Kelli's Green Spaghetti With Aji Sauce


Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: This is my mother's rendition of an Italian-Peruvian dish called tallarines verdes, which literally means “green noodles.” It is an interpretation of pesto, which uses spinach and cream cheese. It was a childhood favorite when we lived in Peru, and after we moved to the United States, it evolved into the unique family recipe described in this story. About 10 years ago, my mother decided to serve the dish with a homemade creamy hot sauce, and now we cannot have this pasta dish without it. This is my mom’s attempt to recreate a typical Peruvian table condiment using ingredients one could find at most American grocery stores. The result is quite a departure from anything you’d find in Peru, but it is uniquely delicious. The sauce thickens as it sits and turns into an addictive dip. You can make it ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator, or as you make the green spaghetti.
Carlos C Olaechea

Food52 Review: This recipe is part of our My Family Recipe series.The Editors

Serves: 4
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 30 min

Ingredients

Green Spaghetti

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10-12 ounces frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 chicken or vegetable bouillon cube, optional
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup evaporated or whole milk
  • 4 ounces cream cheese (half a package)
  • 1 pound spaghetti, or pasta of your choice

Aji Sauce

  • 1/3 large red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 orange scotch bonnet chiles, seeded and deveined
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk or whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 4 ounces cream cheese (half a package)
  • Salt, to taste
In This Recipe

Directions

Green Spaghetti

  1. Heat a pan or skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions. Cook the onions until they soften and begin to turn golden brown. Now add the garlic and stir well. Cook for about 5 more minutes until the garlic is fragrant and the onions turn a uniform golden brown.
  2. Add the spinach to the pan or skillet and stir to combine with the garlic and the onions. Crumble the bouillon cube, if using, over the spinach and stir to combine. Sauté until the spinach comes to a simmer. Test for doneness and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. When the spinach is cooked, pour all the contents of the pan into a blender. Add the milk and cream cheese and blend until smooth. Taste for seasoning. The sauce should taste just a little too salty. Set the sauce aside until ready to use.
  4. Boil the spaghetti or pasta to your taste. My mom would cook it until it was tender, but al dente is just fine for this dish. Drain the pasta, place back into the pot and toss with the sauce. This is supposed to be a very saucy pasta dish, but you can use as much sauce as you’d like with your pasta. Serve with parmesan cheese and aji sauce (recipe follows). Any leftovers freeze beautifully.

Aji Sauce

  1. Roughly chop the scotch bonnet chiles and place in a blender.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan or skillet. When the oil is hot, add the onion. Cook the onions until they soften and begin to turn golden brown. Now add the garlic and stir well. Cook for about 5 more minutes until the garlic is fragrant and the onions turn a uniform golden brown. Turn off the heat.
  3. Transfer the onions and garlic to the blender. Add peanut butter, cream cheese, and milk. Blend until smooth. Taste for salt and blend again.
  4. Transfer to a serving dish or storage container. Serve with the green spaghetti. Leftovers can be kept refrigerated for up to three days.

More Great Recipes:
Pasta|South American|Italian|Peruvian|Spinach|Peanut Butter|Cream Cheese|Milk/Cream|Scotch|Mother's Day|Dinner|Lunch

Reviews (23) Questions (0)

23 Reviews

tamater S. July 11, 2018
It was great with the spiralled zucchini - now where's the recipe for the green pasta? ;-)
 
Dendogs July 11, 2018
Thank you for sharing. Question, how does one eat the aji sauce with the spaghetti, if the pasta already has sauce? I would love to try this and just not sure.
 
Author Comment
Carlos C. July 11, 2018
You're welcome! The aji sauce is a condiment you add to the pasta to give it a bit of a kick. You can drizzle it on top of the sauced pasta (as in the photo), or serve a dollop of it off to the side and dip forkfuls of pasta into the aji. Or you can omit it, entirely.
 
tamater S. May 3, 2018
I'll make it with pasta or my husband, and spiralized zucchini for myself. Spinach from the garden, squeezed over the soup bucket which rests in the freezer. Thanks, Kelli!
 
Gretchen T. April 29, 2018
Can fresh spinach be used
 
Author Comment
Carlos C. April 30, 2018
It can, but you will need quite a lot of spinach, since fresh spinach will expel a lot of water and reduce to nothing. Make sure that you have around 10-12 ounces of cooked spinach to make this recipe
 
Marcia April 25, 2018
Leftovers? Nope, my family inhaled it! So rich and delicious!! And fast, it's a keeper
 
Farmgirl April 20, 2018
Wow, very interesting life story, thank you for sharing, it also is a reminder to be kind to one another and to use our power to vote, thank you for sharing story and recipe. Will certainly be trying this.
 
Tracy April 19, 2018
Thank you! Made this for dinner and it was delish! Makes this vegetarian very happy. And kids liked it too : )Had to sub habaneros for scotch bonnets.
 
Author Comment
Carlos C. April 20, 2018
so glad you enjoyed this. And any chilies will work in this.
 
qtprof April 18, 2018
Carlos, My mom is from Ecuador and she too makes a mean Tallarines verdes. FYI, "Albahaca" is Sweet basil, lol.
 
Author Comment
Carlos C. April 19, 2018
Yeah. she finally found out what that was.
 
LULULAND July 29, 2018
Thank you for mentioning a new dish to me, I will try that.
 
Nancy April 18, 2018
There is nothing like "family" recipes - especially authentic, fresh and made from the heart. I cant wait to make this, and think of the lovely story that goes with it.
 
Author Comment
Carlos C. April 18, 2018
thank you
 
Pamela G. April 18, 2018
Are the Scotch Bonnet Chilies super hot. My husband is not crazy about spicy food.
 
Author Comment
Carlos C. April 18, 2018
Yes. They are very hot. You can use any chiles you'd like, or no chiles at all. Or you don't even need to make the hot sauce. It is an optional accompaniment.
 
Pamela G. April 18, 2018
Thank you for responding. I can’t wait to try this. My husband has always been the cook in our relationship but now we are older (than dirt) and I have taken over in the kitchen. I’m going to make the sauce because I love spicy dishes. Love Food 52.
 
fur8elise April 18, 2018
"Green Spaghetti" is the very similar recipe in the 1980's "La Leche League Cookbook" (rest assured, the recipes involved no breast milk!). My kids LOVED this growing up and it always assured a lot of spinach was sliding down their little gullets!
 
Author Comment
Carlos C. April 18, 2018
I will need to look up that cookbook. I'm intrigued. And it seems as if every kid loves this dish. I find myself recommending it to moms now just as that neighbor recommended it my mom 30 years ago.
 
fur8elise April 18, 2018
"Green Spaghetti" is the very similar recipe in the 1980's "La Leche League Cookbook" (rest assured, the recipes involved no breast milk!). My kids LOVED this growing up and it always assured a lot of spinach was sliding down their little gullets!
 
eakesin April 17, 2018
Thank you for sharing this article and recipe. I love this series!
 
Author Comment
Carlos C. April 18, 2018
glad you enjoyed it.