Easy spinach pesto pasta is vibrantly colored and boldly flavored. Spinach blends with fresh basil, lemon, extra-virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, garlic, and walnuts for a hearty, nutritious sauce. This 20-minute recipe is perfect for a weeknight dinner.
Pesto is as beautiful to look at as it is delicious to eat. Spinach pesto sauce has a vibrant green color that coats the noodles. The pesto's bright flavor comes from fresh ingredients like baby spinach, basil, lemon, and garlic. Fresh walnuts add body, nutty flavor, and added protein to the sauce.
Pesto comes together quickly thanks to the food processor. There is minimal prepping or chopping required for this simple pasta dish. While the recipe calls for fusilli, use any type or your favorite pasta.
Like my summer pesto pasta salad, this easy spinach basil pesto pasta is ready in minutes, making it a perfect weeknight dinner. Serve it as a meat-free main or add cooked proteins like chicken or shrimp. Remember the garlic butter rolls to serve on the side.
Spinach Pesto Recipe
Spinach and walnut pesto is a delicious sauce with healthy ingredients and vibrant flavor. This sauce is a great way to sneakily add vegetables to a pasta dinner the whole family will love. This easy recipe is adjustable and customizable. See variations for some suggestions.
- Pesto Sauce Made with Spinach - Delicious spinach pesto has bold, bright, comforting flavors and vibrant green color.
- Healthy Pesto Sauce - The sauce is packed with baby spinach, walnuts, lemon, basil, and extra-virgin olive oil. It is nutrient dense and has 12g of protein per serving.
- Quick and Easy - These easy pasta recipe is ready in minutes with minimal prep or hands-on cooking required. The food processor does most of the work for you.
- Fusilli Pasta - Vibrant pesto fills in all the nooks and crannies of fusilli pasta for flavor in every bite. The fusilli pasta pictured is the Fusilli Corti Bucati Pasta from Trader Joe's (which is excellent); classic fusilli is perfectly fine.
- Baby Spinach - Fresh baby spinach makes up a majority of the sauce. It is loaded with nutrients like calcium, folate, and magnesium. Blending spinach into pesto is also a great way to add vegetables to dinner.
- Fresh Basil - Sweet, peppery basil adds an oomph of flavor to the pesto while also contributing to the bright green color of the sauce.
- Walnuts - Walnuts add body and a creamy finish to the pesto, in addition to a delightful savory, nutty flavor.
- Parmesan Cheese (grated) - Salty, sharp, and tangy parmesan adds umami and texture to the pesto.
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil - Use the good stuff; pesto is a raw sauce, so the quality of ingredients is essential.
- Garlic (peeled and roughly chopped)
- Lemon Juice & Zest - Every sauce needs an acidic element. Fresh lemon juice and zest assist in the pesto's vibrant flavor and help keep it green.
- Ground Black Pepper
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (optional) - A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes does wonders but this ingredient is optional.
See the recipe card for the ingredient quantities.
How to Make Spinach Pesto Pasta
STEP 1 (BOIL THE PASTA) - Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, generously season the water with salt. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions until al dente.
STEP 2 (MAKE THE PESTO) - Place the spinach, basil, walnuts, garlic, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and 2 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil into a food processor. Blend until almost smooth. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. With the processor on low, drizzle in the remaining olive oil and blend until the pesto is smooth and completely incorporated.
STEP 3 (MIX) - Transfer the pesto to a large bowl. Pour the hot drained pasta into the bowl with the pesto and toss until all of the noodles are coated.
- Fusilli Pasta - Use any type of pasta with this simple spinach pesto sauce.
- Baby Spinach - Kale or Arugula
- Fresh Basil - Fresh Italian Parsley or Cilantro
- Walnuts - Pine Nuts, Almonds, Sunflower Seeds, or Pecans
- Parmesan Cheese - Pecorino Romano
- Creamy Pesto Pasta - Add ¼ cup of heavy cream or a ¼ cup of reserved starchy pasta water alongside the pesto when mixing the pasta.
- Chicken Bacon Pesto Pasta - Mix one cup of cubed, cooked chicken breast and ½ cup of bacon bits into the pesto pasta.
- With Protein - Stir in 1 to 2 cups of cubed, cooked chicken breast, shrimp, or salmon.
- Mix-Ins - Mix in vegetables like additional baby spinach, cooked (or jarred) artichoke hearts, cooked onions, or cherry tomatoes.
- Breville Food Processor - You need a large food processor to blend the ingredients together.
- Cuisinart Stock Pot
- Pyrex Prepware 4-Quart Rimmed Glass Mixing Bowl
- Microplane Zester
Transfer leftover pasta to an airtight container. Store the pasta in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Delicious Pasta Recipes
- 20-Minute Cherry Tomato Basil Pasta
- Creamy Chicken Pasta with Spinach
- Orecchiette with Sausage and Peas
- Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Pasta
- Bucatini Cacio e Pepe
- Once the water is boiling, generously salt it before adding the pasta.
- Reserve ¼ cup of the starchy pasta water and add it to the pasta when mixing everything together—this will give the pasta an even creamier texture. Add a little bit of water at a time until the desired creaminess has been reached.
- After washing the basil leaves, toss them in the salad spinner to dry them quickly.
- Pesto is freezable and great for make-ahead meals. Double or triple the recipe (not including the pasta) and freeze pesto in freezer-safe containers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Spinach is fantastic in pesto. It adds body, nutrients, and color to the sauce.
Yes, pesto is freezable. Freeze pesto in a freezer-safe container or separate containers (not including the pasta) for up to 3 months. Thaw the pesto entirely in the refrigerator before using.
Pesto is a raw sauce that does not need to be heated. For a warm pasta dish like this one, toss the pasta with pesto sauce while the noodles are still warm.
Spinach Pesto Pasta
- 8 oz fusilli pasta
- 5 oz baby spinach
- 2 oz basil leaves
- ¼ cup walnuts
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese plus more for garnish
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and roughly chopped
- 1½ tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, generously season the water with salt. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions until al dente.
- Place the spinach, basil, walnuts, garlic, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and 2 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil into a food processor. Blend until almost smooth. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. With the processor on low, drizzle in the remaining olive oil and blend until the pesto is smooth and completely incorporated.
- Transfer the pesto to a large bowl. Pour the hot pasta into the bowl with pesto and toss until all of the noodles are coated. Serve immediately with additional parmesan cheese.