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vegetarian pesto pasta recipe with spinach, basil and pine nuts on a white plate
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5 from 10 votes

Vegetarian Pesto Pasta Recipe

This healthy vegetarian pesto recipe is easy to make and perfect for a fuss-free weeknight meal. Ricotta gives this sauce a creamy texture and the added pine nuts gives it a nice crunch!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian
Diet: Low Calorie, Vegetarian
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 323kcal
Author: Anjali Shah


  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ cup part skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese make sure your parmesan has vegetarian rennet, not animal rennet
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp chopped garlic
  • ¼ tsp salt or more to taste
  • ¼ tsp black pepper or more to taste
  • 1 16oz bag Frozen Spinach
  • Freshly grated Parmesan to top your pasta dish
  • 8 oz Whole wheat penne pasta or any whole wheat pasta you like!
  • Pasta water save about 1-2 ladle-fulls after cooking the pasta - it helps to make the sauce even creamier!


  • To make the pesto sauce, put all ingredients (basil through black pepper in the list above) into a food processor and blend until smooth.
  • Cook the pasta according to package directions, reserve 1-2 ladle fulls of pasta water to mix with the sauce.
  • In a large pan, heated over medium heat, defrost the frozen spinach for 2-3 min. Add in the cooked pasta and pesto sauce, stir until blended. Add the pasta water a little at a time until you like the consistency and taste.
  • Serve topped with 1-2 tsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a small sprinkling of pine nuts!



  • 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 pine nuts, you can use walnuts or almonds instead. Both almond and walnut pesto have nice nutty flavors that work well in this recipe!
  • 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 penne 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!


Calories: 323kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 7mg | Sodium: 287mg | Potassium: 470mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 2g