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Tender spaghetti noodles coated in a flavorful basil pesto sauce and topped with a rich lemon ricotta cream. This spaghetti pesto is the perfect way to get a fresh taste of summer using winter ingredients during colder months!

spaghetti pesto with fork on white plate
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Easy Spaghetti with Pesto Sauce

We are right in the middle of winter and spring. That time when baby greens, herbs and veggies haven’t yet started emerging from the earth; and the days are still cool enough that you want a little comfort food every once in a while. A flavorful pasta dish with a bit of creaminess is just the thing.

I love making pesto in the summer when there is basil growing everywhere. My go to basil pesto recipe is very straight forward. I use just basil, some pine nuts, Parmesan and garlic in just the right amounts for a fresh summer sauce. In these colder months for my winter spaghetti pesto, I mix the greens up and use only a little basil for flavor. It isn’t growing in my garden right now and can get a little pricey.

spaghetti pesto ingredients on counter

Homemade Basil Pesto

There are lots of different variations of homemade pesto. I decided to make a dairy-free vegan pesto for this recipe based on what I had on hand. It turned out so delicious!

  • Greens and herbs – I mixed the fresh basil with some flat-leaf parsley and baby spinach. Both have lovely, simple flavors but add an herby green punch that’s just right for pasta.
  • Frozen peas – Available and tasty all year, these add some sweetness to the sauce since I used less basil in this recipe because it’s winter.
  • Raw almonds – Give the sauce that great texture in place of the usual pine nuts that are used.
  • Lemon juice – Adds brightness to the sauce and balances out any bitterness from the fresh herbs.
  • Garlic – Pesto sauce isn’t the same without a clove of fresh garlic. You can always add in more if you love garlic, but I’d recommend adding a little at a time so that it doesn’t taste too pungent.
  • Olive oil – Helps give the sauce a smooth consistency, while adding a rich flavor. A fresh and high quality extra virgin olive oil will give your pesto the best taste.

Simple Swaps

Homemade pesto is easy to customize, so feel free to get creative with the ingredients. In the summer, omit the parsley and spinach and use only fresh basil leaves. You can also swap the almonds for pine nuts or walnuts and add in some fresh parmesan. To add more depth, try roasting your garlic before mixing it in.

pesto mixed in food processor

Lemon Ricotta Topping

The ricotta cream is a home run for this spaghetti with pesto sauce. Oh my, it’s delicious! If you save a little for leftovers, it tastes so perfect on toasted French bread the next day.

Just two flavors, lemon zest and pepper, make this dollop of ricotta cream genius. Spoon a bit on top of each serving of pesto pasta and with every twirl of your fork the creaminess mixes in.

fork with spaghetti pesto

Pesto Pasta Variations

  • Bulk up the meal by adding some sliced chicken or shrimp on top.
  • You can also use other varieties of cooked pasta, like penne or rotini.
  • Mix in some sliced cherry tomatoes.
  • For a healthier option, swap the pasta with cooked spaghetti squash.
  • Skip the ricotta and top the pesto pasta with freshly grated or shaved parmesan cheese.
  • Add a drizzle of balsamic glaze before serving for even more flavor.

Using Leftover Pesto

If you are just using half of the pesto for dinner (little kid portions aren’t as big as the recipe yield), it keeps in a covered container in the refrigerator for about a week. Use the leftover sauce to make pesto chicken, sheet pan gnocchi or a grilled caprese sandwich.

spaghetti pesto with fork on plate

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spaghetti pesto with fork on plate

Spaghetti Pesto

5 from 2 votes
Author: Jamielyn Nye
Tender spaghetti noodles coated in a flavorful basil pesto sauce and topped with a rich lemon ricotta cream. This spaghetti pesto is the perfect way to get a fresh taste of summer using winter ingredients during colder months!
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 30 mins
Servings: 6

Ingredients 

For the Lemon Ricotta:

  • 1 cup ricotta
  • ¼ cup whipping cream
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper

For the Pesto Pasta:

  • 1 cup packed flat leaf parsley , tough stems removed
  • 1 cup packed baby spinach leaves
  • ½ cup basil leaves
  • ½ cup frozen peas , thawed
  • 1/3 cup raw almonds
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound spaghetti noodles , cooked and drained

Instructions

  • Combine the ricotta, cream, lemon zest and pepper in a bowl and whip with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about a minute. Set aside.
    lemon ricotta mixed in bowl
  • In a food processor combine parsley, spinach, basil, peas, almonds, lemon juice, garlic and salt. Pulse until finely chopped. Drizzle in olive oil while pulsing and mix the pesto until quite smooth and combined.
    pesto mixed in food processor
  • Toss pesto with hot, drained pasta and divide between bowls. Add a dollop of lemon ricotta on top of each bowl and garnish with extra lemon zest and pepper.
    spaghetti pesto with fork on white plate

Video


Notes

Protein: Feel free to add sliced chicken or shrimp on top before serving. 
Substitutions: You may swap the almonds for pine nuts or walnuts. You can also omit the parsley and spinach and use only basil leaves during the summer months when it is abundant. 
Leftover pesto: Store leftover pesto sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. We love using leftover sauce to make pesto chicken or an easy grilled caprese sandwich

Nutrition

Calories: 607kcal | Carbohydrates: 62g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 34mg | Sodium: 247mg | Potassium: 393mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 1835IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 153mg | Iron: 2.5mg

Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian

Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!

Recipe contributed by Tara Teaspoon for I Heart Naptime.

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