Italian Salsa Verde Pasta (Sauce Verde)

5 from 1 vote

Italian salsa verde is a bold, brightly flavored green sauce that is as versatile as it is delicious. Featuring spinach, parsley, anchovies, capers, lemon, and more, this sauce is earthy, tangy, briny, and fresh.

closeup: a heaping plate of penne with italian salsa verde, cherry tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese

For a simple-to-make sauce that delivers a major dose of Mediterranean flavor, look no further than Italian salsa verde. 

Don’t be confused, though! This is not the Mexican salsa verde or chimichurri that might first come to mind. And it isn’t a pesto either! 

Also called sauce verde, this delectable dish is a vibrant blend of spinach and parsley with briny capers, salty anchovies, and lively lemon juice. A little kosher salt and a dash of red pepper flakes add the finishing touches. It’s that easy! 

This recipe may be simple, but don’t let it fool you — each and every ingredient in Italian salsa verde is bursting with bold, authentic flavor. This sauce comes together in minutes when you need it and will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

overhead: a large white plate full of penne pasta covered in sauce verde with Parmesan and cherry tomatoes on top

In this recipe, I have it teamed up with penne pasta, but feel free to branch out. Wonderful as a dip, drizzle, or pasta dressing, this versatile sauce is perfect whether you are making steaks or spaghetti. 

For more tasty sauce recipes, check out my Marinara Sauce, Garlic Sauce, and Chili Sauce.

overhead: italian salsa verde ingredients in a food processor before processing

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Spinach – Makes up the bulk of the sauce, giving it a fresh, mild flavor and deep green color. Traditional versions don’t use spinach, but I like to sneak in those greens anywhere I can.
  • Parsley – Brings a pungent, herbaceous, and peppery taste to the mix. 
  • Capers Add a tart brightness to the sauce. You can usually find them in jars by the olives and pickles or sometimes in the international aisle. 
  • Lemon Juice Perks up the recipe with a burst of lively lemon flavor. 
  • Anchovy Paste – Delivers a concentrated dose of salty umami flavor. 
  • Kosher Salt – Enhances and harmonizes the other ingredients in the dish without making everything too salty. Feel free to use any salt you have on hand. 
  • Red Pepper Flakes – Adds just the right amount of spicy heat to compliment the cooler elements of the sauce. 
  • Olive Oil The delicate, complex flavors of olive oil will really shine in this recipe. I recommend using the highest quality oil you have access to. 
  • Penne Pasta – You’re free to substitute any short pasta of your choice. Rotini, cavatappi, or even bowtie would be great.
overhead: sauce verde ingredients in a food processor after processing

Tip From Kevin

Salsa Verde: Italian or Spanish?

Both! Salsa verde means green sauce in both Italian and Spanish, and each respective culture has its own version. 

The green sauce in this recipe is Italian salsa verde, an herb-based sauce that is slightly similar to a pesto. 

Mexican salsa verde, on the other hand, is more like salsa. It has a looser consistency than the Italian version and is usually made with tomatillos.

closeup: penne in italian salsa verde with Parmesan and cherry tomatoes on top

How to Make Italian Salsa Verde Pasta

  1. Combine & Blend. Reserve the olive oil and combine all the other ingredients in a food processor or blender. Puree the mixture, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil, blending as you go, until a smooth paste forms. Taste and add seasonings as desired. 
  2. Prepare the Penne. Follow the package directions to prepare the pasta. Drain after cooking, reserving ¼ cup of the pasta water. 
  3. Add the Sauce. Use a large bowl to toss the pasta with the entire batch of sauce and the ¼ cup of pasta water. 
  4. Season & Serve. Add seasonings to taste, plus a bit of shredded rotisserie chicken if desired.
penne with sauce verde in a white plate with grated cheese and cherry tomatoes on top

Frequently Asked Questions

How much penne pasta for 4 servings?


2 ounces of dry pasta per person is a good rule of thumb to follow when making pasta. So, if you want to have enough for 4 servings, you’ll need 8 ounces of penne.

What is the difference between pesto and sauce verde?


Both are traditional Italian green sauces made by blending olive oil and garlic with herbs, spices, and other ingredients. 

The primary difference between the two is that pesto traditionally includes cheese and pine nuts, whereas sauce verde does not. 

Also, traditional pesto is made mostly of basil, while this Italian salsa verde is spinach and parsley based. Sauce verde often contains capers, anchovies, and other items not always found in pesto.

Of course, countless versions of both pesto and sauce verde exist today, so you may find some crossover.

What pairs well with Italian salsa verde?


The bright, herbaceous flavors in salsa verde make it super versatile. Check out some of these suggestions to get you started and never hesitate to get creative.

– Spoon over penne, linguine, fettuccine, spaghetti or any pasta of your choice.
– Incorporate into quinoa or rice dishes like Greek Lemon Rice or this Mediterranean Rice Pilaf
– Mix some into salads like Mediterranean Couscous Salad or Shirazi Salad with Chickpeas.
– Serve with roasted meats like Lebanese Kafta, Lamb Shawarma, and Mediterranean Grilled Chicken.
– Enjoy alongside Mediterranean Hummus, Tabouli Salad, and Pita Bread for dipping.

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Italian Salsa Verde Pasta (Sauce Verde)

5 from 1 vote
Italian salsa verde is a classic Mediterranean sauce made from spinach and parsley along with flavorful capers, anchovy paste, and lemon.
Servings: 4
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 15 minutes

Ingredients 

Instructions 

  • Add all ingredients except olive oil to a blender or food processor and purée. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil until a smooth sauce develops. Season to taste.
  • Cook pasta per package directions and drain, reserving a 1/4 cup pasta water.
  • In a large bowl toss the cooked pasta, entire batch of sauce verde and the pasta water. Season to taste and serve.
  • Add shredded rotisserie chicken if desired.

Notes

This makes a little more than 1 1/2 cups of sauce verde total.

Nutrition

Calories: 402kcal | Carbohydrates: 47g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 1665mg | Potassium: 508mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 5506IU | Vitamin C: 53mg | Calcium: 100mg | Iron: 4mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: main dishes
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Kevin
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
titled image (and shown): sauce verde pasta

Kevin

I was bitten by the cooking bug as a kid cooking and baking along side my mom. After an ROP restaurant course in high school, I went to work in restaurants and catering. My love of travel and food has led me across the world and I love to share those foods with family and friends.

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Wow, talk about flavor! Where has this been all my life. Thanks for turning me onto another new recipe, it was a big hit with the family. My 16 year old son said the leftovers were good cold too.