Spinach Arugula Pesto with Walnuts


I’m a total pesto newbie. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE pesto, but I just never make it. I always thought it had to be made a certain way, with pine nuts, tons of oil and fresh basil. Well, pine nuts are outrageously expensive, I don’t like to go overboard on oil, and fresh basil is not something I always have on hand especially this time of year. However, I DO have an over abundance of greens from my farm share this week.

So I decided to use the fresh spinach and arugula to make a simple pesto style sauce to use on some pasta tonight. I knew the family would NOT be pleased, but I didn’t care. I have to use up these vegetables some how and they gotta help!

Dinner was a bit of an adventure. The husband came over to the stove to ask what we were having and immediately made a face. I asked him to try it before judging. He took a bite and had that surprised “hmpf that’s not too bad” look on his face. He ate a whole plate.

Now the toddler, he was not as open minded. There were faces and tears and foot stomping all the way too his room. It was CLASSIC. Spinach Arugula Pesto with WalnutsAbout 5 minutes later he asked if he could come back down and he hesitantly took a bite. The funny thing is he LIKED it but kept saying it looked gross. He ended up eating all the veggies and chicken but only a couple of bites of pasta. A few hours after dinner he confided in me that dinner was really good, but he just thought it looked gross. I’ll take it as a win. ;)

  • 1 oz shelled walnuts (28g)
  • 3 tbsp parmesan (15g)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of lemon juice
  • 2 cups of arugula (40g)
  • 3 cups of spinach (90g)
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil (54g)

Toast the walnuts in a skillet over medium heat until they smell toasted and fabulous! :) Just a few minutes shaking now and then.

Add the toasted walnuts, parmesan and garlic to the food processor.

Spinach Arugula Pesto with Walnuts - step 1

Pulse until well blended and chopped small…

Spinach Arugula Pesto with Walnuts - step 2

Add the salt, lemon juice, spinach and arugula. If you have a small processor like me just do it in batches adding more and more of the oil as you do, drizzling it in while blending.

Spinach Arugula Pesto with Walnuts - step 3

Once it’s al blended it will look like this…

Part of me REALLY wanted to spread this on a a piece of really good bread and make a sandwich right then and there. Honestly, I’m pissed I didn’t save some just for this purpose. Instead I used it all in a pasta dish for the family…

Spinach Arugula Pesto with Walnuts - step 5

I cooked up some chicken breast cut into chunks, added a bag of frozen mixed veggies (Sicilian blend) and tossed with some whole wheat spaghetti and the pesto. It was fabulous! At least I thought so. ;)

As for nutritional information I’m giving it just for the pesto and you can decide the best way to use it. The recipe made 1 cup and I’m counting an ounce as a serving, which makes sense because there is enough to toss with about a pound of pasta which would be 8 servings. At least it makes sense in my head. :)

Approx Nutritional Information per serving
Servings Amt per Serving
8 1oz (28g)
Calories Fat Fiber WWPs
100 10g 1g old: 3 new: 3
Sugar Sat Fat Carbs Protein
0g 1g 2g 2g
Posted in: 3 WWP, 3 WWPP, Dinner Ideas, Pasta Ideas, Vegetarian Ideas
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32 Comments and 0 Replies

  1. CindMoore

    Once you get the concept of pesto, the sky is the limit! lol As for nuts, I have used macadamias, pine, almonds, walnuts, pecans and they all work great. A friend told me she uses sunflower seeds because of family food allergies to nuts and that it turns out fabulous. Which makes me think pumpkin seeds would be a good option too. As far as the “green” part, I have heard of, seen recipes for or made pesto using: spinach, arugula, water cress, parsley, cilantro, mint and kale. And I have recently begun to wonder if you could replace the nuts with cooked beans (garbanzo, soy, white beans, etc.)

  2. Josie @ Skinny Way Of Life

    Looks delish!! You know, I’m so tired of hearing picky husbands and pickys kids I say we let them fend for themselves and all the local food bloggers can meet up everynight for dinner and enjoy real wholesome food with NO COMPLAINTS! I mean really it’s not like I’m feeding them bat poop on a plate b/c I read in an article that it lowers your cholesterol! it’s good food! But I do love my picky eaters so I’ll hang in there, they’ll come around eventually : )

  3. roni

    OMG I TOTALLY hear you! The husband got an earful because he said I was being too tough on the little guy but I’m tired of it. I’m doing my best to feed my family a variety of HEALTHY food and I feel like I’m fighting so much culture and outside influence and I’m doing it alone. It gets EXHAUSTING!

  4. Wolverine

    I have to say, I agree with the little guy on the look of it: I hate anything green that isn’t a recognisable vegetable. It just freaks me out. However, I do totally agree with eating healthy and if that means you try green pasta, then I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I’d just probably try to include something that changed the colour enough that it wasn’t the bright scary green.

