No Cook Herb Pasta Sauce

It’s getting hot and that means lighter food, and using the stove as little as possible. This easy no cook herb pasta sauce is just what the weatherman ordered. Essentially a nut-free pesto, it can be made with whatever beautiful summertime herbs or greens you have on hand. I used cilantro and parsley (yes, I’ve already written about my obsession with cilantro pesto), but basil, sorrel, spinach, mint, dandelion greens, or even a pinch of dill would all be lovely. This is good warm, but is just as good as a cold pasta salad of sorts. Bring it to a bbq. Or eat the leftovers cold right out of the fridge.

When I say that it’s getting hot, please allow me to remind you that I live in the Middle East. In the desert. So it’s May and yesterday hit 101F. I already have a dramatic flip flop tan and my ears burned after a 20 minute walk. I wanted something light and easy for dinner. After rummaging around in my fridge and pantry this is what I found: a bunch each of cilantro, parsley, and scallions, lots of garlic, lemons, red peppers, Parmesan, pasta. Meal: done. It was ready in the time it took to cook the pasta and tasted fresh and summery. The roasted red pepper is totally optional here.

The key to making this a good sauce, one that fully coats the pasta in a slick, even layer, is the pasta water. Without it, pesto can be a little grainy. Globby. Just a little pasta water – I blended a tad in while making the sauce, and also poured some more in when tossing it with the pasta – invokes some sort of alchemy in which it turns into a smooth sauce. I recommend incorporating a dash of pasta water into all of your sauces. It’s an old trick, and one that works well.


No Cook Herb Pasta Sauce
Yield: 4 Servings (about 1 cup of sauce)
  • 1 red pepper (optional)
  • 1 pound pasta (any shape)
  • ½ bunch cilantro
  • ½ bunch parsley
  • 1 small bunch scallions
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • ¼-½ cup olive oil
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. If using, cook the red pepper in the broiler, oven, or over the flame of a gas stove until slightly charred. Remove from the heat and put in a brown paper bag or cover with paper towels. Once cool, remove the skin. Slice, de-seed, and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining.
  3. To make the sauce, combine the cilantro, parsley, scallions, garlic, and ¼ cup olive oil in a food processor. Blend until a paste forms. Add the lemon juice and Parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Taste and add more garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, Parmesan, salt, and/or pepper as needed. Add a dash of the pasta water and blend until smooth. Toss with the pasta and roasted red pepper and add more pasta water as needed. Serve with additional Parmesan for grating on top.



20 thoughts on “No Cook Herb Pasta Sauce

    • Katherine

      So glad you like it! It’s so versatile so you can use whatever herbs you have on hand. Enjoy!

    • Katherine

      Thanks Deeba! It is definitely light and refreshing. We didn’t have any leftovers to test out my theory, but I think it would be just as good – and even more refreshing – cold!

    • Katherine

      Thank you. Me too! I love any kind of pesto, with any kind of herb, with or without any kind of nut. So versatile!

  1. Allison

    I was craving some pasta tonight and thought I had nothing for a good sauce- you have proven me wrong. That was AMAZING. I told the kids it was Incredible Hulk Pasta to get them to try it and they each had more than a couple helpings. They currently are comparing muscles in the bathroom mirror. It was so yummy! Thanks!

  2. Jane

    Hello Katherine,
    Just a little note to thank you for sharing this recipe. I am being a little more creative; exploring new tastes and flavors with herbs. This dish is not only colourful, its simply scrumptious! Thanks again!

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