There is such a feeling of satisfaction that comes from making your own sauces, especially those that you are accustomed to buying. I remember being incredibly excited when I realized how easy it was to make my own marinara sauce, finally able to forgo all of the sugar-laden options at the store. It opened my eyes and pushed me to become braver in the kitchen. Now, one of my favorite homemade sauces is pesto – for being so flavorful and elegant, you would never know how quickly it comes together.
One of the things I love about pesto is that you can really get creative with the ingredients. While the classic version is based on basil and pine nuts, I love the combination of spinach and almonds too. I still add a few basil leaves to the mix to keep that classic pesto flavor, but using spinach is a wonderful way to sneak in an extra vegetable to your meal. The almonds add a nice texture to the pesto and give it a good level of thickness.
This is a wonderful dinner that comes together quickly, yet still feels special. You can also make a big batch of the pesto and then freeze the leftovers in ice cube trays – whenever you need some, just defrost a few of the cubes as you’re preparing your pasta.
- 1 garlic clove, unpeeled
- ¼ cup slivered almonds
- 2 cups fresh spinach leaves
- Handful of fresh basil leaves (about 5 large leaves)
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup grated vegetarian parmesan
- Juice and zest of one lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pound linguine
- Cook linguine according to package instructions.
- In the meantime, toast the unpeeled garlic clove in a skillet over medium heat until softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. When cool enough to touch, peel the garlic and add to the food processor.
- Add almonds to the food processor and pulse with the garlic for 1-2 minutes.
- Add spinach, basil, olive oil, cheese, and juice and zest of the lemon; pulse for another 1-2 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl if necessary, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- When the linguine is finished, reserve about ⅓ cup of the cooking water before straining.
- Add about ¾ of the pesto mixture to the linguine. Taste to see if you like the amount of pesto; if you would like a stronger flavor, add the remainder. If the linguine and pesto is too dry, add the reserved cooking water.
If you don’t have a food processor yet, I highly recommend getting one. I use mine for countless recipes and love easy they are to use. I have a classic Cuisinart one, which you can find here.
Amanda Paa says
love simple meals like this. i always make pesto out of whatever nuts & herbs i have. fun that it turns out differently every time!
Hi Amanda! I agree, it’s so fun to experiment with pesto. I definitely want to continue trying new combinations – maybe one with arugula next time.
I’m a big fan of pesto and a big fan of spinach so it’s a very good bet I’ll be a fan of this creation. I’m guessing the almonds are a nice twist, too.
I think you’ll really like this spinach and almond combination! The almonds give it a really good texture. It sort of reminds me of the Moosewood spinach sauce you guys used to make all the time.
Geraldine | Green Valley Kitchen says
I love pestos – especially pestos that only use a little basil – I think an all basil pesto overpowers all the other flavors. Love the spinach, lemon and almonds! in this one. Never tried almonds in a pesto – but will be soon. Thanks, Julia!
Geraldine, I completely agree with your comment about basil. It can definitely be overpowering! This still has a nice basil flavor, but you can enjoy the other elements of the pesto too. I hope you enjoy it!
I have not made pesto with almonds before. The first time I made it I used pine nuts and only basil–very strong taste, unless you use it very sparingly. After that experiment I almost always have used walnuts, which are wonderful in everything. Can’t wait to try your variation, especially since you cooked the garlic clove first. Strong garlic flavor was another characteristic of my first pesto effort!
I’ll have to try walnuts in pesto sometime – that sounds like a great combination! I saw the idea to roast garlic that way in one of my new cookbooks, and I think it really did help soften the strong taste.