  5. roni

    But it’s all in what you know and are familiar with. Green looks tasty to me. People like the way pesto looks who grew up eating pesto. You know what’s unnaturally appetizing.. neon blue cool aide or rainbow color candy. Why does that stuff “look good” to us when nothing we are “suppose” to be eating looks like that in nature?

    In my opinion, It’s a matter of culture and exposure. If Ryan grows up eating green pasta he will think it looks appetizing. If he grows up eating bright blue slurpees and fast food then that’s what he’ll gravitate towards when he’s an adult.

    Not picking on you wolverine.. Just making point. The same point I was trying to make to the husband tonight.

  6. CJ @CJinKY

    The important thing is he did try it and admitted it tastes good, so the next time you make it, it’ll hopefully go smoother. I think that’s expected from children his age. Also, I imagine he sees how his dad reacted and that may or may not have some influence on it. I would never force my husband or kid to eat something they genuinely didn’t like, but I don’t let them throw tantrums over things they REFUSE to try.

    I think if you make your child (and husband!) try enough things, they’ll become more open minded. And from what I’ve seen in your videos…Ryan is an excellent eater and pretty adventurous for a 5 year old anyway! It’s all about perspective ;-)

  7. Kerry

    I think the pesto looks great! (And yes, you should have kept some aside for yourself for tomorrow.) I agree with you completely on exposing kids to a variety of foods. My 1 year old nephew might be the only kid at day care with millet cakes or chicken saagwala for lunch, but he’s getting exposed to everything.

  8. Caroline Calcote

    I think it looks yummy, and I’m happy for more ideas to use up all these greens in our CSA share! We got mustard greens, rainbow chard AND turnip greens this time. That’s alot of greens for one family!

  9. shandy (@webgals)

    I agree with you Roni…I think exposure to these foods early help make all the difference. I grew up just the opposite and it’s been hard for me to break those habits and misconceptions. I think exposing kids to these natural flavors, textures, and colors early are important!

  10. Arlene @ Adventures in Weight Loss

    I’m torn. I know pesto tastes good … and your dinner looks pretty yummy to me. However, I can see where some people might not like the look of it because of its color. (At one point, I probably would have been the same way.)

    I’m with you on that nasty blue Kool-Aid. Who drinks that stuff? It looks like Windex.

  11. Liz @ life in liz's shoes

    That looks delicious!

    Growing up we never had Italian food other than the occasional spaghetti or tuna casserole which were nowhere near authentic.

    I had pesto for the first time when I first started dating my husband 5 years ago at age 27 and loved it! I like to eat it any chance I can.

    When I was in Italy (and I love Italian food now that I’m a grown up!) we had a pasta meal in what we were expecting to be a pesto sauce – it was green what else could it be. But we found out it was a spinach sauce. I have no idea what was in it, other than spinach of course, but it was a nice green color, very thin and runny/soup-like on our pasta (like a smooth vodka sauce or something, but green). It was seriously one of the best meals I had in Italy – so if you can figure out more spinach sauce ideas for pasta I am all for it.

    I do agree with you as well that it is good to try new things, new ways of doing things, new ways to use up the healthy food in the fridge, etc. And the more you expose kids (your husband probably wasn’t exposed to a lot of different foods as a kid was he? mine wasn’t) the easier it is for them to not have all those preconceived notions about stuff they’ve never tried.

  12. Liz

    I like the color of it because it just looks so fresh!

    I grew up eating lots of different things and my parents had similar mindset as yours. Im glad they did because when I went to college and had a friend who would only eat about six different items, I was shocked that she was that close minded to other foods. I think its important to be open minded to trying new foods because it can allow someone to learn about new cultures and can lead to great adventures.

  13. Wolverine

    And I can totally see your point, Roni. I do hope Ryan’s still young enough to learn to like things like green pasta. I didn’t grow up with anything like that: my dad was fussier than the Husband, so we had very little variety and consequently a very limited diet. Mostly traditional English.

    But, since moving out, I have learned to like many foods I thought I didn’t like at home (including onion, like you). Maybe one day I’ll like pesto, maybe I won’t. But I’m all for keeping up the healthy message by whatever channels you can. It just may be that some healthy foods appeal to some people and other healthy foods to others. Doesn’t mean the concept doesn’t still apply, just means people have preferences.

  14. roni

    Wolverine I TOTALLY hear you! I have many preference people think are nuts (I hate mayo, creamy soups disgust me and I think mac & cheese is one of the most disgusting things on the planet!)

    I was just on the warpath because the husband pissed me off. I refuse to feel guilty serving something so healthy to my son. Your email just helped me articulate the point I was trying to make to him. I didn’t meant to insult you or anything. Thanks for letting me vent. :)

  15. Wolverine

    No insults received here :) Venting is good!

    The only thing I think is guilt-worthy is serving something you don’t like (and not just for preferences, but think didn’t turn out well) and expecting other people to like it. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed that in any of your blogs, it’s just something I make sure I mention if I feel something I’ve made isn’t very good (but still edible). Other than that, no guilt allowed in the kitchen!

