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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

Anjali Shah

Vegetarian Pesto Pasta Recipe

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This Vegetarian Pesto Pasta made with spinach, herbs and whole wheat linguine is a quick and easy dinner recipe that comes together in 30 minutes. Every bite is bursting with flavor!

vegetarian pesto pasta with spinach and herbs, served on a white plate

I love pesto: there is something so satisfying about the fresh herbs and luscious mouthfeel of pesto when compared to marinara sauce. But, I consider it more of a guilty pleasure because normally pesto is loaded with tons of oil, cheese, and fat – which makes it a less healthy alternative to marinara sauce.

While you can sometimes substitute other greens (kale, spinach, etc.) for some of the fat, I’ve never quite found a recipe that tastes perfect. A recipe that tastes just like the original pesto, but with more nutrition, and has less than half the calories of the original – until now. The sauce is thick, almost an emerald green, and still has that richness of a traditional pesto. It coats the linguine so that every bite is super tasty.

This is a wonderful recipe for spring and summer. The pesto is lightened up with the addition of spinach, almonds and a bunch of fresh herbs.

The herbs were so aromatic, they filled up our house with the most wonderful smell!

Tools and Equipment You’ll Need

ingredients for recipe - spinach, lemon, herbs, pasta, cheese

How to Make Vegetarian Pesto Pasta – Step by Step

Step 1: Place spinach in a microwave-safe bowl; cover bowl with plastic wrap. Microwave at HIGH 2 minutes or until spinach wilts. Remove plastic wrap; cool slightly.

Spinach in a bowl covered with clingfilm

Step 2: Place spinach, almonds, and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in a food processor. Process until chopped.

pesto in a food processor

Step 3: Add broth, juice, and salt; pulse 5 times. With processor on, slowly pour oil through food chute; process until well blended. Scrape into a bowl; stir in half of cheese. Cover with plastic wrap.

Spinach Herb Pesto in a white ramekin

Step 4: Cook pasta according to package directions. As soon as the pasta is done, toss pasta with 1/2 cup pesto. Arrange about 1 1/2 cups pasta mixture on each of ; top each serving with 2 tablespoons remaining pesto, diced tomatoes, and 1 1/2 teaspoons remaining cheese.

vegetarian pesto pasta with spinach and herbs, served on a white plate

How Healthy Is Pesto Pasta?

Traditionally, pesto pasta isn’t often thought of as a healthy meal because it’s high in calories and refined grains.

But in moderation, pesto can actually be quite healthy as it includes healthy fats, vitamins and nutrients.

This vegetarian pesto pasta is especially healthy because it is packed with whole grains, fiber, and each serving has under 320 calories! If you want to make this recipe even healthier and gluten-free, you can use a lentil or chickpea based pasta (like this chickpea linguine). You can also make this a vegan dish by omitting the cheese.

Will Kids Enjoy This Vegetarian Pesto Pasta?

Pesto is typically a kid-friendly sauce because it’s mild, slightly salty, and full of flavor. Paired with linguine it makes for a meal that kids will love! My kids both gobbled this up and asked for seconds! And as an added bonus: picky eaters won’t realize they’re getting a healthy helping of spinach with their meal!

vegetarian pesto pasta with spinach and herbs, served on a white plate

What Pesto is Vegetarian?

Not all pesto is vegetarian, because some pesto recipes and most store-bought pesto sauces will include animal-rennet-based parmesan (and animal rennet is taken from calves’ stomachs). But this pesto recipe doesn’t include cheese in the sauce itself so it is completely veggie-friendly! (And I recommend using an animal-rennet-free cheese for your topping!)

How to Store and Freeze Pesto

This pesto sauce will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Pesto freezes really well, and it’s a good idea to freeze fresh pesto in the spring and summer (when herbs are the most aromatic) so you can have it on hand all year long.

To freeze small amounts of pesto, put spoonfuls into ice cube trays. Once frozen, transfer the pesto cubes to freezer bags. These are perfect to use as flavor-enhancers in salad dressings, soups, or even to mix into a bowl of rice or pasta. To freeze large batches of pesto, transfer to a freezer storage container, cover the top with a thin layer of olive oil, then seal. Having larger batches on hand works perfectly for those times when you want to throw dinner together quickly.

