Whole Wheat Pesto Pasta

This whole wheat pesto pasta is probably one of my favorite things to cook. It requires a few simple ingredients that provide immense flavor. Lemon, basil, garlic, olive oil – you simply cannot go wrong. Plus, it’s easy to make, comes together quickly and is plant-based!

If you’re looking to make it vegan, use nutritional yeast instead of Parmesan and if you’re looking for a meaty version, add a filet of salmon or a chicken breast. It’s truly a dish everyone can enjoy!

How to make pesto pasta

There are just a few steps, and the entire dish will be ready in about 15-20 minutes. To save time, get your pasta boiling, then make the pesto and then put it all together.

  • Start with a big pot of boiling water. Cook your pasta according to the package directions. Generally pasta takes about 8-10 minutes to cook to al dente. There are a ton of nutritious pasta options out there, including whole wheat, whole grain (generally a mix of several grains) or bean/legume pasta. Whatever you like – use it here! You can also use different shapes. Whatever variety you have on hand will work out perfectly. Save about 1/4 cup of the pasta water before you drain.
  • While the pasta cooks, make the pesto. I like to use my food processor for this by just giving everything a whirl until it’s pesto consistency, but if you want to go old school, you can use a mortar and pestle to make it by hand. Be sure to taste it before you add it to the pasta, as it may need some adjusting (more lemon, more salt, etc.).
  • A few notes on the pasta: I suggest using basil and spinach because unless it’s farmer’s market season, basil is expensive and comes in small packages. So you can add spinach to cut the price and add bulk, while also adding nutrition. You can use kale here as well. Also, for pesto, I suggest using fresh garlic cloves rather than the pre-minced kind. And for the nuts, use any kind! Traditional pesto calls for pine nuts, but they’re expensive as well. Try walnuts, pecans, almonds or pistachios. Mix it up!
  • If you want to make extra pesto, store some in the fridge up to 3 days or in the freezer up to 2 months. You can pour pesto into ice cube trays, let it freeze, then pop them in a Ziploc into the freezer for easy meal prep.
  • When the pasta and pesto are ready, get them back in the pot with the reserved pasta water and simmer while tossing with tongs. You can add a few egg yolks in if you want to make it carbonara-like. Just be sure to cut the heat, add the egg yolks and toss with the tongs until the egg is cooked but not scrambled.

And last, but not least – enjoy!

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Whole Wheat Pesto Pasta

  • Author: Julie Andrews
  • Prep Time: 5-10 mins
  • Cook Time: 10-15 mins
  • Total Time: 15-25 mins
  • Yield: Serves 4 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stove-Top
  • Cuisine: Mediterranean


A simple pasta dish with whole wheat linguine, lemony basil and spinach pesto and Parmesan. 


  • 6 ounces whole wheat linguine
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup fresh baby spinach
  • ¼ cup freshly shaved or shredded Parmesan + more for serving (optional)
  • Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, walnuts or almonds
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup olive oil


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook linguine according to package directions. Save ¼ cup pasta water; drain the remaining pasta water. Place cooked pasta back in the pot.
  2. While the pasta cooks, place the basil, spinach, Parmesan, lemon zest and juice, nuts, garlic, salt and black pepper in a small blender and puree, drizzling the olive oil in through the vegetable shoot until pesto-like consistency is achieved, scraping the sides as needed. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
  3. Add the pesto and the reserved pasta water to the pot with the linguine and bring to a very low simmer, tossing the linguine with tongs, until the pesto sauce has thickened.
  4. Serve linguine in bowls topped with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.


Substitution Tip: For a vegan version, sub in nutritional yeast for Parmesan.


  • Serving Size: 1/4 of recipe
  • Calories: 397
  • Sugar: 2g
  • Sodium: 317mg
  • Fat: 26g
  • Saturated Fat: 4g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 22g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 34g
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Protein: 9g
  • Cholesterol: 6mg

Keywords: Mediterranean, pasta, pesto, dinner, plant-based, vegetarian