Lemony Collard Greens Pasta

lemony collard greens pasta

Last weekend, I stopped by Native Roots Market for some groceries, hoping to find some inspiration while I was there. Some beautiful, local collard greens from my friends at Peach Crest Farm caught my eye. It seems strange that after living in the borderline-Southern state of Oklahoma my whole life, I’d never tried collard greens. I’ve been trying to branch out and try different kinds of produce, so into the basket went the collard greens.

spaghettini and collard greens

At home, I tore off a little piece and nibbled on it, raw. Nothing special, tasted sort of like kale. Later, I recalled some collard wraps I’ve seen in blogland and tried using blanched collard leaves as wraps for the last of my lentil curry. The taste wasn’t worth the effort.

brazilian collard greens

Then I recalled my friend Matt telling me how great collard greens are when they’re sliced super thin, so I got to googling. I googled my way past all the slow-cooked, bacon-heavy Paula Deen recipes and found a gem of a tutorial for Brazilian collard greens.

brazilian collard greens recipe

The idea is to slice the greens as thin as possible, and sauté them for just a few minutes, until they’re dark green and fragrant. The technical term for this slicing technique is chiffonade. I tried cooking up one big leaf in this manner for “dessert” and hello, lover! I’m smitten with collard greens. This lively spaghetti dish came to me as I twirled my fork in those spicy, skinny greens and fortunately, it is just as good in reality as it was in my head.

lemon collard greens pasta recipe

I don’t know whether to call this recipe Southern due to the collard greens, or Brazilian because of the method, or Italian since it’s a pasta dish. Southern-Brazilian-Italian fusion, anyone? Never mind. Whatever you want to call this dish, it’s spicy and bright, with bold lemon flavor, and comes together in a flash! The one-to-one ratio of whole wheat spaghettini to produce is just the way I like my pasta. I hope you’ll give collard greens another chance with this lemony pasta recipe.

lemon collard greens pasta

Lemony Collard Greens Pasta
4.9 from 7 reviews
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 8 ounces fresh collard greens (about 10 big leaves)
  • ⅓ or more of a package of whole wheat thin spaghetti or “spaghettini”
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • olive oil (the good stuff)
  • 2 small cloves garlic, pressed
  • big pinch red pepper flakes
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese
  • ½ or more of a lemon, cut into wedges
  1. Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to directions. Drain quickly, reserving a bit of cooking water, and set aside.
  2. Cut out the center rib of each collard green. Stack a few greens at a time and roll them up into a cigar-like shape. Slice across the roll as thinly as possible (1/8″ to ¼″). Shake up the greens and give them a few chops so the strands aren’t so long.
  3. Heat a heavy-bottomed 12″ skillet over medium heat and toast the pine nuts until they start to turn golden and fragrant. Pour them out of the skillet and save for later.
  4. Return the skillet to medium heat and pour in a tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle in a big pinch of red pepper flakes and the garlic and stir. Once the oil is hot enough to shimmer, toss in all of your collard greens. Sprinkle the greens with salt. Stirring often (try not to let them clump), sauté the greens for about three minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from heat. Scoop the greens into the pasta pot and toss with another drizzle of olive oil, adding pasta water if necessary. Divide onto plates, top with pine nuts and Parmesan shavings and serve with two big lemon wedges per person.
  • Serves two.
  • Watch this video tutorial for a quick overview of the cooking method.
  • Although I haven't tried it, I think walnuts would make a fine substitute for the pine nuts.
  • Vegans, you can totally skip the cheese. It's still great without it.
  • Use a cheese plane to create Parmesan shavings. I'm over grated Parmesan; shavings are the way to go!
  • Peach Crest collard greens, Bionaturae spaghettini, Canaan olive oil and pine nuts kindly provided by Native Roots Market.


  1. says

    I often make pasta with sautéed greens, red pepper flakes, and parmesan, but never with collard greens. It’s nice to shake up the routine a bit, and I look forward to trying this recipe with collard greens. In Arkansas, where I grew up, we ate cooked collard greens and mustard greens with hot pepper vinegar. Do you guys have that in Oklahoma?

  2. says

    I love collard greens! My dad made them fairly often for me growing up, so they always remind me of him. :)

    Beautiful photography in this post!

