Pasta with Spinach Pesto and Green Beans

September 21, 2016

Pasta with Spinach Pesto and Green Beans makes an easy, healthy weeknight meal—with leftover pesto for one, two or even three other easy dinners! From the Make It Easy cookbook by Stacie Billis | One Hungry Mama

Although I’m sure there are folks somewhere in the world who don’t like it much, traditional basil pesto—pesto alla genovese—seems to be a universally loved sauce. Given how easy it is to make and freeze, this is a boon for us busy home cooks. If you learn how to make one sauce, it should be pesto.

Making it isn’t hard to do. You put ingredients in a food processor, whiz and, in seconds, have a sauce to toss with pasta or brush onto chicken and veggies. This Simple Pasta with Spinach Pesto and Green Beans from my book, Make It Easy, and pesto baked drumsticks—which are nothing more than that, no recipe needed—are two favorite last-minute dinners in my house.

Save pesto leftovers to spread on crusty bread (or, even better, on crusty bread smeared with Fresh Ricotta Cheese), drizzle over tomatoes and mozzarella, stir into rice, drizzle over simply grilled protein, or whisk into a batch of your Everyday Vinaigrette for your next dinner. You can also mix pesto with mayonnaise for a delicious sandwich spread at lunch.

Spinach isn’t a traditional pesto ingredient, but I use it here for an added nutritional boost. Don’t worry: thanks to its mild flavor, you can’t taste the extra greens.

If you freeze your pesto, consider doing so in an ice cube tray so that you can pop out small portions to use in all kinds of glorious ways.

And most importantly, while this Spinach Pesto will become your no-brainer go-to on busy weeknights, be sure to get creative sometimes. If you’re fascinated by turmeric, throw it into a pesto with cilantro and pepitas. If you’ve got walnuts, use them with arugula instead of pine nuts and basil. Or if you’ve been dying to find a family-friendly way to use the rest of that saffron you bought for one dish a million years ago, throw a bit into a pesto with mint and almonds, which will taste glorious grilled over simple grilled swordfish kabobs. Not so simple anymore. Heh.

Pasta with Spinach Pesto and Green Beans

Serves 4-6

* Can be shared with kids 6+ months


    For the Spinach Pesto (makes 1 1/4 cup pesto, about double what you need for the pasta; make the full amount to have extra or halve to have just enough for this dinner):
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3 cups washed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach, washed and dried
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (from about 1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 1⁄2 juicy lemon)
  • 1 teaspoon roughly chopped garlic (from about 1 clove)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
  • For the Pasta with Spinach Pesto and Green Beans:
  • 1 pound pasta
  • 8 ounces green beans, washed, trimmed, and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup spinach pesto, plus more to taste (about one-half of the recipe included here; see note above)
  • Olive oil, to finish
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish


  1. Make the Spinach Pesto: Place the pine nuts in a small, dry pan set over medium-high heat and toast until golden brown, about 3 minutes, tossing them all the while to keep from burning. Place the toasted pine nuts, basil, spinach, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and puree, as far as you can, stopping the machine and scraping down the sides at least once. Then, with the food processor running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream until the mixture takes on the right texture. Add the cheese and black pepper to taste, if using, and pulse three or so times, until the mixture is just combined. Season with more salt to taste, if desired. If you've made the full amount, store about half in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  2. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, being sure to save 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water before draining.
  3. While the pasta cooks, steam the green beans.
  4. Place the butter in the empty pot in which you cooked the pasta and set over medium-high heat. As soon as the butter melts and the foam begins to subside, add the pasta cooking water. If you forgot to save the pasta cooking water, use a 1/2 cup of regular water.
  5. Return the pasta to the pot along with the reserved steamed green beans and at least 1/2 cup of pesto, or more as desired, and toss to coat. Remove from the heat and finish with a healthy glug of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately topped with grated Parmesan.


To share this with beginner eaters already safely eating nuts, simply chop, pulse or puree into an age appropriate consistency.

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27 Responses

  1. This looks super delish! I love finding and trying easy dinner recipes like this one!

  2. lenny face says:

    Yummy ! I like beans…

  3. Wow, I’ve been looking for this recipe for a long time, thank you very much!

  4. Lenny Face says:

    This looks super delish

  5. Annemiek den Hollander says:

    nom nom nom what a great idea. Looks not too difficult but marvelous

  6. Mukesh kumar says:

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  7. lenny face says:

    I like your post very nice of you post

  8. I really like green pasta, this color is so attractive. Thank you for the recipe! Gonna try it soon.

  9. Joana says:

    Mai what a delight of pasta, I did and it was very good! The spinach pesto gives a special taste, it is very tasty.

  10. yohan says:

    Wow,I like your post very nice of you post I’ve been looking for this recipe for a long time, thank you very much!

  11. Anya says:


    I was just wondering, do you make all of these dishes by yourself in the home? And if so, are there any brands/labels you would recommend purchasing? I actually have a food blog too– I’m a teen foodie trying to give my own perspective on different cuisines and recipes. You should check it out! I really want to get other foodies interested in my blog too, and especially get through to picky kids and teens.

    So I was wondering, do you have any advice for me? It’s!



    P.S. I love your pictures!

  12. Very Delicious Recipe …nice article

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  18. lenny face says:

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  20. Nice Recipe. I enjoy its taste. very nice.

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