Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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What to do with collard greens - a tasty way to add them in pasta recipes

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Written by Vera C. Last updated on .

Collard greens growing in a backyard garden

Perhaps you've been given some collard greens and you're not sure how to cook them. If you're wondering how to make collard greens taste good, here is an easy way to use them in pasta recipes that even picky eaters will enjoy.

Simply follow the instructions I give below for how to prepare the collard greens for use in a pasta dish. Then either add the collard greens to your favorite pasta dish (I'll explain what step to add them in), or select one of the 3 favorite pasta recipes I mention and add them into that.

This tactic gets around the problem of being faced with a large side-dish of greens that you're not sure if you'll like. Adding collard greens to pasta turned out to be surprisingly family-friendly - even my kids liked it! You can think of it a bit like a substitute for fresh spinach, but be aware collard greens take longer to cook than spinach, so you'll need to follow the directions below.

My kids actually prefer collard greens rather then spinach in a pasta dish. With spinach, they didn't like its flavor or texture (slimy with some crunchy stalks, ugh), but collard greens had a much better flavor, none of the sliminess of spinach, and no stalks. When prepared as described, the collard greens slightly resemble chunky-cut herbs in the pasta, and doesn't seem as off-putting as an entire side of greens. So collard greens in pasta are a great way to add in extra nutrition in a family-friendly way that even picky eaters will like.

Furthermore, if you want to have vegetarian or vegan collard greens, simply use a vegetarian or vegan pasta recipe instead of one containing meat.

How to cook collard greens for use in pasta

  1. Collect several whole collard green leaves, remove stems. To remove the stem of collard greens, simply fold the leaf in half along the stem, holding your hands close to the stem, then just pull on the stem to rip it off.
  2. Boil the water for the pasta, but before you put the pasta in, cook your collard green leaves in it for 2 minutes. The water is fine to re-use to boil the pasta.
  3. Place the collard greens in a bowl of cold water for a minute or two.
  4. Then with your hands, squeeze out the extra water. It will feel a bit like crumpling a bit of parchment paper.
  5. With it in its squeezed shape, cut into thin ribbon strips, and make a few cuts crosswise as well. Let's call this result "collard green bits".
  6. Then simmer in 1T olive oil in a covered pot for 5 minutes. Add a quarter of a cup of water to that pot and continue simmering for 5 to 10 more minutes. Note: to save time, depending on the pasta recipe, this step can be included in with an existing step in your pasta recipe, typically at the same time as cooking the garlic - more about this below.

Your favorite pasta recipe will make collard greens taste good

If you already have a favorite pasta recipe that everyone likes, just go with that. This makes it more likely for the collard greens to go over well with everyone. If you're wondering what step to add this into, you have two options. Either:

  • Cook collard greens as I have said in steps 1 - 6 above, then mix them into your pasta recipe at the very end, just before serving. This is the sure-fire way for it to work out no matter what pasta recipe you are using.


  • If there is a step in your pasta recipe when you're cooking the garlic or onion in olive oil, add in the collard green bits from step 5 at that point and continue to simmer as per the instructions in step 6. Then carry on with the remainder of the pasta recipe.

Recommended pasta recipes that go well with collard greens

Here are 3 of my favorite pasta recipes. These work beautifully with and without collard greens:

  • Linguine with spinach and sun-dried tomato cream sauce - in this recipe, you'll add the collard green bits in at the same step as the chopped sun-dried tomatoes and minced garlic. If wanting a non-vegetarian dish, add cooked tail-off shrimp to the mix at this point also, otherwise omit the shrimp. Then simmer this mix as described in step 6 of how to cook the collard greens. Then continue with the remainder of the recipe.
  • Green olive pasta - add the collard green bits in at the same step as the garlic, simmer as instructed in step 6 of cooking collard greens. Continue with the rest of the recipe.
  • Mushroom spaghetti aglio olio - add the collard green bits at the same time as you add the garlic. Optional: if desiring a non-vegetarian recipe, add cooked shredded chicken or ham cubes at this point. Then simmer as shown in step 6 of the collard greens.

So if you're looking to branch out with some tasty new ideas, try any of these recipes. There are both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options for how to make these, so feel free to experiment and enjoy.

The bottom line for cooking collard greens in pasta

Any pasta recipe can become a quick and easy collard greens recipe when you follow this guide. Above I've shown how to cook collard greens to add to any pasta recipe, and next I've given some recommended pasta recipes that work well with collard greens. The recipes can be made vegetarian or non-vegetarian as desired.

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