Pic of pasta with spinach, walnut and basil pesto

pasta with spinach, walnut and basil pesto

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Vegetarian mains

pasta with spinach, walnut and basil pesto

Main Serves 4 30 min
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.

Cook's notes

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.


  • 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
Image of pasta with spinach, walnut and basil pesto


Prep time: 10 min
Cooking time: 20 min
  • Step 1

    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.
  • Step 2

    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.
  • Step 3

    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.

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