Kale, Spinach and Basil Pesto Baked Pasta
One of my favorite things about late spring is planting our little garden. It’s nothing impressive, actually it’s crammed into our one and only planter in the front of our house… but it works! Last year we had endless amounts of basil. We kept picking it & using it, and it kept growing back until early October when it finally froze. We made pesto at least 2x a week, and now that our plant is growing again, we’re back at it!
This time I wanted to do something a little different and incorporate a few other greens into the mix. Kale & spinach are blended along with basil to make a thick, creamy, flavorful sauce that bakes up beautifully when tossed with pasta and topped with a handful of salty shaved cheese.
I also swapped out our usual walnuts for toasted pistachios. It just seemed like the obvious choice for such a green sauce 🙂
When the pasta was done cooking, I stirred in a bit of the water to thin out the sauce (that way I didn’t have to use a ton of olive oil) and then tossed everything together. Speaking of pasta, I love using big noodles, that way it traps some of the sauce inside. I’d suggest penne, rigatoni or even fusilli. You can even use whole wheat or gluten-free!
Then I poured the pasta into a 9×13 baking dish, topped it with a combo of shaved parmesan and pecorino and baked it for about 15-20 minutes or until the cheese was nice and melty (side note: usually pesto doesn’t need to be heated, but I wanted the cheese to be melty & kale is healthier/better for you when it’s cooked).
We served ours up with grilled chicken and salad. It was so easy to make and was delicious as leftovers the following day. If you’re looking for a way to use up a handful or two of fresh basil, you’ve gotta give this baked pasta dish a try!
- 1 lb. penne or rigatoni (regular, whole wheat, gluten-free)
- ¼-1/3 c. reserved pasta water
- 1 c. packed spinach
- 1 c. packed kale
- 2 c. packed fresh basil leaves
- 4 cloves garlic
- ½ c. toasted pistachios or pine nuts, walnuts, pecans
- ½ c. extra-virgin olive oil + more if needed
- Salt and pepper
- 1 small lemon, juiced
- ½ c. grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
- ⅓ c. shaved parmesan cheese or pecorino cheese
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package's instructions.
- Meanwhile, in a large food processor or blender, layer the ingredients starting with the spinach, kale, basil, then the garlic, toasted nuts, the olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice and cheese. If the mixture is too thick to blend add a tablespoon or two more of olive oil. Continue to pulse/blend until smooth.
- When the pasta is done cooking, drain the water, reserving ⅓ c. of the water. Mix it in with the prepared pesto until the sauce is loose.
- Toss the cooked pasta with the pesto, then pour into a 9x13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with ⅓ c. cheese, then place into the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melty. Remove and serve immediately.
Recipe source: inspired by Pinch of Yum