Spinach and walnut pesto pasta recipe

(1 rating)

This spinach and walnut pesto pasta takes under 20 minutes to make and serves four.

Spinach and walnut pesto pasta
(Image credit: Future)
Preparation Time5 mins
Cooking Time12 mins
Cost RangeCheap
Nutrition Per PortionRDA
Calories497 Kcal25%
Saturated Fat4 g20%
Fat23 g33%
Carbohydrates51 g20%

Our spinach and walnut pesto pasta is a delicious vegetarian meal that the whole family can enjoy together.

This is one of our favourite healthy family meals. As well as tasting great and being packed with fibre, walnuts are significantly higher in omega-3 fat than any other nut. As a bonus, this recipe uses pecorino, which is made from sheep’s milk and is higher in omega 3 than Parmesan.


  • 45g (1 1⁄2oz) walnut pieces, roughly chopped
  • 300g (10oz) wholewheat spaghetti
  • 200g (7oz) trimmed fine green beans, cut into 3cm (11⁄4in) lengths
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 1tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 200g (7oz) baby spinach
  • 30g (1oz) bunch basil, leaves only
  • 4tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1tbsp finely grated pecorino, plus a little extra, to serve




  1. Toast the walnuts in a small frying pan for 5 minutes, shaking occasionally until golden. Set aside to cool.
  2. Cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling water, according to the pack instructions, adding the green beans for the last 3 minutes of cooking.
  3. Meanwhile, put the cooled walnuts, garlic, lemon zest and chilli flakes in a food processor and whizz until finely chopped. Add 2 large handfuls of spinach plus the basil, and whizz again. Add the lemon juice, oil and cheese, plus a ladleful of cooking water from the pasta pan, and blend again to make a fairly smooth pesto.
  4. Drain the pasta and beans, reserving a mug of the water, then return to the pan. Stir in the remaining spinach leaves and the pesto, adding a splash of the reserved water if needed.
  5. Divide the spaghetti between 4 bowls, and sprinkle over a little extra cheese and a good grinding of black pepper before serving.

Top tips for making this spinach and walnut pesto pasta

Next time you have the oven on, toast some walnuts on a baking tray for 5-8 minutes until golden. Leave to cool then store in an airtight jar, ready for making pesto or tossing into salads.

Can I substitute walnuts for pine nuts in pesto?

As this recipe demonstrates, walnuts are a delicious and affordable alternative to pine nuts in pesto. Cashews and almonds are also delicious and a selection of mixed seeds will also work. 

Why is pesto pasta so high in calories?

The oil used to make pesto contributes a large proportion of the calories. Pine nuts and Parmesan cheese, which are two of the other main ingredients, are also high in calories.

Is pesto pasta made of spinach?

A traditional pesto is made with basil leaves which gives a beautiful, vibrant green colour. There is usually no spinach in a peso recipe but adding a couple of handfuls is an excellent way to get a boost of nutrients and it adds an interesting flavour too. 

Profile picture of Jessica Ransom
Jessica Ransom

"Pesto is a great way to add extra veggies into everyone's diet without them knowing there is added veg content. You could add a handful of peas to this pesto for some extra goodness and a little sweetness. Omit the chilli if cooking for little children and sprinkle over the adult portions when serving instead."

Although pesto is traditionally made by hand using a pestle and mortar, it’s much quicker and easier to use a food processor, especially when making big batches. Read our 3-in-1 Ninja Food Processor review to discover the other functions that will make cooking from scratch less of a chore. 

Ninja 3 in 1 Food Processor - View at Amazon

Ninja 3 in 1 Food Processor - View at Amazon

Once you’ve used the food processor to make pesto you can experiment with other flavour combinations and move on to making soups, smoothies, and pasta sauces. You can also use it to slice and dice onions or other vegetables in bulk and even to knead bread dough.

For more 15 minute meals ideas, we have plenty of recipes for you to explore and lots of cheap family meals too. This courgette and pesto pasta is under 450 calories a portion and serves 4. 

Jessica Ransom
Senior Food Writer

Jessica is a freelance food writer, stylist and recipe tester. She previously worked as Senior Food Writer at Future. While at Future Jessica wrote food and drink-related news stories and features, curated product pages, reviewed equipment, and developed recipes that she then styled on food shoots. She is an enthusiastic, self-taught cook who adores eating out and sharing great food and drink with friends and family. She has completed the Level 1 Associate course at the Academy of Cheese and is continually building on her knowledge of beers, wines, and spirits. 

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