Pasta with zaatar pesto ( Zaatar akhdar pasta)


I discovered this recipe here in Beirut. The chef who created it is a woman, Marlene Mattar, who was in charge of a cooking segment in the Lebanese TV channel NBN. It is basically a pesto sauce but uses fresh zaatar called zaatar akhdar here as well as flat leaved parsley  instead of basil. Very convenient in Lebanon when basil is out of season. In the US, fresh oregano  could be used along with parsley and mint. The sauce can be prepared 3 days in advance and kept refrigerated and could also be frozen, covered with a thin layer of olive oil. The tomatoes are diced and cooked for a couple of minutes in some olive oil and garlic and then piled on top of the pasta.  I served the dish cold but it is best warm or at room temperature.

Recipe adapted from  Ma’edat  Marlene by Marlene Mattar

INGREDIENTS: Quantity will serve 6 to 8 people

500g spaghetti or cappellini (1 pound)

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

2 cups zaatar akhdar (can be substituted with any fresh herb, such as  baby arugula,spinach,  mint, etc)

1 cup flat parsley, leaves only, stems discarded (or kept for a vegetable stock)

30 g garlic cloves (about 8 cloves)

1/2 cup pine nuts (or less depending on taste)

1/2 cup of olive oil

1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated (or another cheese such as pecorino)

salt, white pepper, to taste

Tomato Sauce:

4 large tomatoes, peeled and seeded and cut into small dice (about 500g or 1 pound)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced (optional)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 cup zaatar akhdar, diced

salt, white pepper, to taste


  • Make the pesto. Place the zaatar, parsley, garlic and pine nuts in the food processor. Adding olive oil gradually, process until the mixture is pasty. Add the parmesan, salt and white pepper. Set aside.
  • Cook the pasta in at least 3 quarts of boiling water till al dente. Drain, reserving about one cup of pasta water. Place the pasta water in a small bowl for use later. Add the tablespoon of oil to the pasta and spread it evenly.
  • Make the tomato sauce: Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan, add some sliced garlic cloves (optional) and then drop the diced tomatoes. Cook for one minute and turn off the heat. Mix in the fresh zaatar and set the tomato sauce aside.
  • Add the zaatar pesto to the pasta water, mixing it gradually and then mix the pesto with the pasta thoroughly.
  • Place the pasta in a serving bowl, pile the tomatoes on top and garnish with any leftover herbs. Sahteyn!

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  1. Posted June 22, 2009 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    this is a very interesting and healthy version for a simple and tasty dish…
    thanks so much joumana for sharing with us.

  2. Joumana
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 3:28 am | Permalink

    I just need to investigate if zaatar akhdar is available in North america, maybe in Asian markets?

  3. Leyla
    Posted August 31, 2009 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    yes it is available, I planted some in my garden (greek Oregano)
    you can buy the one that we have in Lebanon from

  4. Joumana
    Posted September 1, 2009 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Thanks so much for this link! I just could not find zaatar akhdar in my area (Dallas) I will make that link available on the post. Thanks again!

2 Trackbacks

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  2. […] It is pungent and good with grilled meat as well. Chef Mattar has a recipe in which she makes a pesto out of it. Real […]

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