What to Serve with Vegetarian Pesto Pasta

There are so many serving options when it comes to this recipe. Some of our favorites include:

  • A garden salad
  • Homemade garlic bread or these garlic bread grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Roasted vegetables
  • Alternative toppings like: Roasted grape or cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives, different cheeses, chickpeas, cannelini beans, more greens like arugula, spinach or kale!
fork of vegetarian pesto pasta with spinach and herbs, served on a white plate

Top tips For Making Vegetarian Pesto Pasta

  • Cook the pasta al dente and don’t rinse it after you drain it.
  • If you have any left over pesto, keep in in a sealable glass jar and top it up with olive oil to keep it fresh.
  • Pesto freezes really well! Just portion it in ice cubes!
  • If you don’t have almonds, you can use walnuts or pine nuts instead
  • Make sure to choose a vegetable-rennet based cheese to keep this vegetarian friendly
  • Feel free to toss this pasta with any extra veggies you have on hand – zucchini, carrots, squashes, bell peppers and broccoli would all work well.
  • Swap the linguine for a gluten-free chickpea based pasta (to make this recipe gluten-free), or any other whole wheat pasta of your choice. To add in even more veggies and reduce the carbs, you can use zucchini noodles instead of pasta itself!
  • For some extra protein, feel free to throw in some cannelini beans or chickpeas as you toss the pasta! Be sure to adjust the seasoning/amount of sauce if you do!

Check out these recipes for more healthy pasta dishes!

vegetarian pesto pasta with spinach and herbs, served on a white plate

If you have tried this Vegetarian Pesto Pasta Recipe, or any other recipe on my blog, then please rate it and let me know how it turned out in the comments below! You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM and PINTEREST to see more delicious, healthy, family friendly food!

vegetarian pesto pasta with spinach and herbs, served on a white plate
Print Recipe
5 from 5 votes

Vegetarian Pesto Pasta Recipe

This Vegetarian Pesto Pasta made with spinach, herbs and whole wheat linguine is a quick and easy dinner recipe that comes together in 30 minutes. Every bite is bursting with flavor!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 309kcal
Author: Anjali Shah

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup slivered blanched almonds
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 large garlic cloves chopped
  • 2 tablespoons organic vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan or Italian Shredded cheese choose a rennet free cheese
  • 8 ounces uncooked whole wheat linguine
  • Diced tomatoes for topping

Instructions

  • Place spinach in a microwave-safe bowl; cover bowl with plastic wrap. Microwave at HIGH 2 minutes or until spinach wilts. Remove plastic wrap; cool slightly.
  • Place spinach, almonds, and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in a food processor. Process until chopped.
  • Add broth, juice, and salt; pulse 5 times. With processor on, slowly pour oil through food chute; process until well blended. Scrape into a bowl; stir in half of cheese. Cover with plastic wrap.
  • Cook pasta according to package directions.
  • As soon as the pasta is done, toss pasta with 1/2 cup pesto. Arrange about 1 1/2 cups pasta mixture on each of ; top each serving with 2 tablespoons remaining pesto, diced tomatoes, and 1 1/2 teaspoons remaining cheese.

Notes

Top tips For Making Vegetarian Pesto Pasta
  • Cook the pasta al dente and don’t rinse it after you drain it.
  • If you have any left over pesto, keep in in a sealable glass jar and top it up with olive oil to keep it fresh.
  • Pesto freezes really well! Just portion it in ice cubes!
  • If you don’t have almonds, you can use walnuts or pine nuts instead
  • Make sure to choose a vegetable-rennet based cheese to keep this vegetarian friendly
  • Feel free to toss this pasta with any extra veggies you have on hand – zucchini, carrots, squashes, bell peppers and broccoli would all work well.
  • Swap the linguine for a gluten-free chickpea based pasta (to make this recipe gluten-free), or any other whole wheat pasta of your choice. To add in even more veggies and reduce the carbs, you can use zucchini noodles instead of pasta itself!
  • For some extra protein, feel free to throw in some cannelini beans or chickpeas as you toss the pasta! Be sure to adjust the seasoning/amount of sauce if you do!
Adapted from CookingLight 

Nutrition

Calories: 309kcal | Carbohydrates: 44.7g | Protein: 11.6g | Fat: 9.3g | Saturated Fat: 1.6g | Cholesterol: 3.6mg | Sodium: 282.6mg | Potassium: 256.8mg | Fiber: 7.2g | Sugar: 3.1g

Posted In…

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10 responses to “Vegetarian Pesto Pasta Recipe”

  1. Delicious! Love the combination of herbs – so fresh. We enjoyed this so much, and will be making it again very soon!5 stars

  2. This vegetarian pasta recipe is going to be served on our meatless Mondays. So, I made it today: it was yummy and delicious. And yes, it worth making it!5 stars

  3. I just love everything about this pasta. It’s made with my favorite ingredients and looks absolutely amazing!5 stars

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