk it up and add protein. I would do it again with the whole amount of spinach and the chickpeas. Such great flavours! Thanks for an amazing recipe!!

    1. Hi Tamara, Devin here from the Mediterranean Dish team. So happy you loved this recipe, and thank you for sharing your tweaks!

  3. 5 stars
    I a, Greek and as we know, Greek and middle eastern foods borrow from each other. I added some crumbled feta to this dish and it added just the right amount of zip. So delicious!

  4. 5 stars
    This is such a delicious recipe that I’ll be sharing with everyone I know. I’m so glad I found it, so amazing!

  5. 5 stars
    So so good, made this for my family and they love the unique flavor the Za'star brought to this dish. I will definitely be making this again. Quick and easy meal.

  6. 5 stars
    I had a huge bunch of spinach from the garden that I wanted to use - this recipe hit the spot - simple, delicious and interesting flavors. Thanks so much!

  7. When first making a recipe, I always follow it to the letter. In subsequent preparations, I will tweak them. In this recipe, I found 3-4 tablespoons of za'tar to be waaaay to much. I subsequently made it tonight with 3-4 TEASPOONS and it was accented nicely by the za'tar, instead of the spice being the only flavor in the dish. No offense to Suzy, but I am wondering if the tablespoons in the recipe should be teaspoons.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here, Bryan! The amount of za'atar listed is what was intended, but you can definitely adjust that to suit your taste if you found it to be a bit too much.

  8. 5 stars
    Made this last night and it came together quickly and was so good. Definitely a pantry staple recipe. I used whole wheat thin spaghetti and lots of lemon juice. Will be making again and regularly.

  9. 5 stars
    The Mediterranean Dish has so many great recipes -- I haven't tried them all, but this is my favorite one yet. Without using the "P" word (p*rfect), let's just say this: No matter how the ingredients are proportioned, as long as they are all included in the final product, this meal will be incredible and satisfying. Plus, it's quick and easy to make -- ideal for a weeknight. I've made this pasta dish at least five times now and shared the recipe with several friends. Highly recommended.

  10. 5 stars
    I love this dish. Super easy to make. I tried it using whole wheat spaghetti and the whole wheat version added a nice nutty flavor. Delicious! I'll definitely make this again.

    1. Hi, Rowen. I'm so sorry you're having issues viewing our videos. Unfortunately, some web browsers block pop ups which, for some reason, also blocks instructional videos. You may need to adjust your browser settings, or try a different browser on your end in order to see them.