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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

Pesto Without Pine Nuts: Whole Wheat Penne with Walnut Sage Pesto

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This healthy pesto without pine nuts is the perfect pasta dish for a quick and easy weeknight meal. The walnut and sage pesto is packed full of earthy flavors and is lower in fat and calories than the store bought.

pesto without pine nuts served over whole wheat pasta on a white plate with a fork and knife

Pesto and pasta is one of those classic combinations that everyone loves. It’s just so satisfying — something about that combination of fresh herbs, olive oil and nuts is so comforting!

I don’t make traditional pesto very often because while it’s super delicious, it’s also not great for maintaining a healthy weight (since you can have too much of even good, healthy fats!)

Here is my version of a healthy pesto recipe with added veggies and no need for pine nuts! Whole Wheat Penne with Walnut Sage Pesto is perfect for a weeknight dinner since it can be ready in under 30 minutes!

Tools and Equipment You’ll Need

How to make Pesto Without Pine Nuts, Served with Pasta- Step by Step

Step 1: Cook penne according to package directions, cool and set aside.  

Step 2: Spray a pan with cooking spray, heat over medium heat. Add zucchini and 2 cloves minced garlic and stir fry lightly (for about 5 min max). Add spinach, garlic salt and oregano and cook through until spinach is wilted. Set aside.  

Step 3: Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, parsley, and next 5 ingredients (through 1 clove garlic) in a food processor; process until finely chopped, scraping sides.  

Step 4: With processor on, slowly pour broth through food chute, processing until well blended.  

Step 5: Combine penne and pesto in a pot on low heat until combined and heated through. Add pepper and mix well. Add in vegetables and serve warm, top with 1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese per serving.

pesto without pine nuts served over whole wheat pasta on a white plate with a fork

What makes this pesto without pine nuts healthy?

  • Added Vitamins and Nutrients: In this recipe I added some fresh veggies – figured I’d stick to the green pesto theme and bring in zucchini and baby spinach – both of which are rich in fiber and antioxidants.
  • Reduced Fat and Calories: I used less olive oil and nuts (but enough to make it luscious.
  • Added Fiber: The additional fresh herbs, veggies, and whole wheat penne instead of white pasta means that there’s more fiber in this recipe!

Will kids enjoy this pesto without pine nuts recipe?

This recipe is super kid friendly. The pesto is nice and creamy which will remind kids of their all time favorite mac and cheese! Only, this recipe is full of veggies, and whole grain pasta making it a nutrient rich dish mom will love!

How can I increase the protein in this recipe?

You can also try this with chickpea pasta (I love this one from Barilla) which I’m pretty sure will be equally tasty, but will be much higher in protein. Chickpea pasta would make it gluten free as well – added bonus!

What can you use instead of pine nuts in pesto?

Pine nuts are rather expensive, and sometimes difficult to find. In this recipe I used walnuts instead of pine nuts. The walnuts provide a nice rich texture similar to pine nuts. You could also use cashews, pecans, or almonds to make a pesto. 

Can I use peanuts instead of pine nuts for pesto?

I do not recommend using peanuts for a pesto sauce. Peanuts have a very distinct flavor, while with pesto you want the fresh basil and herb flavor to come through. Peanuts over power the flavor of the herbs. That’s why I recommend a milder nut such as walnuts. 

What do you serve with this Walnut Pesto Pasta?

This pasta dish will fill you up all on its own, so I suggest a light side dish such as…

  • Healthy Caesar Salad
  • Light Green Salad with a Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Steamed Vegetables
  • Whole Wheat Garlic Bread

Can you freeze this recipe?

Yes, you can freeze this recipe. Place in an air tight freezer safe container. When ready to enjoy, remove from freezer and bake in the oven at 350 F until defrosted, about 20 minutes.

What is pesto sauce?

Pesto is a herb based pasta sauce originating from Italy.  Traditionally it is made with basil and pine nuts – I used the same principals but substituted these ingredients with sage and walnuts.  Pesto is a great way to incorporate fresh herbs into your diet and other herbs that would work well are include…

  • parsley
  • rosemary
  • oregano
  • thyme
pesto without pine nuts served over whole wheat pasta on a white plate

Top tips to make Whole Wheat Penne with Walnut Sage Pesto

  • Cook the pasta al-dente (with bite).
  • Use whole wheat pasta for added fiber.
  • Use chickpea pasta for added protein and to make it a gluten free dish.
  • Keep leftovers covered in the fridge and gently reheat. It will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days. This dish also freezes well.
  • Add in any veggies you like! I used zucchini and baby spinach, but asparagus, other squashes, or even broccoli would work well in this dish.
walnut sage pesto served over whole wheat pasta on a white plate

Check out these other tasty and healthy pasta dishes!

walnut sage pesto served over whole wheat pasta on a white plate with a fork

If you have tried this healthy penne with walnut and sage pesto 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!

pesto without pine nuts served over whole wheat pasta on a white plate with a fork and knife
Print Recipe
5 from 3 votes

Pesto Without Pine Nuts: Whole Wheat Penne with Walnut Sage Pesto

This healthy pesto without pine nuts is the perfect pasta dish for a quick and easy weeknight meal. The walnut and sage pesto is packed full of earthy flavors and is lower in fat and calories than the store bought.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 240kcal
Author: Anjali Shah

Ingredients

  • 1 10oz bag baby spinach
  • 4 zucchini quartered and sliced
  • 4 cups cooked whole wheat penne (about 3 cups uncooked)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2.5 tbsp chopped walnuts
  • 2 tbsp fresh sage leaves
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/3 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 8 tbsp grated parmesan cheese (1 tbsp per serving)

Instructions

  • Cook penne according to package directions, cool and set aside.
  • Spray a pan with cooking spray, heat over medium heat. Add zucchini and 2 cloves minced garlic and stir fry lightly (for about 5 min max). Add spinach, garlic salt and oregano and cook through until spinach is wilted. Set aside.
  • Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, parsley, and next 5 ingredients (through 1 clove garlic) in a food processor; process until finely chopped, scraping sides.
  • With processor on, slowly pour broth through food chute, processing until well blended.
  • Combine penne and pesto in a pot on low heat until combined and heated through. Add pepper and mix well. Add in vegetables and serve warm, top with 1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese per serving.

Notes

Top tips to make Whole Wheat Penne with Walnut Sage Pesto
  • Cook the pasta al-dente (with bite).
  • Use whole wheat pasta for added fiber.
  • Use chickpea pasta for added protein and to make it a gluten free dish.
  • Keep leftovers covered in the fridge and gently reheat. It will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days. This dish also freezes well.
  • Add in any veggies you like! I used zucchini and baby spinach, but asparagus, other squashes, or even broccoli would work well in this dish.

Nutrition

Calories: 240kcal | Carbohydrates: 43g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 4mg | Sodium: 348mg | Potassium: 415mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g

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16 responses to “Pesto Without Pine Nuts: Whole Wheat Penne with Walnut Sage Pesto”

  1. We love pesto with walnuts! It gives is such a nutty flavor and goes so well with the whole wheat pasta! Love it!5 stars

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