A deliciously simple pasta with turnip greens (or turnip tops) that originally comes from the cucina povera, or poor man’s kitchen of Italy. Turnip greens – cima di rapa – are a true seasonal vegetable and are available from March until about June. They are somewhat bitter greens and they work perfect in this simple pasta. 

Pasta with turnip greens

Pasta with turnip greens

Maybe you’ve seen them in the supermarket, but you’re not quite sure what to do with them. It is a seasonal vegetable and you generally only find it in the supermarket for a short time. From March to June it should be available obviously depending on the region you live in.

Also the availability depends on how popular turnip greens are in the store. If no one buys it, chances are that it will no longer be in the assortment. In any case, I have noticed that it is really very short in the stores. But I also don’t check it every day so of course that could be just me.

What you need to make the pasta

One of the fun things about this simple recipe is that you really only need a few ingredients to make it delicious. It’s also very budget friendly so that’s a win-win. What you need for the pasta recipe is the following:

  • pasta (any type of pasta)
  • clove of garlic (4 pcs)
  • fresh turnip greens
  • bread crumbs
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • red pepper flakes or a fresh chili pepper
Ingredients for the pasta with turnip greens

I like using fresh orecchiette pasta (small ear pasta) for this dish, but like I said you can use any kind of pasta you like. You cook the pasta al dente, while you prepare the rest of the dish. You can use dry pasta or fresh pasta. Just make sure you use a large pot of water to cook it in. Save a bit of the pasta water if you want your dish to be a bit creamier. You can add a spoonful of the cooking water at the end of the process. It contains the starches and will make the pasta a bit creamier. 

Cucina povera

The cucina povera is known for working with simple ingredients. Something Italian cuisine excels at anyway. My friend Giulia Scarpaleggia just published a new book which is all about the cucina povera, so definitely check that out if you’re interested. The title of the book is – you guessed it – cucina povera.

The book has only just come out so I haven’t had it in my hands yet myself, but I know Giulia personally and she is a fantastic cook so I have no fear that this book is another gem.

With orecchiette

For the pasta with turnip greens, I chose orecchiette this time. Just because it’s such a cool name to pronounce. Haha. But it also fits this pasta very well. Because besides garlic, chili and turnip greens, there is nothing in it. No sauce. 

Pasta with turnip greens, garlic and chili

I think it’s delicious. I’m a fan of pasta with just a few ingredients anyway, such as pasta aglio e olio. Instead of parmesan cheese, which of course is very expensive, you use crispy fried breadcrumbs here. To be honest I used ready breadcrumbs for this recipe as I still had a bag of panko in the cupboard. Panko is a Japanese kind of coarse breadcrumb and that works really well in this dish. If you want you can definitely use parmesan cheese too. I ended up eating it with both the breadcrumbs and the parmesan. 

Closeup of the dish of pasta with turnip greens

Don’t skip the breadcrumbs though as that does add a lovely crunch to the dish. So good! Buon appetito!

While this is a vegetarian pasta dish it would be absolutely fantastic with something like fresh sausage or crispy bits of bacon added. 

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Pasta with turnip greens
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Pasta with turnip greens stir-fried in garlic and chili

Delicious vegetarian pasta with turnip greens, garlic and chili
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 people


  • 250 grams pasta
  • 500 gr turnip greens about 2 bunches
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ½ chili pepper
  • 50 grams breadcrumbs from stale bread or coarse breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil
  • Salt


  • Fry the breadcrumbs, tossed with a little oil, in the oven at low temperature (100°C) or in a frying pan until crisp and golden brown.
  • Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package until tender and drain.
  • Cut the bottom hard pieces off the turnip greens and slice the rest. Wash and dry well.
  • Peel and slice the garlic. Cut the chili pepper into small pieces.
  • Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a wide pan and sauté the garlic over low heat until lightly browned. Then stir in the chili pepper; sauté for a few minutes. Add the turnip greens and allow to wilt. Mix in the cooked pasta and mix well. Season to taste with salt. Serve with the crispy breadcrumbs on top.
Course: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: chili flakes, garlic, turnip greens
Diet: vegan, vegetarian

Nutrition Information

Calories: 328kcal, Carbohydrates: 66g, Protein: 12g, Fat: 2g, Saturated Fat: 0.4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 0.3g, Sodium: 146mg, Potassium: 564mg, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 14538IU, Vitamin C: 84mg, Calcium: 280mg, Iron: 3mg


The nutritional values above are calculated per portion. The details are based on standard nutritional tables and do not constitute a professional nutritional advice.

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