Spinach Pesto Pasta With Crispy Breadcrumbs

A rich pesto pasta dish that looks and tastes divine. The smooth pesto pasta is perfect with the salty and crunchy breadcrumbs. This recipe is an amazing dish for entertaining, it’s very easy but looks super fancy and tastes even better.

Pesto pasta is perhaps my all time favourite food. There’s nothing better than digging into a plate of herby carbs. Come rain or shine, pesto pasta always delivers. Now, thanks to the handy addition of spinach and breadcrumbs, you can jazz up that plain pesto pasta into something that’s restaurant quality.

pasta with pesto in mixing bowl

This is the perfect dish for an intimate setting or entertaining a special someone. A glass of vino, some candles and music and you’ve got a winning date night.

spinach pesto with pasta on plain background

How to cook spinach pesto pasta

Here’s some additional information and content to make cooking this pesto pasta a breeze. Feeling confident and just want the instructions then jump to the recipe and get started!

Recipe video

Guided steps

Crispy Breadcrumbs

Preheat your oven to 200˚c/390˚f (fan oven). Roughly chop the 150g of white bread and place into a food processor. Whizz until the bread turns into fine breadcrumbs.

Pour the breadcrumbs onto a baking tray and cover with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Toss the breadcrumbs with your hands until the olive oil is evenly incorporated into the breadcrumbs.

Place the baking tray into the oven and bake for 7-10 minutes or until some of the breadcrumbs are starting to turn golden brown.

cooked breadcrumbs

Remove the breadcrumbs from the oven and stir to ensure some of the less crispy breadcrumbs mix with the ones on top. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes. As the breadcrumbs cool they’ll become even more crispy and crunchy.

Spinach Pesto

Place the 30g of basil50g of toasted pine nuts1 teaspoon of sea salt1 clove of chopped garlic50 ml olive oiljuice of 1/2 a lemon and 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast into a blender or food processor. Blitz into a smooth pesto.

Now tip in the 200g baby spinach and whizz again until all the spinach has been incorporated into the pesto. Add a few tablespoons of water if your pesto is too thick.

spinach in pesto

Cook your 500g of pasta to packet instructions until aldente. Then drain and mix will the spinach pesto.

Serve the pesto pasta with the crispy breadcrumbs heaped over each dish. Optionally I also like to fold in some freshly steamed kale or cavolo nero to add some further greens.

Serving suggestions

Here’s some of my ideas to make this pesto pasta part of a glorious feast.

Course meal

This pasta can work great as part of a light and summery 3 course meal. I like to start off with a small starter of salted tomato salad. Nothing fancy needed here. Just good quality beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes, brought up to room temperature, sliced and salted. Then left to sit for at least 10 minutes. Dress with extra virgin olive oil, fresh thyme and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

After the main course of pasta I’d recommend you finish off with something citrussy and sweet. Some great suggestions here are a lemon or orange polenta cake. Served with coconut ice cream. Or if you can’t say no to the chocolate, why not a chocolate and orange cake.

Sharing platters

This dish works great for banquet style dining. You can serve the pesto pasta on a large platter and heap over the breadcrumbs. It’s great as a central piece for the table.

With this approach I like to serve the pasta with other smaller platters that are less carb focused. Showcasing vegetables that pair well with the pasta. Roasted brassicas like broccoli or whole heads of cabbage are an excellent addition. These greens go well with the pasta and build volume to the table.

I like to roast my brassicas with a simple mixture of olive oil, salt, cumin, fresh thyme and paprika. Cook times will vary with the size of the vegetables. But in general I roast at 200c until the outside of the vegetables begin to caramelise an brown. Once roasted drizzle a little fresh lemon juice over each plate and serve immediately.

Other pesto ideas

You can add basically anything to a pesto and it’ll taste pretty ok. However, there’s only a few ingredients that work perfectly. Here’s some further ideas on how you could jazz up the base pesto recipe. (Remove the 200g of spinach from all of the below ideas).

cavolo nero steamed
  • Pea pesto – De-thaw 100g of frozen peas and toss into the pesto and blitz. Makes a bright and smooth pesto that is light and sweet. Perfect for dressing use.
  • Walnut pesto – replace the pine nuts with walnuts for a rustic and nuttier pesto. The walnuts don’t blend into the sauce as well but they add a deeper flavour to the pesto that’s great for dishes needed another level.
  • Spiced pesto – a slightly weird but wonderful take on a classic pesto. Add 20g of coriander, 5g of mint and half a green chilli to the pesto and blitz. Makes a herby and spicy pesto that works well with noodles.
eating spinach pesto

Recipe

Serves 6
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

This meal is around 91% less polluting than the average UK meal.

  • Eating this recipe will save around 2.67 KG CO2e per person.
  • That’s equivalent to the emissions produced driving 22.10 KM in a modern car.
How do I calculate this?

Ingredients

  • 500 g Pasta (i've used rigatoni)

Crispy Breadcrumbs

  • 150 g White Bread (i've used a soft white farmhouse loaf, but any bread will do just fine)
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt (I've used maldon)

Spinach Pesto

  • 30 g Basil
  • 1 Clove Garlic (finely chopped)
  • 50 g Pine Nuts (lightly toasted)
  • 50 ml Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Medium Lemon (juiced)
  • 2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 Teaspoon Sea Salt (I've used maldon)
  • 200 g Baby Spinach

Instructions

Crispy Breadcrumbs

  • Preheat your oven to 200˚c/390˚f (fan oven).
  • Roughly chop the 150g of white bread and place into a food processor. Whizz until the bread turns into fine breadcrumbs.
  • Pour the breadcrumbs onto a baking tray and cover with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Toss the breadcrumbs with your hands until the olive oil is evenly incorporated into the breadcrumbs.
  • Place the baking tray into the oven and bake for 7-10 minutes or until some of the breadcrumbs are starting to turn golden brown.
  • Remove the breadcrumbs from the oven and stir to ensure some of the less crispy breadcrumbs mix with the ones on top. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes. As the breadcrumbs cool they'll become even more crispy and crunchy.

Spinach Pesto

  • Place the 30g of basil, 50g of toasted pine nuts, 1 teaspoon of sea salt, 1 clove of chopped garlic, 50 ml olive oil, juice of 1/2 a lemon and 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast into a blender or food processor. Blitz into a smooth pesto.
  • Now tip in the 200g baby spinach and whizz again until all the spinach has been incorporated into the pesto. Add a few tablespoons of water if your pesto is too thick.
  • Cook your 500g of pasta to packet instructions until aldente. Then drain and mix will the spinach pesto.
  • Serve the pesto pasta with the crispy breadcrumbs heaped over each dish. Optionally I also like to fold in some freshly steamed kale or cavolo nero to add some further greens.
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