The version I’ve created here is a little outside the box. I use spinach instead of basil and omit the traditional pine nut. We are not nut-free, but Emme is still only 11 months old and I like to create food that is baby-friendly as well. But don’t hesitate to try it, the taste is just as delicious, the color just as vibrant, and do I even need to mention the health benefits? Hello, Popeye! And the ingredients couldn’t be any simpler: spinach, garlic, parmesan cheese, lemon, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Plus, it’s ready in no time at all and tastes yummy on vegetables, rice, fish, chicken, sandwiches, and our favorite, tossed with pasta.
* Make a big batch and freeze little portions in an ice-cube tray. It defrosts in a pinch, doesn’t lose it’s flavor and comes in very handy during the cold winter months.
Spinach Pesto Pasta (Nut-Free)
10oz. whole-wheat pasta, such as fusilli, shells or elbows (use gluten-free if necessary)
4 cups packed baby spinach leaves
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil*
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente, according to package instructions. Save ½ cup pasta water; drain pasta and return to pot.
Meanwhile, place spinach, Parmesan, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a food processor. Blend for 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl as needed. Slowly stream in olive oil while the machine is running. Process until smooth.
Add tomatoes and pesto to cooked pasta; toss, adding reserved pasta water to coat pasta, if necessary. Taste and adjust salt and pepper, as needed. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese.
*Add a little more olive oil for a thinner consistency, or a little less for thicker.