Every summer I plant a batch of Genovese basil. That’s the broad-leaved, emerald green herb that we all adore for easy pesto pasta dinners.
There’s a bonus as I wait for the big fall harvest of basil plants for making batches of pesto for the freezer: I pinch off the top leaves of the basil to encourage growth and to prevent flowering (and bolting).
That means that I often have a handful of garden-fresh basil leaves. Just enough to intoxicate me with its scent. But not enough for a full batch of pesto.
But what I do have at this time of year is ample baby spinach. So, I started blending spinach and basil on any night my family wanted pesto pasta.
That’s at least once a week because who does not love pesto pasta? Least of all me, when I can make this dinner on the fly while the pasta is boiling.
The other pesto habit I’ve gotten into is using toasted seeds, like pumpkin or sunflower instead of nuts. They’re so much less expensive, nutritious and give the pesto all the body it needs.
One final note is that I don’t ever bother adding grated parmesan into any pesto I made. I love having the option to add in the cheese later or to keep it vegan.
I whir small batches of pesto all summer long in my immersion blender. Or you can use a food processor.
Vegetable Add Ins
When it comes time to make pesto pesto, I keep it plain for the kids. But for my husband and me, I add in all the other seasonal vegetables I can forage.
In early summer that means tender Asian greens, snow peas earlier in the summer. In August, I’ll add green beans and the first cherry tomatoes.
My portion gets served over a big bed of salad mix, so what I end up with is more of a pesto pasta salad that is both super satisfying and super balanced.What’s your favorite pesto? Let me know in the comments below or tag a photo #lynnesforage on Instagram or Facebook.
Basil-Spinach-Seed Pesto Pasta
When I don't have quite enough fresh basil for a batch of pasta, I turn to baby spinach. The basil flavor carries through and the spinach makes it bright green. Seeds substitute for pine nuts or other nuts. Toss this with your favorite pasta shape, adding in seasonal vegetables to your liking.
- 1 pound dried pasta any shape
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
- 1 cup lightly packed spinach leaves
- 1 cup lightly packed basil leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup snow peas, snap peas or green beans optional
- grated parmeasn cheese for serving optional
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until nearly al dente.
Meanwhile, make the pasta using an immersion blender by combining the garlic, seeds, spinach, basil, salt and olive oil in the beaker. Put the blender stick as far to the bottom as you can, then blend up and down until combined and smooth.
To use a food processor, purée the garlic and seeds. Add spinach and basil and pulse to chop. Add oil in a stream with the machine running until smooth.
When the pasta is a few minutes from done, add the snow peas, if using, to the pot to blanch them for 1 minute. Scoop them from the pot with a small strainer into a serving bowl and then drain the pasta and add it to the bowl.
Toss the snow peas and pasta with as much of the prepared pesto as you like. Taste for seasoning and add parmesan cheese if desired. Store any extra pesto in a mason jar or sealed container in the refrigerator.