Leafy greens pesto using spinach, arugula, and/or watercress is a lighter, greener sauce for easy pasta dishes like this one; it’s also good on warm potatoes, potato salads, grain pilafs, and more.
I’ve always preferred pesto sauce that combines herbs with spinach or other leafy greens to basil-only pesto, which can be overpowering.
Another downside is that it turns brown all too quickly. Instead, I offer you this lovely and simple pasta with a leafy greens pesto that you can enjoy all year round.
For this recipe I recommend baby spinach, arugula, watercress, or a combination. My favorite way to make this is half and half with the spinach and one of the others, which add a peppery flavor to the dish. See this site’s Guide to Watercress.
If you’ve come here to find a standalone leafy greens pesto recipe, you might like this easy and delicious arugula pesto.
Complete the meal: For an easy warm-weather dinner, serve this lovely pasta with leafy greens pesto with a simple bean dish or bean salad. Or toss together a salad of diced ripe tomatoes, chickpeas, and cucumbers dressed in lemon juice and little olive oil. Add fresh corn on the cob or grill-cooked vegetables for a larger meal.
More ways to use this pesto: Though this pesto makes a lovely uncooked sauce for summer pasta, don’t stop there. Try it as a tasty topping for sautéed potatoes or as an offbeat dressing for potato salad, ladled onto cooked grains, or as a garnish for cold soups.
- 10 to 12 ounces pasta, your favorite shape (see notes)
- 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 to 2 cloves garlic, crushed, optional
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice, fresh or bottled
- 1/2 cup walnut halves (see notes)
- 6 ounces baby spinach, arugula, or watercress, or a combination
- 1/2 cup basil or parsley leaves, or more, to taste
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 cup steamed fresh or frozen green peas, optional
- Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente, then drain and transfer to a serving container.
- Combine all the ingredients except the salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse on and off until the mixture is a coarse, even puree. You may need to add the spinach in batches if your processor has a small or medium-sized container.
- Stop the machine and season gently with salt and pepper; taste to see if you’d like to add more lemon juice, then pulse a few times to mix.
- Transfer the pesto to the serving container and toss with the pasta. Stir into hot cooked pasta or use as suggested above in the headnote.
- Just before serving, stir in the peas, if you'd like.
Use any long shape like spaghetti or linguini, or any short chunky shape like mini-penne, farfalle, or rotelle.
Substitute 1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachios or 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts for the walnuts, or omit nuts if you’d like a less caloric pesto.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 390Total Fat: 14 ggSodium: 68 mgmgCarbohydrates: 59 ggFiber: 9 ggProtein: 15 gg
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See lots more recipes for pasta and noodles.