Spaghetti with Spinach-Walnut Pesto and Green Beans

There are many things you can use a food processor for, but my favorite has always been pesto. It’s the first thing I made after we got married and opened the large Cuisinart box from one of our wedding guests. At the time we had space for a large basil plant on the patio, and I, not surprisingly, became slightly obsessed and made pesto every chance I could.

Since then, I’ve branched out. I still make basil pesto, but I’ve used kale, arugula and now, spinach. Pesto makes for a hearty pasta, and is extra healthy if you use whole wheat pasta as well.


Don't forget to reserve some of the pasta water. Non-basil pestos tend to be thicker, and will benefit from being thinned out once added to the spaghetti.

Makes 2 cups of pesto

1 cup walnuts
8 cups spinach, lightly packed
4 to 5 large basil leaves
1 garlic clove
Juice of half a lemon
Salt, pepper
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Parmesan cheese
1 pound spaghetti
1 pound green beans

Toast the walnuts in a 400 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly toasted. They’re ready when you start to smell them.

In a large pot of simmering water, add the spinach and blanch for two minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon onto several layers of paper towels or a kitchen towel. Drain excess water, then add to the food processor.

To the spinach, add the walnuts (reserving a few to chop to garnish the finished plates), basil leaves, garlic clove, lemon juice, and a sprinkle each of salt and pepper. Pulse to combine, then stream in the olive oil. Spoon out into a bowl, then add two tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese, and test seasonings.

Bring the remaining water to a boil and cook spaghetti until al dente. While the pasta cooks, warm a few turns of extra-virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. Add green beans and toss to coat. Add some salt and pepper, and cook until browned in spots and tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Drain the pasta, reserving a few ladles of pasta water, and return to the pot. Add half the pesto, plus a little of the pasta water. Toss to combine. Add more pesto, as desired, and thin out with pasta water until the desired consistency is reached. Add the green beans and toss. To serve, divide among plates and grate Parmesan cheese and garnish with the reserved walnuts.