How to make pasta with spinach, walnut and basil pesto

After a weekend of takeaways, alcohol and indulgent brunches, a light, green, vegetarian dish is exactly what you need on a Monday

Sunday 05 August 2018 12:15

Pasta with spinach, walnut and basil pesto

Serves 4

Make sure when using any nuts that they are fresh – they turn stale quickly, even within their best before date, particularly once the pack is opened so buy small amounts, as and when you need them. If you aren’t that tolerant to wheat, try a spelt pasta, which can be easier to digest even though still a grain, or for a gluten free option, rice pastas are readily available. If you have any leftover pesto, it will keep in the fridge for a few days, covered with a layer of oil, or freeze it.

30g walnut pieces
20g pine nuts
400g dried pasta (any type; use your preferred shape)
2 garlic cloves
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Zest of ½ and juice of 1 lemon
200g spinach, washed well, any larger, tough stalks removed
100g parmesan or vegetarian alternative, grated
50g basil
100ml olive oil, more if needed
Salt and pepper

Stir the walnut pieces in a dry frying pan on a low heat for a minute or so, to lightly toast them. Repeat with the pine nuts, keeping a good eye on them as they catch and burn easily. Add the pasta to a large pan of boiling salted water and cook according to the packet instructions. While the pasta cooks, put the walnuts, pine nuts, garlic, nutmeg, lemon zest and juice, spinach, half the parmesan and all but a few leaves of the basil in a food processor.

Blitz, gradually pouring in oil until the mixture forms a rough paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drain the pasta, reserving a ladle of the cooking water, then toss with enough pesto to coat, adding a little of the reserved water to thin the sauce if needed. Stir in the remaining parmesan, check the seasoning and serve, garnished with the reserved basil leaves.

Variation: Swap the walnuts for almonds or hazelnuts. For a complete change, instead of pasta try slicing courgettes lengthways into 0.5cm strips, then into thin noodle-like strands instead. Toss them raw into the pesto, or warm them both through so the courgettes soften and wilt a little.

Recipe from

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