Home » Blog » All Recipes » Pastas » Hazelnut Spinach Pesto Cavatappi

Hazelnut Spinach Pesto Cavatappi

5 from 1 vote

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy.

Hazelnut Spinach Pesto Cavatappi is a fast and easy Italian pasta recipe packed with nutrition. Healthy spinach is blended into a green herb sauce for a weeknight. Vegetarian.
Close view of Hazelnut Spinach Pesto Cavatappi garnished with chopped nuts, lemon wedges, and cheese shards.

Hazelnut Spinach Pesto Cavatappi is a delightful pasta dish that combines the earthy flavors of hazelnuts with the freshness of spinach in a vibrant pesto sauce. This dish is easy to prepare and offers a unique twist on traditional pesto pasta.

Close view of Hazelnut Spinach Pesto Cavatappi garnished with chopped nuts, lemon wedges, and cheese shards.

Why You Will Love This Recipe

This recipe is inspired by a trip to wine country in California.

We have always loved going to Rustic, the restaurant at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Healdsburg, CA.

This pasta dish was relatively new when we went earlier this year and it was such an amazing twist on basil pesto! I had never seen this combination before and it was absolutely delicious.

I am a huge lover of basil pesto and knew I wanted to recreate this combination at home. I guess you could say this is a copycat recipe!

The flavor profile is light and fresh like you would get with a pesto, but a little earthier from the spinach and a slightly stronger nut flavor. It is packed full of healthy nutrition and vegetarian!

Looking down on a bowl of Hazelnut Spinach Pesto Cavatappi on a counter surrounded by ingredients.

Ingredients

These are the ingredients that you will need for the recipe. Full quantities and recipe details can be found in the full recipe card at the bottom of the post.

Fresh Spinach – I like to use fresh but frozen is also an option

Fresh Parsley

Hazelnuts

Olive Oil

Lemon Juice – fresh is best!

Parmesan Cheese – freshly grated is best! Or a similar cheese such as pecorino or romano.

Garlic

Red Pepper Flakes

Salt

Ice

Water

If desired, you can cook vegetables or meat as preferred to add to the mix. I recommend zucchini, corn, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, asparagus, chicken, or sausage. Just sauté over medium heat with some olive oil and mix into the pasta with the pesto at the end.

Ingredients labeled and sitting on a counter.

Instruction Overview

Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the nuts and toast until fragrant, stirring frequently, approximately 2-3 minutes. Reserve some of the nuts for a garnish later.

Heat a large pot of water on the stove over high heat. Bring to a boil.

Add the spinach to the water and blanch until just wilted, about 30 seconds.

Remove the spinach with a slotted spoon and place in ice water to stop the cooking process. Set aside. Keep the water on the stove, and bring back to a boil.

Cook the pasta in the spinach water per package directions to al dente.

Add the pesto ingredients to a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth, or to your consistency. If you want it thinner, add more oil or some water.

Add the pesto to the drained pasta and toss to coat. Use the reserved pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce.

Finish with the reserved toasted and chopped nuts, a squeeze of lemon, and/or freshly grated Parmesan cheese as desired.

Store any leftover pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It can be used as a spread, sauce, or dip for various dishes. It also freezes well!

A fork lifting some Hazelnut Spinach Pesto Cavatappi out of the bowl.

Modifications and Substitutions

Cavatappi is the name of this pasta shape. You could use other pasta shapes as desired. The more edges the pasta has, the more sauce is needed to coat everything. So pasta with less edges (such as fettuccini or penne) will be saucier than pasta with more edges (such as angel hair or rotini).

In place of Parmesan, Pecorino or Romano are also great options! I recommend freshly grated over anything pre-grated as they are coated with anti-caking agents.

In place of hazelnuts, walnuts would be great. Pine nuts (classic to basil pesto) are also an option but more expensive.

If the pesto is too thick, you can add a bit more olive oil or the pasta water to reach your desired consistency.

Kim’s Tips

Squeezing fresh lemon over a finished pesto pasta is AMAZING and elevates it to the next level!

If desired, you can cook vegetables or meat as preferred to add to the mix. I recommend zucchini, corn, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, asparagus, chicken, or sausage. Just sauté over medium heat with some olive oil and mix into the pasta with the pesto at the end.

FAQs

Is cavatappi the same as elbow macaroni?

No. Cavatappi is a tubular corkscrew pasta shape.

What’s the difference between Cavatelli and cavatappi?

Cavatelli looks almost like a hot dog bun. Cavatappi is a tube shaped corkscrew.

What makes pesto taste better?

If you feel like your pesto needs a little something, try adding more lemon juice, more garlic, more salt, and/or more red pepper flakes.

Should pesto be thick or runny?

Pesto thickness is a personal preference. You want it thick enough to coat pasta and stick. Add more oil or pasta water to thin it out if desired.

Looking down on a bowl full of Hazelnut Spinach Pesto Cavatappi on a counter.
Pin of Hazelnut Spinach Pesto Cavatappi pasta up close with title at top.

More Pasta Sauces

Close view of Hazelnut Spinach Pesto Cavatappi garnished with chopped nuts, lemon wedges, and cheese shards.

Hazelnut Spinach Pesto Cavatappi

Hazelnut Spinach Pesto Cavatappi is a fast and easy Italian pasta recipe packed with nutrition. Healthy spinach is blended into a green herb sauce for a weeknight. Vegetarian.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Italian
Keyword: 30 Min or Less, Copycat, Pasta, Vegetarian
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 627kcal

Equipment

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Heat a skillet over medium heat.
  • When hot, add the nuts. Stir frequently and toast until the nuts are fragrant, approximately 3 minutes. Remove from the skillet to stop the cooking process and set aside.
    ¼ cup hazelnuts
  • Heat a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Salt the water.
  • Make an ice water bath by filling a large bowl with at least two cups of ice and 4 cups of water.
  • Add the spinach to the boiling water and cook until just blanched, approximately 30 seconds.
    6 cups fresh spinach
  • Remove the spinach from the water with a slotted spoon and place in the ice bath. Once cool, drain and set aside.
  • Cook pasta in the boiling water as per package directions to al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain (do not rinse).
    1 pound cavatappi pasta
  • In a blender or food processor, make the pesto by combining the blanched spinach, most of the hazelnuts (reserve some for garnishing), lemon, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, and olive oil.
    ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, 2 cloves garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes, ¼ cup olive oil
  • Blend until you reach your desired consistency. Add more oil or some water if needed.
  • In a large bowl or the empty pasta pot, combine the cooked pasta and pesto sauce. Toss to combine. Use the reserved pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce.
  • Serve immediately and garnish as desired with the reserved chopped nuts, lemon wedges, and fresh cheese.

Notes

  1. You can use frozen spinach as well. If frozen, first thaw and drain and use 1.25 cups of the spinach.
  2. Certain pasta shapes need more sauce to coat them because of having greater surface area. If using a different shape, add the pesto a little at a time to get the right ratio. High-edge shapes such as angel hair will likely need more sauce, or cut back on the pasta quantity.
  3. To ensure a truly vegetarian pasta, make sure you are using vegetarian cheese.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving (1/4 recipe) | Calories: 627kcal | Carbohydrates: 89g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 444mg | Potassium: 578mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 4294IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 136mg | Iron: 3mg
By on December 31st, 2023

About Kim

Kim has grown up with a passion for cooking good food! You can find her in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes, making dog treats, and eating Italian food!

More posts by this author.

Leave a Comment

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Three Olives Branch