  16. Eileen

    This looks good. I don’t get why we think that nasty orange cheese is ‘natural’ but pesto is somehow odd. My mother claimed that she didn’t buy food that was in colors that didn’t exist in nature lol. We also always had to at least have a ‘no thank you’ serving which was like 3-4 bites worth. Shouldn’t they know not to mess with a pregnant lady? If they don’t, they shall learn….

  17. CindMoore

    By the way for those of you who have lots of greens to use up: If you have the room in your freezer, they freeze great for later use in soups and such :-)

  18. Jennie

    YUM!! The last time I made pesto it was because I had basil growing in the yard. I put the leftovers into ice cube trays and voila an instant sauce for pasta when I’m short on time :) I am thinking about buying some arugula for a lyon in the kitchen’s breakfast sandwich.

  19. Jessica

    @ Josie…I HAVE some bat poop, in my attic, you are welcome to! ( sorry, I’m sitting here, with tears in my eyes from laughing at the idea of bat poop lowering cholesterol. I guess it would depend on the insects)

    I grew up with the ” One Bite” policy, in effect. And what really chaps my rear is kids who grow up knowing nothing but Chicken Nuggets and applesauce. Man Cub is picky about food, but I’ve noticed it being more of a texture thing than flavor. The kid, who will crawl across scorching sands for applesauce, REFUSES to eat an apple slice. Same with melon, grapes,CHEESE, anything cold, solid and slimy. But he will mow down green beans, broccoli, corn, asparagus (when cut short!) like it’s no-ones business. And views ketchup as a side dish!
    It was fun to impress the grown ups with our eating of vegetables and ‘adult dishes’ (green bean casserole, oyster dressing, cool stuff like that). Especially when our cousins would only eat a roll, MAYBE some turkey, plain Jell-o, mashed potatoes.

  20. RG

    Too funny. 1. He ate the vegetables but skipped the pasta? That sounds great. 2. I wouldn’t use arugula in a pesto or for kids because it’s so bitter. And expensive. And yummy for adults. Walnuts are also a more bitter nut with the skin. I don’t think you have to have basil to call it pesto, but a handful of it here might have helped. 3. I’ve heard that kids are far more sensitive to bitter flavors than adults. 4. I grew up hating mustard and then tried it again in college and loved it, but I think that’s because of the difference between yellow (gross) and brown (yummy). 5. In music, people hated Rite of Spring with a passion (tomatos might have been thrown) the first time they heard it, but when it was replayed (without the dance, so audience could focus on the cacophonous music enough to make sense out of it) got standing ovations. Hard to tell if that’s about repeat exposure, more sophisticated ears, or different expectations (the second audience must have known about the riots during the first). But then, I’m not sure food tastes are analogous to music.

  21. roni

    RG – I never thought of it like that. He didn’t think it was bitter and actually said it tasted good but looked gross so it was totally all mental.

    Never though of arugula being bitter, more peppery which is why I decided to use it. However the only reason why I had arugula is because it came in my farm share, if I had to shell out cash for it separately I don’t think I would have used it, I’d rather basil but I’m out. :(

    He doesn’t like mustard at all, only the Honey kind but when I was kid I couldn’t get enough if it. ALL kinds except yellow, like you said (gross)

    I’m off to look up Rite of Spring as now i’m SUPER curious! :)

  22. RG

    Radiolab talks about Rite of Spring and why it shocked and no longer does, starting at 30:50
    link to radiolab.org

    The question in my mind is to what degree food works in the same way, because we have a very very picky nephew in the family that contrasts with the eat everything sister. So I think there might be genetic predispositions there.

  23. Chrystal Nelson

    The timing for this recipe was perfect! I had both spinach and arugula in the fridge that were bordering on going bad, and not really good eating as is… so it was awesome to be able to use up most of it in this recipe! I made it as written, except I doubled the garlic (I love garlic!). I added 4 cooked chicken breasts, what was left of some somewhat freezer-burnt stir-fry veggies (the garlicky pesto covered up the taste!), and some corn. Hubby was a little scared at first, but ended up enjoying it (or so he said – we’ll find out tomorrow if he puts some of the leftovers in his lunch!). The 3-year old didn’t have any as he had already had something to eat and wasn’t hungry – still working on trying to get him to wait and eat meals with us – LOL! This is definitely awesome, though – will be making this again for sure! :)

  24. Lisa

    I’m wondering, could I skip the arugula and double the spinach? I have a big bag of spinach from the farm that I need to use up in the refrigerator. Thanks, looks like a great recipe!

  25. roni

    You totally could! Spinach Pesto is just as good. Just taste it as you go and maybe add a pinch of pepper or other spices to give it a new flavor! Have fun with it!

  26. Liz W

    i had to do a project for my class about teaching young children math and science, and we did this for a project. i left out the nuts and added basil. it had to be easy enough for kids to do. a few people really loved it, one of which hated pesto. another person form my class said that she made it for her husband.

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