Calling all pesto pasta fans! This evergreen nutritious pasta dish uses spinach and peas as its sauce base, making it jam-packed with vegetables. Enjoy a bowlful as is, or add your pick of protein-rich foods for a nutritionally balanced meal.
Are you looking for a tasty dish to boost your vegetable intake? Look no further than this lemony spinach and pea pesto pasta.
It’s fresh, flavourful and packed with vegetables (a mini Mount Everest pile of baby spinach!). The sauce is similar to classic pesto, featuring key ingredients like pine nuts and olive oil, but with its own spin – it’s dairy-free, and champions parsley instead of basil as its herb hero.
Baby spinach. A nutritious leafy green that’s rich in plant-based iron. You could use a larger leaf variety if you can’t find baby spinach.
Frozen peas. A super convenient and economical veggie to keep handy in the freezer. Their light and mild flavour work well at helping bulk the pesto out.
Parsley. I recommend curled leaf, aka common parsley, but you could use Italian parsley or even substitute with fresh basil.
Pine nuts.The nut of traditional pesto! Pine nuts are gorgeous here, but they can also be a bit spendy – feel free to substitute in another nut (like almonds, cashews or walnuts) or even seeds (like sunflower or pumpkin).
Lemon.Lemon juice and zest bring vibrancy and brightness to this dish. If you’re a big lemon fan, go heavier with the juice – make sure to add another lemon to the shopping list.
Garlic.Two cloves make this nice and punchy in the flavour department. Garlic cloves can range in size from small to extra-large. Use cloves in the middle – if you have larger cloves, you might want to cut down, and if your cloves are teeny tiny you might want to throw in an extra.
Extra virgin olive oil. An incredibly nutritious ingredient to keep in the cupboard. EVOO is the kingpin ingredient of the Mediterranean diet and a rich source of antioxidants and heart-healthy fats.
Spaghetti pastais my pasta pick here, but you could substitute another type. Aim for 85g dry weight/person. Go for regular or gluten free.
Flash boil spinach and peas for just a few short minutes before blending. This will defrost the peas and soften the flavour of the spinach.
Reserve some magical pasta water. When boiling pasta, you might notice the water becomes cloudy as it cooks – this is starch being released by the pasta. It has impressive binding properties, and when combined with something fat-rich (like olive oil) will create an emulsion aka a smoother, tastier sauce.
Season, to taste. We have different taste buds preferences, which is why all my recipes advise seasoning until it tastes balanced to you. Have fun and play here – just remember that you can add but you can’t take away!
Many of the meals on Nourish & Tempt follow a balanced eating approach– they feature good nutrient diversity across the various food groups.
While we never need to be all-or-nothing with our diet, if you do want to make this dish more nutritionally balanced for lunch or dinner, look to add a serving of protein-rich food.
Pan-fried chicken thigh is incredible sliced and tossed through, or, to keep this vegan or vegetarian friendly, add a tin or two of cannellini beans.
1lemon (120g),zest and juice of (should equate to around 3 Tbsp of fresh juice)
2 cloves ofgarlic
¼cupextra virgin olive oil
340g(85g per serve)dry spaghetti pasta (regular or gluten free)
¾cup reserved pasta water
Salt and pepper
To garnish (optional)
Extra pine nuts, chopped parsley, shaved dairy or vegan parmesan cheese, and lemon juice
In a large saucepan bring water to boil. Cook pasta accordingly to packet instructions.
Bring a small saucepan of water to boil. Add spinach and peas, and boil for a few minutes.
Drain spinach and peas in a colander. Rinse with cold water.
Add to a food processor the spinach, peas, parsley, pine nuts, lemon juice and zest, and garlic. Blend on a medium speed until relatively smooth (a little texture is AOK). You may need to stop your machine and scrap down the sides a few times.
Add a generous pinch of salt and a few turns of the pepper shaker. With the machine running, slowly pour in the oil and blend until smooth.
Taste test. Add more salt and pepper until it tastes well seasoned to you.
Once the pasta has finished cooking, before draining remove a cup of water from the pot and keep cup aside – be careful as you do this as it will be very hot.
Add drained pasta back into its pot. Add pesto and ¾ cup of the reserved pasta water. Mix well – the water will help loosen the pesto and make a sauce that coats the pasta. Add another splash of water if needed.
Taste test and adjust seasoning – you may need more salt or pepper, or a squeeze more lemon if handy.
Add to serving bowls. Garnish with extra pine nuts, parmesan or vegan cheese, and chopped parsley (optional).
If reheating the next day, rehydrate with a good glug of olive oil.