  3. says

    I love how healthy and wholesome this recipe is! :) The best part about it is the thinly sliced collards. You know, I have always chopped my leaves roughly and they’re always in big chunks. Thinly slicing them makes them look pretty and probably brings out flavor too. Simple, classy, delicious!

  4. says

    I became obsessed with collard greens over the past year and slice them exactly like that. I was always under the misconception that they had to be coked for hours on end like they are in the south until they are mushy and quite an unpleasant green color. Thank goodness I figure out that’s not the case. If you ever do them as a side dish by themselves try a dash of apple cider vinegar while you saute them, it’s delicious.

  5. says

    The thin strips are such a great idea – they look so pretty! Besides sauteing them, I’ve been adding collards raw to smoothies and using them in place of wraps (sorry, but I like them this way!). My next venture is going to be testing out collard green pesto. Here’s a little helpful bit of info for you – I read that collards keep the longest in your refrigerator when compared to all other greens out there!

  6. Susanne says

    Great way of using collard greens! It’s totally new for me :) And I would love to try it!
    I’m from The Netherlands and we eat a lot of collard greens during the winter, we boil them together with potatoes and mash them up with butter, milk, nutmeg and mustard. But this is far better for spring!

  7. says

    I love pasta with greens and lemon, I’ve never tried collard greens though, living in Australia I’m not sure what they are but am v. intrigued.

    Lovely fresh dish.

  8. says

    Your collard ribbons are beautiful! This looks totally simple and delicious. Spring is one of my favorite times to eat collards because I get the small tender ones in the market and they’re great raw.

  9. says

    Ohhh collard greens! I love being able to discover different kinds of greens just by chatting with the farmers that bring their goodies to the farmer’s market every week. I usually just pan sear mine, but can imagine how delicious they are in pasta. Today, I spotted some stinging nettles at the market, but I think I’m still not ready for them!

  10. says

    Collard greens are one of my favorite leafy greens! They are versatile and so hardy. Did you save the stems? They are also fantastic sliced very thin and thrown into a stir fry!

  11. says

    Living in NC, the markets are overflowing with collards. I was introduced to the Brazilian method a few years ago, and almost always employ it when I want to quickly sauté the greens. Glad you like them :)

  12. cathy says

    I love the ratio of greens to noodles in your photo. This is such a healthy way to enjoy pasta. Up there in your comments, Abby mentioned wanting to make pesto with collards. I do this all of the time with kale, and I’m sure it would work beautifully with collards. (With the kale, I often use walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds instead of pine nuts.) If you don’t put cheese in the pesto, it freezes well, too.

    • says

      Thanks for your great comment, Cathy! I’ve never met a pesto I didn’t like. I like freezing mine for later, but I usually make too much at once and it takes me forever to eat it all! Once I finish my basil pesto from last fall I’d like to try this kale, roasted red pepper and pecan pesto recipe I found. I’ll definitely post it if it’s as good as I think it will be!

  13. says

    I also like this balance of greens to pasta, and think sturdy greens with whole wheat pasta is one of the best pasta combos going. I am looking forward to trying this lemony approach. My current favorite is garlicky, spicy dandelion greens with whole wheat spaghetti and blue cheese.

    • says

      That sounds fantastic! I have never tried dandelion greens but I will keep an eye out for some. I love spicy greens so I’m sure I’ll enjoy them!

  14. Jennifer says

    I tried this recipe last night and it was delicious. I got collard greens in my CSA box and had no idea what to do with them. This pasta was great. We used walnuts, since that’s what I had. Added good crunch. The lemon really made the dish, though. We tried it first without, and then with the lemon squeezed over the top and my husband agreed that it really made a huge difference in flavor.

    • says

      So glad to hear that you enjoyed the collard greens, Jennifer! I don’t like soggy greens so I much prefer them prepared the Brazilian way. I’ve been squeezing lemon onto all sorts of dishes lately; it really brightens the flavor without adding any fat or sodium. You’re right, it really makes this dish!

  15. Laura Deaton says

    I’m about to make these and I realized that I’m not sure when to add the garlic from the instructions above. I’m going to assume that its with the red pepper flakes in the olive oil, but if I’m wrong, could you let me know?


