If there were ever a summer pasta, these vibrant green “olive leaves” would be it! With just three ingredients and a butter knife, you can make a beautiful shape to add to your pasta repertoire—no special equipment required.
Foglie d'ulivo hail from Italy’s southern Apulian region, and I like to think of them as the more delicate cousins of orecchiette, with plenty of ridges for catching sauce. If you don’t have spinach on hand for the dough, use any tender green available. Arugula, kale, and chard are all great options—just make sure to remove any fibrous stems and ribs before blanching. And if you don’t want to dye the dough, no problem: Omit the greens altogether and use 150 milliliters (5.3 ounces, ~2/3 cup) of warm water instead. (Oh, and we'll be using the well method to make this dough, which you can learn more about here.)
Although the August heat might not scream "pasta!" (though every season is pasta season in my book), this fresh and spicy no-cook salsa verde will change your mind. Like pesto, it’s a “green sauce” that’s more of a genre than a recipe, so I encourage you to tailor the ingredients and measurements to your liking. Want to tone down the spice? Halve that chile pepper, or leave it out entirely. Still can’t get into anchovies? Take them out. I promise I won’t judge.
By the way, this sauce is also excellent served with fish, spread on a sandwich, drizzled on raw or roasted vegetables…or eaten by the spoonful. You won’t regret making a double batch. —Meryl Feinstein, Pasta Social Club
Test Kitchen Notes
Pasta Social Club is a column by Meryl Feinstein, Food52's Resident Pasta Maker, community builder, and pastaia extraordinaire. Meryl will teach us about everything from semolina to spaghetti to sauce—and will show us how pasta is a great way to make great friends and have lots of fun. —The Editors
- Prep time 2 hours
- Cook time 15 minutes
- Serves 2 to 4
- For the pasta:
fresh spinach or other tender greens (see author notes)
(10.6 ounces, ~2 cups) semolina or semola rimacinata flour
(2.65 ounces, ~1/3 cup) water
- For the salsa verde:
fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves only
fresh mint, leaves only
fresh basil leaves
medium garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
Castelvetrano (or similar) olives, pitted and roughly chopped
anchovy fillets (optional, but excellent)
small fresh green chile, such as serrano or jalapeño (see author notes)
lemon, zest and juice
extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
kosher salt, plus more to taste
Make the pasta dough
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Remove any tough stems and/or ribs from the greens as needed (see author note) and roughly chop any large leaves. Blanch the greens in the boiling water until wilted and vibrant in color, about 20 seconds. Drain immediately and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.
Transfer the greens to a blender with enough water so the blender runs smoothly, about 1/4 cup, and a homogenous, loose purée emerges. Weigh out 75 grams (~1/3 cup) of the purée and whisk together with the 75 milliliters (~1/3 cup) of water. Any leftover purée can be frozen in any air-tight container for future use.
Combine the greens mixture with the flour according to the “well method” (see author notes for a link to the method). Alternatively, add the flour to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. With the machine running, stream in the greens mixture until beads of dough start to form, then pulse until a coarse couscous-like texture emerges.
Once you’re done with the well method or the food processor, transfer the dough to a flat, ideally wooden surface and knead vigorously for about 10 minutes until smooth and firm. It should spring back to the touch and should not be sticky.
Wrap the dough in plastic or a damp dish towel and allow it to rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes.
Make the sauce
While the dough rests, remove the seeds and white pith from the chili pepper and roughly chop it. I find it helpful to taste a small piece to check the spice level before adding it to the sauce (you can always add more!).
Combine the herbs, garlic, olives, anchovies, chili pepper, capers, lemon zest, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade attachment. Stream in the olive oil as you pulse to combine until the mixture is well-chopped but still coarse. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and season to taste with salt, more lemon juice, and any of the other ingredients to your liking.
Transfer the sauce to a large bowl and drizzle more olive oil on top so the mixture is just submerged. Set aside.
Note: This sauce can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator in an air-tight container. Bring to room temperature before use and whisk to combine.
Make the pasta
Dust a baking sheet or with a light layer of semolina flour (or coarse cornmeal or polenta) and keep it nearby. Alternatively, line the tray with a dry dish towel.
On a wooden cutting board or surface, cut off a small piece of the dough with a bench scraper or sharp knife. Immediately re-wrap the remaining dough in the plastic or the damp dish towel to prevent it from drying out. Roll the piece of dough into a long, thin rope, about 1/4-inch thick. Cut the rope into roughly 1½-inch pieces.
Roll each piece back and forth between your hands while putting more pressure on the ends so they become tapered. If it’s easier, place each piece horizontally on the board and roll the ends a bit thinner than the center.
To form the foglie d'ulivo, position each piece of dough vertically on the board. Then, holding a butter knife almost parallel to the board, press its serrated edge into the center of the dough and begin to drag it horizontally. As you go, hold the starting point down gently with one or two fingers to keep the dough from sliding away.
Continue stretching the dough with the knife until the center is wider than the tapered ends and looks like a flat leaf. The serrated edge should create rough ridges—it’ll take a few tries to get a sense of how much pressure to use so the dough stretches but doesn’t tear. I find the motion to be a little gentler than making orecchiette (see author notes for a link to the method).
Transfer the finished foglie d'ulivo to the baking sheet in a single layer and repeat the process until the dough is gone. Remember that if you’re not satisfied with a particular piece, you can just scrunch the dough up and try again!
Storage notes: This pasta can be cooked right away or left to dry at room temperature for a couple of hours. For long-term storage, freeze the pasta on the baking sheet until solid, about 30 minutes, then dust off any excess semolina flour from the bottoms and transfer to a freezer-safe bag or container. The pasta will keep best for a couple of weeks and up to about a month. It should be cooked straight from frozen.
Finish the dish
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Right before adding the pasta, add a generous amount of salt and allow a few seconds for it to dissolve.
Cook the foglie d'ulivo for 2 to 3 minutes or until al dente (make sure to taste a piece after a couple of minutes to see how it’s coming along!).
With a slotted spoon, transfer the pasta directly to the large bowl with the salsa verde. Toss vigorously to combine—the residual pasta water and olive oil will thicken into a silky sauce. Serve immediately, topped with a drizzle of high-quality olive oil, if desired.