We’re all familiar with red sauce or white sauce to accompany pasta, but I think we need to pay more attention to green sauce.  Traditional basil pesto is probably the most well known green sauce but it isn’t exactly healthy.  This broccoli pesto pasta was the next green sauce we tried and it was such a hit, I knew we were on to something.  I like to call this particular version “great greens pasta” because it includes a sizeable dose of spinach, avocado and basil.  Andrew calls it “green dinosaur pasta” because to him, it’s the dinner equivalent of his favorite smoothie (now renamed green dinosaur smoothie because green monster is sooo 2011.)  Even though we like all the ingredients in this dish individually, I was a little skeptical of how this would work all blended together.  Turns out, we all loved it!

This meal is totally doable on a weeknight which is perfect because now even when I’m looking for a quick pasta dish, I have a recipe that fulfills that requirement while also being pretty nutritious.  The dish is great even without the roasted tomatoes so if you don’t have time for them, it’s okay – I would just toss in some fresh tomatoes if you have them.  However, if you have time for the roasted tomatoes I recommend it because really, they just make everything better.


For the roasted tomatoes: 
1½ pints grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp. olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pinch of sugar

For the pasta: 
12-16 oz. pasta (I use whole wheat)
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
¾ cup chopped yellow onion
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
16 oz. baby spinach leaves
1 avocado, split and pitted
6 tbsp. fresh basil leaves, packed
6 tbsp. greek yogurt
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving


  • 01

    To roast the tomatoes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Combine the tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper, and sugar on a rimmed baking sheet and toss well to coat.  Bake for about 40 minutes, tossing once or twice during cooking.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

  • 02

    Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Cook pasta according to the package directions.  Drain, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water for use in the sauce.

  • 03

    While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter with the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion to the pan and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook about 1 minute more.  Add the spinach to the pan, cover, and reduce the heat to medium.  (If you can’t fit all the spinach at once it’s okay – just add it in batches as it wilts.)  Stir occasionally until all the spinach has been wilted.

  • 04

    In the bowl of a food processor or blender combine the onion-spinach mixture with the avocado, basil, yogurt and Parmesan.  Process until the mixture is smooth, adding in a splash of pasta water at a time as necessary to achieve a smooth consistency.  Toss the sauce with the warm pasta noodles and serve immediately topped with the roasted tomatoes and additional Parmesan, if desired.


  • Warm Vanilla Sugar

    This is a great alternative to regular pesto! Looks lovely Annie!

  • noida

    Why is basil pesto not healthy? Seem pretty healty to me…

  • I love pasta like this. Using avocado as part of the base makes it cream, but still healthy and delicious at the same time. Plus, I LOVE the basil! YUM!

  • annieseats

    It has a pretty large amount of oil compared to the other ingredients, and isn’t really nutrient dense.

  • grandbabycakes

    That is seriously one stunning pasta dish!

  • I would never skip out on the tomatoes. Roasted cherry tomatoes are the world’s greatest food.

  • Angie

    This looks amazing, and a great way to get my husband to eat spinach since “I never chop it finely enough to get rid of the taste”. In your opinion, does it taste overly avocado-y?

  • annieseats

    No, you can’t even taste it.

  • Caroline L.

    And it’s such a pretty dish too! Looks so very yummy. Also, saw a few of your recipes linked at PEOPLE.com yesterday – so cool, congrats! :)

  • Brittany D

    My husband is allergic to avocados. I know, poor guy. Any suggestions on what to use in its place and still end up with a creamy texture?

  • noida

    Ok, thanks for your answer :)

  • annieseats

    I would probably just omit it and possibly add a little more yogurt if needed.

  • Jenn V

    I made this for dinner tonight- excellent. Definitely glad I took the time to make the roasted tomatoes. So good!

  • Jamie Stone

    looks divine! So summer-y (is that a word?)!

  • annieseats

    Totally a word!

  • Jillian Pascual

    Great recipe I think I’ll try this. Thank You!

