Penne with Spinach and Basil Pesto

Serves: 6

A quick and easy pasta dinner is what we all need from time to time, if not all the time.   It saves the day when you come home late from work, or when a drinks date with friends at home just keeps being too much fun to end, and the dinner hour rolls around.

But opening up a jar of sauce – while certainly convenient – doesn’t always feel special enough.   You might be surprised at how easy a quick pesto comes together, and this one is extra green and nutritious because it’s jammed with spinach.  Ricotta salata is a lovely bright white Italian cheese with a pop of salt that finished the dish nicely.  However, you can always use an extra sprinkle of Pecorino Romano if you prefer.

Ingredients List

  • 1 pound penne rigate
  • 2 small cloves garlic minced
  • 4 cups roughly chopped baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped basil
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
  • reserve 1 cup cooking water
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Thinly sliced ricotta salata to serve


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook the penne according to package directions, and scoop out 1 cup of the cooking water just before draining.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, in a food processor place the garlic, spinach, basil and 1/2 cup olive oil and blend.  Add the Pecorino and 1/2 cup the cooking water and season with salt and pepper, knowing that the cheese is a bit salty.  Pulse to blend.
  3. Toss the drained pasta with the pesto, adding additional cooking water if the pasta seems dry.  Serve hot, drizzled with a bit of olive oil if desired.  Pass a bowl of ricotta salata on the side for sprinkling onto individual portions.
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