Spinach Pesto Alla Genovese with Zucchini

Pesto pasta in a white bowl with zucchini

Spinach Pesto Alla Genovese with Zucchini is one of my favorite ways to use summer produce. In this easy pesto recipe, we’ll be swapping basil for garden greens and the pine nuts for walnuts, almonds or pistachios. As you might have guessed, this pesto is highly customizable!


For the Pasta

  • 1 16-oz package of your preferred pasta

For the Pesto

  • 4 cups spinach or kale, loosely packed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts, almonds or pistachios (don’t use salted nuts)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup reserved pasta water

For the Veggies

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 cups baby zucchini or squash, roughly chopped (**see notes)
  • 4 scallions, whites removed then roughly chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup of corn kernels, optional. Fresh, frozen or from a can, drained.
  • Fresh herbs, optional. A small handful of roughly torn/chopped thyme, cilantro, oregano or basil are all nice in this recipe.


Make the pasta

Heat a large pot of salted water and cook your pasta according to the package instructions. I will usually cook the veggies and make the pesto while the water is heating up. This way your pasta doesn’t sit for too long after it is finished cooking.

Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining.

Cook the veggies

In a medium to large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add your veggies of choice along with a generous pinch of kosher salt and a sprinkle of pepper.

Cook about10 minutes, stirring frequently until the veggies have softened. Give them a taste to make sure they are seasoned to your liking. If you are using fresh herbs, you can add a small handful of them at this point. Give them a good stir to work them into the veggies, then taste and remove the skillet from the heat.

Make the pesto

In a food processor, add your greens, garlic, nuts, parmesan, salt, pepper and red chili flakes. Pulse until all the ingredients are finely ground, stopping a few times to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Slowly add the olive oil while the food processor is running. Pulse a few more times, scraping down the sides, until everything is well combined. Give it a taste and adjust the salt/pepper if needed.

Assemble the Pasta Dish

Return your drained pasta to the large pot. Add in the pesto and stir everything together to combine. If the pesto is too thick for your liking, you can add some of the reserved pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time until your sauce is creamy and has coated all the noodles.

Add the cooked veggies and stir to combine.


Add a bit more parmesan cheese on top just before digging in!



Here are the amounts of veggies you can use interchangeably. Just make sure the total amount of veggies remains at 3 cups.

  • Baby zucchini or baby yellow squash, ends removed and roughly chopped
  • Full size zucchini or yellow squash. I will usually use one of these if using full sized squash.
  • Asparagus with woody ends removed, then roughly chopped tops.
  • Baby broccoli, woody ends removed, then roughly chopped
  • Head of broccoli, remove the large woody end, then split the florets so they are bite sized


You can store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Heat in the microwave just until warmed through. You can add a small amount of olive oil to your warmed pasta to loosen up the pesto, if needed.

Keywords: kale pesto, spinach pesto, pesto alle genovese, pesto without pine nuts