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Pasta with Spinach, Pine Nuts and Basil

Red Pesto Pasta

Creamy, cheesy red pesto pasta with spinach. A tasty weeknight pasta dinner the whole family will love. Eay to make using just store cupboard ingredients and fresh spinach.
Course Dinner
Cuisine Vegetarian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 556kcal


  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (35g)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion (150g) finely chopped
  • 4 cups of rigatoni pasta (320g) dry weight
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 4 heaped tbsp red pesto
  • 1 heaped cup mascarpone (250g)
  • 4 cups spinach (6oz/175g)
  • 1/3 cup hard Italian Cheese vegetarian parmesan, grated. Plus more for serving.
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • A small handful fresh basil leaves


  • Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, about 8 minutes. Stir occasionally. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water then drain the pasta.
    Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat. Toss the pine nuts often then turn off the heat once the pine nuts are golden. Remove them from the pan and set aside until you are ready to use them.
  • Using the same skillet, add one tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Heat the oil over medium heat then add the chopped onion. Cook the onion for about 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent and are a pale yellow colour.
    Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute, then add about 4 heaped tablespoons of red pesto the pan and stir well.
  • Next, add 1 heaped cup or 250g of mascarpone to the onions. Gently stir in the mascarpone until it has melted down.
    Add the salt and pepper.
  • Once the mascarpone has melted start adding the spinach. You will need to do this in batches. Add about 2 cups of spinach to the skillet. Carefully stir it in until it is wilted. Once the spinach has wilted add the remaining spinach and stir until that is wilted too.
    Stir in the reserved pasta water.
  • Next, add the grated hard Italian cheese to the sauce stir until that has melted. Then carefully pour the cooked pasta into the sauce and stir gently until all the pasta is coated in the sauce.
  • Finally, scatter the toasted pine nuts over the pasta.
    Serve straight away with some extra grated cheese, freshly cracked black pepper and a couple of basil leaves.


  • Nutritional Information is approximate and is calculated using an online nutrition tool. It is based on a serving on four.
  • Pasta I use Rigatoni for this recipe, it's perfect for this creamy sauce and when the sauce collects in the hollow tubes, that's just perfect. Fusilli or penne are also great pasta for this recipe, as is whole wheat pasta.
  • Red Pesto To keep this dinner quick and easy I use a store-bought pesto for this recipe. Try and get the best pesto you can, it really does make a difference. We use a vegetarian pesto, if you are vegetarian you will need to check the label to ensure it is suitable for vegetarians. If you are looking to make a slightly healthier version of this then I can tell you that low fat red pesto works well too.
  • Mascarpone I use full fat mascarpone but again if you are watching the calories a low fat version will work well too. If you can't get your hands on mascarpone then ricotta works well too but it does result in a slightly grainy sauce.
  • Pasta Water I add a 1/4 cup of the water the pasta has cooked in to the sauce. The salty starchy water will help thicken the sauce and helps the pasta stick to the sauce.


Calories: 556kcal | Carbohydrates: 34.1g | Protein: 11.3g | Fat: 39.3g | Saturated Fat: 18.4g | Cholesterol: 95mg | Sodium: 772mg | Potassium: 252mg | Fiber: 3.9g | Sugar: 3.8g | Calcium: 225mg | Iron: 3mg