Penne Pasta with {modern} Spinach Pesto & Portabella

by Kiran on June 29, 2011 · 14 comments

in Entree, Pasta

When I wrote a post on taste-testing balsamic vinegar, I dug through for some archived lost recipes that needed some TLC. While my scattered-brain finally recalled I had made this delicious pasta a few weeks ago, I can’t seem to find any excuse as to why I did not blog about it, sooner.

Well, better late than sorry.

I present to you, my first taste of pesto – resulting the besto!

What is Pesto?

Pesto is a sauce originating in Genoa in the Liguria region of northern Italy (pesto alla genovese), and traditionally consists of crushed garlic, basil and nuts blended with olive oil and cheese. Pesto is traditionally prepared in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle. First garlic and pine nuts are placed in the mortar and reduced to a cream, then the washed and dried basil leaves are added with coarse salt and ground to a creamy consistency. Only then is a mix of Parmigiano-Reggiano e Pecorino added. To help to incorporate the cheese a little extra-virgin olive oil is added. In a tight jar (or simply in an air-tight plastic container), covered by a layer of extra-virgin olive oil, pesto can last in the refrigerator up to a week, and can also be frozen for later use Source.

How can I use Pesto?

Some of my favorite recipes incorporating pesto’s, made with variety of innovative ingredients can be found at some of my favorite food-blogs:

Basically, basic pesto consists of a handful ingredients such as: garlic, basil, nuts, olive oil and cheese.

I might not be able to top oil-free pesto, so I am sharing my version of pesto. Minus (some may say – delicious) a couple of main ingredients. Forgive me, for I have sinned:

I didn’t have fresh basil on hand for this recipe. But substituted it with fresh spinach and some dried basil.

I detest parmesan or for that matter, any strong cheeses. But you are free to use any cheese. I won’t judge you, so long, you do the same for me 😉

I did use some roasted garlic. And it was good.

Scratch that. IT WAS EPIC.

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  • 1/2 pound whole wheat or whole grain penne pasta
  • 2 ounce baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • cooking spray


  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 4 roasted garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts/pignolias
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil – divided*
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt & pepper to taste


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Throw in penne pasta to cook until al-dente (tender but still firm to bite) between 10-12 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  2. Drain pasta using a colander once done.
  3. While pasta is cooking, prepare pesto. Add all pesto ingredients (reserving half of olive oil) in a food processor and pulse till smooth. To store the remaining pesto, top it with olive oil.*
  4. Heat a skillet on medium-high heat. Spray some cooking oil and saute mushrooms till fragrant and tender.
  5. Throw in 3 tbsp of prepared pesto. Remove from heat, sprinkle dried basil and add cooked pasta. Stir to combine.
  6. Serve immediately.
* pesto recipe would yield more than 1 serving. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Edit to add: Dried basil – forgot about it 😀

First taste of pesto, and I am hooked. This might just be my favorite pasta sauce. Ever.

Sorry, tomato sauce.

Have you tried pesto? If not, what are you waiting for?

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Comments on this entry are closed.

1 Cooking Foodie June 30, 2011 at 1:57 PM

The pasta looks good…
Though I cant say much abt ur version of ‘pesto’ till I try it… i’d say it more of spinach chutney – the kind they make in India than a pesto… pesto without cheese and basil is a no no for me

2 Kiran July 12, 2011 at 3:37 PM

Cooking Foodie,
Welcome to Recipebox and thanks for sharing your thoughts. Since coming to US, I am yet to try many new flavors, ingredients and staples. I love doing taste-tests and broadening my foodie horizons. I forgot to note that I did use dried basil in my recipe. It’s edited now. This pesto definitely did not taste anything like chutney. Give it a whirl and let me know how it tastes 🙂

3 Tanvi@SinfullySpicy June 30, 2011 at 7:04 PM

You post me made all nostalgic about my Genoa days when in the evenings I had a slice of pesto pizza for straight 15 days in a row..its was so so addictive and tasty.Your version with spinach sounds AMAAZING!!

4 Kiran July 12, 2011 at 3:39 PM

Thank you! Your Genoa adventure does sounds amazing 🙂 Thanks for the pesto pizza idea.

5 kankana June 30, 2011 at 7:46 PM

I think pesto sauce is one of the best sauce to use in pasta .. i usually make it with basil but your version is making me drool. With that portobello mushroom it will add so much texture. I have to try this sometime 🙂

6 Kiran July 12, 2011 at 3:43 PM

Thanks a lot honey. I did use dried basil for this recipe (edited the post). You are right about pesto sauce. It’s my number 1 sauce at the moment. Try this recipe and let me know how it tastes 🙂

7 Rivki Locker (Ordinary Blogger) June 30, 2011 at 10:17 PM

What a great idea to make pesto with spinach!

8 Kiran July 12, 2011 at 3:44 PM

Thanks dear! It was my first time experimenting with Pesto. Did not have fresh basil on hand, but overall it tastes so good 🙂

9 Simply Life July 4, 2011 at 3:14 PM

oh what a perfect summer pasta dish!

10 Kiran July 12, 2011 at 3:52 PM

Simply Life,
You said it right 🙂

11 carolinaheartstrings July 5, 2011 at 3:59 PM

That is the perfect pasta dish. Looks just terrific.

12 Kiran July 12, 2011 at 3:52 PM

Thanks a lot!

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