My Grandma’s Spaghetti with Pesto Sauce (AKA The Bestest, Tastiest, Lick-Your-Plate-Clean-est Pesto You Will Ever Have)

Okay, so I may be a bit biased. After all, she is my grandma (though, everyone in my family lovingly refers to her as, Abuelita Pina) and I love her to itty bitty pieces. She embodies the essence of grace, warmth, and wisdom — sprinkling it around her wherever she goes, making people in her presence instantly feel loved and special. My abuelita was there from the start. She fed me, changed my diapers, and rocked me to sleep. Though, “they” (The Elders: All Family Members Older Than Me That Helped Nurture Me) always tell me I was a hardship to put down. They say that I would trick them into believing I was asleep, when really I wasn’t, and that the instant they put me into my crib I would open my eyes and smile, as if I were saying, “Just kidding! Ha, Ha! Got you again!” I think sleeping is overrated anyway. 😛

But, aside from the napping thing, whenever I think about my grandma, the first thing that comes to mind is: FOOD. And I mean, gooood food. I can always trust that whatever she whips up will taste amazingly yummy — like her special version of spaghetti with pesto sauce. It’s a bit unorthodox with the addition of baby spinach leaves and walnuts, but that’s what really sets it apart from traditional varieties.

Disclaimer: I have to say, once you start making this, you may get addicted. I just finished the last of the leftovers a couple days ago and I’m craving more. I may just have to make another batch for sanity’s sake.

If, after reading above disclaimer you still want to go through with it, you can start reading the recipe and proceed with cooking and prepare yourself for nirvana. (move on to pg. 4)

If, after reading above disclaimer you are completely frightened by the possibility and you suddenly have a phobia of green spaghetti, then immediately stop what you’re doing and get help. (move on to pg. 7 which covers “How to Get Over Your Aversion of Le Spaghetti Verde”)

Don’t you guys remember reading those Choose Your Adventure books when you were little? They felt so epic — like every decision I made was monumental and it got me one page closer to my fate…or dooooom.

Ah. I must be hungry. I talk about weird things when I’m hungry. Apologies.

Here is my grandma’s version of green spaghetti (AKA “tallarin verde”):



1/4 cup good olive oil

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, preferably Kerrygold

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 yellow onion; chopped roughly

1/2 cup walnuts

1- 8 ounce bag of baby spinach

1 cup packed fresh basil

1/2 cup reserved water from spinach and basil

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese + more for serving

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper


1 package spaghetti noodles (white noodles is ideal but I’ve eaten it with whole wheat and it works too, just a tad nuttier)


How to Make Green Spaghetti:

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, saute the onion and garlic with butter and olive oil until softened, about 5 minutes. Put this and the walnuts into the blender.

Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a medium-sized sauce pot. Toss in the baby spinach and basil and cook until slightly wilted, a few minutes. Use tongs to put baby spinach and basil into the blender, reserving cooking liquid. Pour 1/2 cup cooking liquid into blender. Sprinkle in salt and pepper and give it a whir, starting off on low and then increasing gradually. Blend until you can hardly seen any specks of green from the spinach or basil.

Turn the machine off and add the Parmesan cheese; blend again. Taste for seasonings. Serve this over hot spaghetti noodles with extra Parmesan cheese on the side.

Buen Provecho!

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  • tia miñaOctober 19, 2010 - 11:14 pm

    Steph…It was a family secret!
    You’re in a big trouble lady, but you’ve written so beautiful things about abuelita Pina that I am sure you’ll be safe.

    Congratulations, good memories, excelent recipe. I have to share this blog w/your cousins; one of them enjoy cooking, the other one enjoy eating, but they both love “tallarines verdes”.ReplyCancel

  • AlyssaOctober 20, 2010 - 12:15 am

    Sounds delicious! And I almost had to stop reading after “sleep is overrated”. I just couldn’t get past that line for a bit and kept having to read it over a couple times.

    One Sleep Deprived MamaReplyCancel

  • BrittanyOctober 20, 2010 - 1:16 pm

    I think I need to go to page 7, I need help looking past the green.


    • steph@nieOctober 22, 2010 - 11:54 am

      My next goal in life is to persuade you to eat more pesto @ Brittany. :pReplyCancel

  • jaclynFebruary 22, 2012 - 8:16 pm

    i had a ton of spinach and i wasnt sure what to do with it, googled a few different things and your site came up! just made it…. so delicious! thanksReplyCancel

  • CMJanuary 11, 2013 - 1:11 am

    Cooked a half portion of this for myself and my girl – – totally loved it. I kept the garlic amount the same though (I do love me the garlics).

    1. Used Grana Padano Parmesan, which is a bit creamier but not as salty as other Parmesans, so it came out creamier but less salty (threw in more salty to flavor).

    2. Pine nuts instead of walnuts.

    3. A dash of spicy red pepper flakes.

    Results? Delish creamy green spaghetti with a hint of spice that carries it across with a bouquet of flavors. Thanks for the awesome recipe! Next time around will toast the nuts and throw in the red pepper flakes with the butter, garlic, and onion.ReplyCancel

    • StephanieJanuary 11, 2013 - 7:21 am

      CM, that sounds marvelous! I’m interested in checking out the Grana Padano Parmesan you used– an even creamier version of the original recipe sounds fabulous. It’s wonderful that it turned out great for you. 🙂 Much thanks.ReplyCancel

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