Italian, The Weekly Menus and Recipes

Recipe 20.3: Pasta with Spinach Pesto

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I love pesto and am always sad when the basil season is over. This dish lets you enjoy the flavors of pesto with a much more affordable and in-season vegetable. I’d even venture to say that this might just be my favorite pesto ever, in summer or out of summer. It’s that good!


1 lb. whole wheat pasta, such as penne or rigatoni (I used elbow macaroni because I had it on hand, but I wouldn’t suggest you to do the same)

1 lb. baby spinach, washed

1 onion, peeled and sliced

1/2 cup olive oil + 1 tbs.

3 cloves garlic, smashed

1 sprig fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp. dried rosemary)

1 pinch nutmeg

1/4 cup walnuts

1/2 cup parmesan cheese


Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil. Drop in a teaspoon of salt, then add pasta. Allow to boil until pasta is cooked through. Drain pasta, but first reserve 1 cup cooking water. Pour pasta back into cooking pot.

While pasta water boils, heat 1/2 cup olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add smashed garlic cloves, crushed red pepper flakes, and rosemary to the saucepan. Allow garlic to fry, lightly golden brown and the oil to infuse with the red pepper and rosemary, 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat. If you used a sprig of rosemary, fish it out now.

Heat 1 tbs. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced onions to the skillet and allow to lightly caramelize, 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place 1/4 cup walnuts into a microwave-safe bowl and heat, on high, for 2 minutes and 15 seconds. This will toast the walnuts.

While pasta cooks, prepare pesto. Place spinach in a food processor and add the contents of  the saucepan (make sure you’ve removed the rosemary sprig first!). Place lid on and pulse to combine. Add walnuts, parmesan, and onions, then pulse again, to combine. Add in pasta cooking water, as needed, to thin out the pesto. Once it is to your desired consistency (not too thick, but not too thin and runny), use a rubber spatula to scrape pesto into the pot with the drained pasta. Toss to combine, then serve in bowls.