Mother's Day

Kelli's Green Spaghetti With Aji Sauce

April 14, 2018
Photo by James Ransom
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

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe is part of our My Family Recipe series. —The Editors

  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 4
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
  1. Green Spaghetti
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  1. Aji Sauce
  2. Roughly chop the scotch bonnet chiles and place in a blender.
  3. 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.
  4. Transfer the onions and garlic to the blender. Add peanut butter, cream cheese, and milk. Blend until smooth. Taste for salt and blend again.
  5. Transfer to a serving dish or storage container. Serve with the green spaghetti. Leftovers can be kept refrigerated for up to three days.

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  • Carlos C. Olaechea
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Review
I was born in Peru to a Limeño father and a Texan mother. We moved to Miami when I was five, and I grew up in the "Kendall-suyo" neighborhood—often called the 5th province of the Inca Empire because of its large Peruvian population. I've been writing about food since I was 11 years old, and in 2016 I received a master's degree in Gastronomy from Boston University. A travel columnist at Food52, I'm currently based in Hollywood, Florida—another vibrant Peruvian community—where I am a writer, culinary tour guide, and consultant.