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Pesto doesn’t have to be made with basil! Try this delicious version made with spinach.

Pasta with Spinach Pesto on Taste and Tell

I love basil pesto. Especially since I started growing basil myself and it is so easy and fast to make. Last year, my basil was in a container, so in the winter, I took it inside and it fared surprisingly well. But this year, I planted it in the garden. What I got was a much bigger plant, but as soon as the first cold weather hit, it died. I was so sad that day, when I went out to get some basil, only to find a big, brown plant. And now I’m wishing I would have planted in a container again so that I could have my basil year round!

So what do you do when you don’t have your home-grown basil, and you practically have to sell your first born to be able to afford either fresh basil or pre-made basil pesto from the grocery store? You start trying out other pesto recipes!! When I came across this recipe, I knew I wanted to try it out. I have been wanting to try different kinds of pestos, and this gave me a great excuse.

The recipe originally calls for hazelnuts, but after a search at several different stores, I came up empty handed. That seems to be happening to me a lot lately!! So I used pine nuts, but I’m sure the hazelnuts would have been delicious. And I added chicken, which could definitely be left out, but we like our protein!

UPDATE: Find the recipe for the Danish “French” Bread HERE.

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Pasta with Spinach Pesto
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Pesto doesn't have to be made with basil! Try this delicious version made with spinach.
Serves: 4 servings
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • salt
  • 1 pound whole wheat or whole grain pasta
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 9 ounces spinach, woody stems discarded
  • pepper
  • freshly ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • ½ lb. cooked chicken, cut into chunks (optional)
  1. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until browned, 20-25 minutes.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking water.
  3. While the pasta is working, in a small saucepan, heat the olive oil, garlic and rosemary over medium-low heat and let steep for 5 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then pour the oil and garlic into a food processor. Add the nuts and spinach and process into a thick paste. Season with salt, pepper and the nutmeg, if using.
  4. Stir the pasta cooking water into the caramelized onions, then stir in the pesto. Add the pasta, cheese, and chicken if using and toss to combine.

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23 Responses to Pasta with Spinach Pesto

  1. eatme_delicious says:

    How sad about your basil plant! I love basil but that’s what I’m scared of so I don’t even bother. I’ve made spinach pesto before too and if you add some basil (I added freeze dried basil) it’s actually pretty close to real basil pesto! And ooo I just ordered that Scandinavian baking book!! I can’t wait to look through it.

  2. Rosa's Yummy Yums says:

    What gorgeous food! I love the idea of making pesto with spinach. Very healthy and tasty!



  3. Bellini Valli says:

    I have been wanting to try spinach pesto some time as well…thanks for the nudge!!!

  4. Mary says:

    Your pasta has such gorgeous color. I’m going to try to get a copy of your Scandinavian baking book. The pasta and bread both sound terrific.

  5. kat says:

    Make that dried bread into homemade croutons, yum!

  6. Maria says:

    I can afford fresh basil in the summer, but not the winter! I will have to try the spinach version because I love pesto!! the bread looks good too!

  7. Debbie says:

    Sounds delicious…especially with the french bread. I have yet to make homemade bread..

  8. Paula says:

    Homemade bread AND pesto?!!! Um, when should I arrive at your house? I’ve never had spinach pesto, and as I’m reading your post, I’m thinking more and more what a brilliant idea that is! Hazelnuts are kind of strong, and so I like that you used toasted pine nuts. Really, this meal of yours looks soooo good!

  9. Mary says:

    My basil plant is now burried under several inches of snow (in November?) so regular pesto is out for me too. This spinach pesto looks great though!

  10. Chocolate Shavings says:

    That’s some good looking pasta Deborah!

  11. Madam Chow says:

    Same thing happened to my basil plant. As for the nuts, I think pesto is better with pine nuts or walnuts, but if you really want to get some hazelnuts (filberts), you should try http://www.nutsonline.com

  12. RecipeGirl says:

    My basil plant is gonzo too 🙁 I’ve never even thought about growing one inside though… good idea!

    I have that Scand. Baking Book and haven’t made anything from it yet. The bread looks yummy!

  13. kellypea says:

    I haven’t had too much luck planting basil in a pot that could be kept indoors so if you figure it out, by all means let me know! It will save me some serious cash. Can’t think of too much more wonderful than pasta slathered in pesto. Wow.

  14. Brilynn says:

    I’m in love with pesto too. I never get enough of it with pasta but it also makes a nice pizza base instead of tomato sauce.

  15. Susan from Food Blogga says:

    I love playing around with different types of pestos, and I haven’t made spinach pesto yet. Mmmm… it’s one of my favorite greens, so I know I’d love it.

  16. Aimée says:

    You have just been having too much fun it your kitchen these days!! This looks amazing and reminds me that it’s been waaaay to long since I’ve had nice fresh pesto like this.

  17. Cookie baker Lynn says:

    I’m always up for trying a new French bread. But don’t toss the leftovers – that’s where croutons come from!

  18. Tasty Trends says:

    i love spinach pesto! i made it once and it was delicious!

  19. Kim says:

    What a meal! It has been literally ages since I have had pasta and a good hunk of french bread. This was wonderful.

  20. sunita says:

    Sorry to hear about your basil plant…the alternative sounds so good 🙂

  21. breadchick says:

    I wish my basil plant that I put in a container would survive all year round 🙁 But I like the idea of basil spinach.

    I’m also going to whip up a loaf of the Danish “French” bread one of the evenings this week. I can’t wait to try it.

  22. Katie says:

    Your spinach pesto looks wonderful – such a healthy green colour

  23. kimberleyblue says:

    what a vibrant green!

    was it very tasty? like you, i love a great basil pesto, and having an alternative recipe for when basil is not available would be great!

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