Here is a quick and easy Mediterranean-style vegetarian pasta spaghetti. Pasta is bursting with the vibrant flavours of sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, capers, creamy feta cheese, and a handful of fresh aromatic herbs.
As I stood in my kitchen, surveying the ingredients I had on hand, I found myself with a half-empty fridge, some mushrooms, and a pack of baby spinach, no meat in sight. Considering it was midweek, I decided on a vegetarian dish. I usually have one vegetarian day per week, typically on a Wednesday or Thursday. Wanting to add some lively colours I grabbed a jar of sun-dried tomatoes from my cupboard. The thought of those sun-soaked tomato flavours inspired me to go the Mediterranean route. I tossed in some creamy feta cheese, tangy capers, a handful of aromatic herbs, and a few red chilies because I’m a fan of spicy food.
To capture the essence of the Mediterranean in your dish, focus on these key ingredients:
- Sun-Dried Tomatoes: As the name suggests, these are ripe tomatoes that have had their moisture removed through a drying process. This method concentrates their natural sweetness and tanginess, resulting in an intensely flavourful ingredient.
I prefer to chop them up before adding them to my dishes, they release more flavour compared to simply adding them as whole pieces directly from the jar. Additionally, if they come packed in olive oil infused with herbs, which is common in most jars, don’t throw it away! I often use this flavourful oil to enhance my dishes.
- Capers: Briny and zesty, capers add that distinctive Mediterranean punch that elevates the entire dish. Capers introduce a contrast to the dish, complementing the sweetness of sun-dried tomatoes and the creamy richness of feta cheese. When choosing capers for this dish, it’s best to go for those preserved in brine, as capers in vinegar can impart a more pungent and intense flavour, which may be too overpowering for this light Mediterranean meal
- Feta Cheese: hailing from Greece, it is known for its crumbly texture and tangy, salty taste. In this Mediterranean-inspired spaghetti, feta cheese is a perfect choice. Its creaminess complements the mushrooms and spinach, creating a satisfying blend of textures. Its tangy profile balances the sweetness of sun-dried tomatoes, offering a well-rounded taste with mediterranean charm.
- Aromatic Herbs: Don’t hold back on herbs like basil, oregano, and parsley; they bring a fragrant Mediterranean breeze to every bite.
Feel free to get creative with your choice of greens for this dish. While the recipe calls for baby spinach, you can easily swap it out for other leafy greens like Swiss chard to suit your taste. If you’re looking for more substitution options, you’ll find further suggestions below in the text.
The result? A light, summery, vegetarian pasta creation that pays homage to the vibrant essence of Mediterranean cuisine.
- herbs: thyme, parsley
- chili flakes
Garlic adds warmth that forms the foundation of this Mediterranean dish’s taste.
Use a generous handful of fresh herbs. Thyme, especially, works wonders with the mushrooms, enhancing their earthy essence. If you prepare without mushrooms, add some basil.
While the chili flakes are optional, don’t skip the herbs – they’re the heart of any Mediterranean-inspired dish. I added a pinch of chili flakes for that spicy kick – if you are not a spicy food lover, use them sparingly to keep it well-balanced.
- salt – It’s important to exercise caution when adding salt to this dish. Both capers and feta cheese contribute a salty punch to the overall flavour profile. Therefore, it’s advisable to taste the dish before adding any additional salt, as you might find that the natural saltiness from these ingredients is sufficient to season your meal to perfection.
This recipe keeps things simple when it comes to cooking.
First, your choice of pasta is cooked separately, and you can even prepare it a day ahead to save time. The sauce takes a mere 15 minutes or less to prepare. When it comes to the cooking process, remember not to overdo the frying of onions or vegetables; a gentle sauté is all that’s needed.
And for that burst of freshness, add half of the parsley right at the end. If you’re omitting milk from the recipe, a drizzle of unfiltered olive oil over the fully mixed and served dish adds a superb finishing touch.
- Pasta: While spaghetti or spaghettini is the classic choice for this dish due to its light and thin nature, you have the flexibility to use other small pasta varieties that complement the light sauce. Consider options like linguine, or vermicelli. However, I would advise avoiding larger pasta shapes such as fusilli or penne, as they may not harmonize as well with the delicate sauce.
- Spinach: If you’re looking to switch out spinach, Mediterranean vegetables like courgettes (zucchini) or aubergines (eggplants) can work beautifully. Especially courgettes. Cut them thinly and sauté them until tender to maintain the Mediterranean flair.
- Sun-dried tomatoes: In the absence of sun-dried tomatoes, ripe sweet cherry tomatoes can step in as an alternative. You can either slightly fry them together with other vegetables for a burst of flavour or use them raw for a fresh twist. Just ensure they are of the sweet variety for that perfect balance.
- Mushroom: As for mushrooms, while I incorporated them as a convenient fridge find, feel free to skip them or experiment with different mushroom varieties based on your preferences. The flexibility of this dish allows you to tailor it to your taste or adapt it with ingredients you have on hand.
Serving & Presentation
When it comes to serving, I like to mix the cooked pasta with a bit of sauce and let it soak up those delicious flavours for about 10 minutes. After that, I plate it up and drizzle some extra virgin unfiltered olive oil over the top to give it that Mediterranean flair. A sprinkle of fresh parsley adds a burst of freshness, and a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper enhances the overall taste.
For a richer option, you can consider placing a sunny-side-up fried egg on top of your dish. When you break the egg, the runny yolk will flow over the pasta, creating a decadent and mouthwatering experience.
Vegetarian pasta spaghetti Mediterranean style
- cooked pasta - for 3 medium size portions
- 10 mushrooms - medium-large size
- 6 – 7 pieces sun-dried tomatoes
- 300 g spinach
- 100 g feta cheese
- 2 tbsp cream cheese - Philadelphia
- 1 tbsp capers
- 1 onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 tbsp milk
- 80-100 ml olive oil
- 1 tbsp thyme
- 1 tsp chili flakes
- 3-4 tbsp parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Cook the spaghetti, drain them, and return them to the pot. Keep warm and covered if making the sauce at the same time.
- Fry the onion for 3 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms, finely chopped capers, and finely chopped dried tomatoes. Sauté for about 5-7 minutes.
- In the last minute, add the garlic and fry for additional minute, not more.
- Add the washed and chopped spinach, half of the parsley, and thyme. Sauté for about 3-4 minutes until the spinach completely "wilts.
- Add the milk and stir in the cream cheese. Season with chili flakes, salt, and pepper to taste, but be cautious with the salt, because capers and feta are salty! Sauté for an additional 2 minutes.
- Add half of the sauce to the spaghetti, and mix well to evenly distribute the sauce. Then add crumbled feta cheese and mix carefully.
- Serve in a bowl and add extra sauce on top, and the rest of the fresh parsley.