Pesto pasta salad with green beans & spinach

Pesto pasta salad with green beans & spinach recipe

I visited my local market at the weekend and found the most amazing basil I have seen here in the UK in a long, long time. You know, not one of those pathetic, withered little bunches that they sell in supermarkets. I’m talking about plump, super fresh basil with the brightest leaves that fills the kitchen with that lovely sweet and sharp aroma within seconds of unpacking your shopping. It so reminded me of summer time in Italy…
And give an Italian girl a bunch of basil and it’s pretty much guaranteed that fresh, homemade pesto will be on the menu.

For this recipe I decided to go for the more classic basil and pine nut pesto but massively reduce the amount of olive oil in the pesto compared to what would normally be used in Italy. It tastes amazing all the same plus you’re still getting plenty of good fats from the nuts.

Pesto pasta salad with green beans & spinach recipe

For me, toasting the pine nuts is a must as it releases and intensifies their rich flavour. If you’re short of time, you can throw them in as they come – the pesto will still be lovely – but the overall flavour will not be as nutty. I invite you to experiment and see which variation you like best!

To make this dish more veg-heavy, I decided to add in some green beans (cooked in the same pan as the pasta to save on washing up!) and serve the pasta on a bed of fresh spinach for some raw food goodness. No matter how short of time I am, I do like adding as much veg as I can to my dishes, even when it’s simply serving pasta on some greens like today: it’s a simple trick to pack more nutrients in and make the dish more filling without increasing the calorie count too much!

Pesto pasta salad with green beans & spinach

Serves: 4

A delicious combination of homemade pesto, green beans and spinach for the perfect nutrient-packed pasta salad.
  • 240g pasta
  • 200g green beans
  • 200g fresh spinach or baby spinach
  • Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle
For the pesto:
  • 25g fresh basil
  • 40g pine nuts
  • 30g vegetarian parmesan cheese, grated or cut into small chunks
  • 6 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. First things first, let’s toast the pine nuts by placing them in a small pan (no need to add any oil) and cooking them over low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown.
  2. To make the pesto, place all the ingredients in a food processor or use a hand blender to blend until smooth. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.
  3. Cook the pasta according to package instructions, adding the green beans to the same pan during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Drain and run under cold water to stop both the pasta and the green beans from cooking further.
  4. Put the pasta and the green beans in a mixing bowl and stir in the pesto, drizzle with olive oil and toss well. Best served cold on a bed of fresh spinach for a delicious bowl of green goodness.
For this recipe you can also use frozen green beans. Cook them separately then add to the pasta with pesto.

Not a fan of spinach? Try this salad on a bed of fresh rocket or steamed kale!

Do you have any tricks up your sleeve to make nutritious meals even on lazy days? Salads? Soups? Any feedback would be much appreciated – just use the box below to leave a comment!

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