Spinach and Pasta Salad with Pesto

March 12, 2010
3 Ratings
  • Serves 4-6
Author Notes

My early attempts at making pesto using basil were disappointing. Though it tasted good, it always turned a mucky brown color. Enter spinach. It has a vibrant color and fresh flavor that pairs well with the walnuts in the pesto itself. You also get a range of colors and textures from the tomatoes, pine nuts, cheese and greens. This pasta salad is a snap to put together and is great for potlucks, as it is served at room temperature. The mixing of fresh greens with the pasta salad was inspired by trips to Gayle’s Bakery near Santa Cruz, where they mix pasta into their caesar salad. —monkeymom

What You'll Need
  • 1/2 pound pasta (penne, gemelli, corkscrew, or shells)
  • 12 ounces bag of baby spinach
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1-2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese (or more, to suit your taste)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 handful of toasted pine nuts
  • 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper
  1. Bring large pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook for recommended time.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, add 2/3 of the spinach into a food processor. Add olive oil, walnuts, garlic and salt. Process until you get desired texture – I prefer some slight chunks but you can also process it very smooth.
  3. When pasta is done cooking, drain and rinse or shock pasta in cold water to stop the cooking process and cool the pasta. Put pasta into a large salad bowl.
  4. Add 2/3 of spinach pesto mixture to pasta and stir to coat. Sprinkle in ¾ of the cheese while mixing to distribute. Check seasoning and add salt or more cheese if necessary. If taking this to a potluck, here is a good stopping point. You can dress the salad and toss all the ingredients together right before serving to make sure the spinach doesn’t wilt.
  5. Add rest of spinach to bowl and most of tomatoes. Squeeze a little lemon juice onto leaves and add the rest of the pesto and a sprinkling of salt. Toss leaves to coat.
  6. Bring pasta up from bottom and toss with greens. Add remaining tomatoes, pine nuts and cheese before serving.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • TheWimpyVegetarian
  • testkitchenette
  • mrslarkin
  • monkeymom

Recipe by: monkeymom

My favorite distraction is to cook. Though science and cooking/baking have a lot in common, I'm finding that each allows me to enjoy very different parts of my life. Cooking connects me with my heritage, my family, friends, and community. I'm really enjoying learning from the food52 community, who expose me to different ingredients and new ways to cook.

5 Reviews

TheWimpyVegetarian March 13, 2010
This looks and sounds delicious!! And I LOVE Gayle's Bakery! I worked on a project for a year on a college campus near there and got to eat there many days. Even today if I'm anywhere near there, I'll detour it over to Gayle's to get a bunch of stuff to take home to feast on. I'll definitely be making this in the near future.
testkitchenette March 12, 2010
This is a great travelling recipe!
monkeymom March 12, 2010
Hi testkitchenette...it's my go to recipe for crowds as it is quick to make too.
mrslarkin March 12, 2010
This sounds great and looks beautiful! I love gemelli. Very nice picture. Thanks for recipe!
monkeymom March 12, 2010
Thanks mrslarkin! We had it for dinner tonight with some sauteed shrimp. My husband was happy it was meatloaf and spinach week!