Pesto is a delicious sauce for homemade pasta. It's creamy, tasty and, if done right, healthy! In this recipe, we will show you how to make healthy spinach and mushroom pesto pasta.
By preparing spinach pesto instead of classic basil pesto, we get a more nutritious pasta, with all the good folate, vitamin C, and antioxidants that spinach provides. We are also swapping the pine nuts for walnuts. Walnuts are not only an amazing plant-based source of omega-3 fats, but they are also cheaper than pine nuts!
Finally, we got rid of parmesan cheese used in the classic recipe to make our pesto vegan. Instead, we used nutritional yeast, and made this recipe dairy-free and 100% plant-based!
You don't have to use nutritional yeast if you don't have it though, the pasta will still taste awesome. But this cheese replacement is quite useful on a vegan diet, as it's loaded with B vitamins, including vitamin B12 that is often missing in plant-based meals.
Fortified nutritional yeast is also a source of complete proteins, meaning they provide all the nine essential amino acids, and minerals link zinc and selenium .
Big tip? Prepare a big batch of this glorious spinach pesto and store it in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can use it again for pasta or try to add it to other dishes like homemade wraps or baked potatoes; the choices are endless!
Which type of pasta is best for pesto pasta?
We like to use short pasta when using pesto sauce. Our favourite type is rigatoni, penne, farfalle, or conchiglie (pasta that looks like a slug's shell).
If you are a traditionalist, then get your hands on some trofie.
Which mushrooms should I use in this recipe?
If you can, use porcini. Nothing beats porcini in pasta recipes!
Alternatively, go for shitake mushrooms, which have a similar consistency and a fantastic taste.
We recently started using king oyster mushrooms and fell in love with them. Give them a try if you like a chicken-like, fleshy consistency.
We also love using a mix of "wild mushrooms", for a fun plate full of surprises.
Finally, you can use chestnut or white cap "button" mushrooms.
Is classic pesto vegan?
Classic pesto is not vegan, as it uses parmesan. We made our spinach pesto dairy-free, and vegan, by replacing cheese with nutritional yeast.
What can I use instead of pine nuts to make pesto?
Pine nuts are the classic choice for basil pesto. They have a delicate yet quirky flavour that stands out from all other nuts. If you are making spinach pesto and would like to taste as close as possible to the traditional one, then use pine nuts.
For our recipe, we used walnuts instead, for two reasons:
To try something different
To have a better nutritional profile (they are a rich source of omega-3).
Walnuts are an excellent choice for spinach pesto. Spinach flavour is stronger than basil, so we need a stronger tasting nut. Walnuts are perfect for this, give them a try!
If pine nuts and walnuts aren't your thing, then you can use cashews or macadamia nuts.
Can I use frozen spinach for this pesto?
We don't recommend you use frozen spinach to make pesto. Both the classic recipe and our spinach pesto recipe use fresh greens leaves.
Frozen spinach releases too much water and would make your pesto too liquid. You would have to thaw the spinach and get rid of all excess water before using it. Moreover, frozen spinach has a slightly different flavour and fewer nutrients.
For best result, we suggest you use baby spinach leaves. If you use larger leaves, make sure you remove the stem before blitzing, to get a smoother paste.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Mushrooms (Shiitake)
- Black Pepper
- Chopped Parsely
- Garlic Cloves
- Fortified Nutritional Yeast (optional)
- Lemon Juice
- Rigatoni Pasta
In a skillet, heat 0.5 tbsp of olive oil and add chopped mushrooms and parsley.
Then, season with salt and black pepper and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the water released by the mushrooms has reduced.
In the meantime, prepare the pesto.
In a food processor, add the remaining oil, garlic cloves, nutritional yeast, fresh spinach, lemon juice, and walnuts.
Blitz the ingredients into a smooth paste, and, if needed, add a splash of water to get a creamier consistency.
Add the pasta to a pan of salted boiling water and cook according to package instructions.
Check the pasta a couple of minutes before the end of the cooking time to make sure it's al dente - meaning firm to the bite.
Once ready, drain the pasta and save some cooking water that you can then add to the mushroom pesto sauce for extra creaminess.
Once the mushrooms are cooked, remove the pan from the heat and add the prepared spinach pesto (1).
Then, add the pasta and give all a good stir until the pasta is well coated (2).
If the pesto sauce feels too dry, pour some of the cooking water you set aside and mix well.
Garnish with extra pepper and parsley and serve.
For extra flavour, add a teaspoon of zested lemon to the pasta before serving.