    • says

      I’m sorry for the confusion, Laura! Yes, you are correct in adding the garlic along with the red pepper flakes. I will correct the recipe.

  16. kristina says

    i liked this so much i made it two nights in a row! first w/ collard greens and walnuts, second with rainbow chard and sesame seeds!! thanks!

  17. Laura Deaton says

    Made this last night and did a bit of a redux to make it “no added oil, no added salt.” Used whole wheat linguini and cut the collards to the same width to match. Used no oil and used low-sodium veggie broth instead to saute the garlic and red pepper flakes. Added the collards and added a little extra veggie broth, but used no salt. Fantastic! Thanks for the fab recipe! I’m always looking for things that can be low-fat, low-sodium, and still taste delicious!

    • says

      Thanks so much for commenting, Laura! It’s great to hear that this dish can be made to suit low-fat, low-sodium diets. Glad you enjoyed it that way!

  18. Fiona says

    Just wanted to tell you that I’m making this for the second time (although over quinoa the second time) and I LOVE this. Thanks so much!

  19. Caitlin says

    Loved this recipe! I was browsing online looking for a new way to use collard greens for dinner, and this was way better than what I expected to find–a delicious recipe and a great blog. I was so excited to have the leftovers for lunch today because the recipe was so tasty. Thanks for sharing!

    • says

      So glad to hear you enjoy the collard greens pasta, Caitlin! I’ve yet to find another technique for cooking collards that I enjoy as much as this one.

  20. Gina says

    We LOVED this recipe! My husband said he was expecting it to be bland because he doesn’t tend to like pasta without sauces, but he loved this! We toasted almonds instead of pine nuts and they were delicious. Easy and delish. Thanks! :D

    • says

      That’s great to hear! Thank you, Gina. I’m a sauce girl myself, but something about the collard greens and lemon is just right.

  21. Linda says

    This was so delicious!!! Thank you for this great recipe. I get a bunch of collard greens every week from my CSA basket and have always had a love-hate relationship with them. I love the nutritional value but their bitter taste was hard to swallow at times (literally). :) It has been a challenge to find ways to make it appetizing and they are sadly the last thing to get used or not at all. With this recipe I used almost all of it and it was delicious! Thanks again for bringing some excitement to collard greens!

    • says

      Thanks, Linda! So glad you enjoyed the collard greens cooked this way. Those little collard ribbons make a fun garnish for soups and such as well.

  22. Missy says

    Made a big batch of this tonight for a bunch of fussy eaters, and it was a HUGE success! I used kamut pasta for the gluten intolerant among us, and it worked out beautifully. I scaled the recipe up for 6 people, so I did the collards in a cast-iron wok, which was just the right size and made it easy to stir quickly and keep the greens from clumping. Everyone went back for seconds, and we practically licked the bowl clean. Thank you!

    • Missy says

      Oh! and I forgot to mention that we did a lemon/thyme/olive oil marinated chicken breasts and tofu on the barbecue, sliced them and poultry eaters and vegetarians could choose their protein of choice to put on top. Something for everybody… :-)

    • says

      So glad to hear it, Missy! I’ll have to hunt down some kamut pasta to try. Great idea to cook the collards in a wok, too.

  23. MrsD says

    I loved this! Made it with walnuts because I can’t find pine nuts in the little town I live in…sigh. We are adding vegetarian meals to our diet twice a week. This was just delicious and we will definitely try more of your recipes now :)

    • says

      Thanks for commenting! I’m so glad you’re loving this recipe. It’s so simple and tasty. Hope you enjoy the other recipes!

  24. Samantha says

    I have made this recipe several times, it’s delicious! I always use crushed walnuts instead of pine nuts. This time in going to add a little bit of Kalamata olives to it. I think it will be a great addition to the dish!

  25. Slavomira says

    It’s not that I don’t trust you. I just love garlic and spice. I always (at least) use double the suggested garlic and hots in a recipe. This one came out really well that way too. I love it when my food is so spicy it hurts so good. I also topped my dish with a requisite fried runny egg. (: thank you for another winning recipe!

    • says

      Thanks, Slavomira! I looove spicy food, too, but I try to keep spice levels under control for the masses. :) Glad you enjoyed this one! Fried egg sounds like a great topper.

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