  • Chelsia Rief

    So this looks amazing! Gonna have to try it!

  • M.E.

    My kiddos (3 and 1) love the broccoli pesto SO much – I can’t wait to try this on them. And we currently have an overabundance of cherry tomatoes and basil coming in from the garden so this seems like the perfect way to use some of that! Thanks!

  • Susannah

    Sound delish and such vibrant colors! Can’t wait to try!

  • nessa

    Mmmm….looks like a plate of heaven!

  • Lauren Ochoa

    This was made for dinner tonight and it was amazing! I had to physically force my kids to try a bite (they don’t share your kids’ affinity for green foods) but once they tried it, at least one of them continued eating voluntarily. 50% success rate is a win in my world.

  • Shawndra

    We tried this last night and loved it! I am definitely trying your broccoli pesto recipe this week too. Thanks!

  • Emilee

    This looks amazing! Did anyone try eating leftovers? I only cook for myself, so I’m wondering if it’s better to halve the recipe to make less servings, or if it will keep okay overnight in the fridge. Thanks!

  • annieseats

    I ate the leftovers for a couple of days and it was still good. Not quite as good as when fresh, but definitely a decent lunch.

  • M.E.

    Do you think you could swap out the spinach for kale? Our CSA has given us kale for the past 4 weeks and my husband has reached his limit on kale chips…

  • annieseats

    You could try it, but I personally think the taste and texture of kale might not work so well with this dish. The only way to know for sure is to try though. I do have several other kale recipes, so feel free to use the search bar for more kale inspiration.

  • Emilee

    Awesome! Thanks! I’m super excited to try this out.

  • Karen

    I had the EXACT same experience. My older one ate it, and she even ate it for lunch the next day! My younger one won’t eat anything, so I won’t hold that against the recipe. Delicious in my book! Going into the regular rotation.

  • Anne

    This is delicious! My avocado-averse husband didn’t even notice that ingredient, but I enjoyed the subtle flavor and smoothness it added. I was worried that leftovers may turn an off color, but they didn’t, and were still delicious. Another winner, Annie–thanks!

  • Robin

    Wow – made this today, and it’s even better than I expected!!! Thank you for the yummy recipe! Like you, I’ve lamented that pesto isn’t healthy, and I’m so thankful to have a delicious pesto sauce packed with nutrition!

  • Melissa Brooker

    wow I made this last night and expected it to be good but it totally exceeded my expectations, my husband loved it too! The roasted tomatoes should not be optional they added even more greatness!!

  • Laura T

    Blended is about the only way anyone in my family will eat cooked greens. This is brilliant!

  • Keerthi

    Annie, thank you for such wonderful recipes! I made this tonight and it was delicious. I happened to chat with my mom today and found out she made your roasted red pepper and kale pasta tonight…we couldn’t get over how you brought dinner to the table on the same night!

  • annieseats

    I love that! So awesome :)

  • jenbowers

    Have you tried freezing this dish? I’d love to try it for a freezer swap, but hoped you might have some advice. Thanks!

  • annieseats

    I have not tried freezing this, but this is actually one of very few things that I think would probably not be great frozen. I really love it, but I think this is likely best made fresh. If you do try it, let me know how it goes.

  • Cara

    I tried freezing this and I agree with Annie… it was not the best reheated. I’m not saying it wasn’t edible, but it was much,much better fresh :)

  • jenbowers

    I gave it a shot and had some success for my freezer meal exchange! I cooked the pasta and froze it in one freezer bag and then I cooked the sauce and froze it in a separate freezer bag. The roasted tomatoes froze fine but definitely tasted better fresh. Just wanted to share my success!!
    Also, my husband requested that I add this to my regular recipe rotation. Super thankful to have another awesome, healthy and easy recipe to add to my collection! Thanks Annie!!!

  • Diane

    This was so delicious! I had a few bites without the tomatoes, then added the tomatoes and they really took it to a whole new level! So glad to have another meatless dish in our repertoire. My baby gobbled it down. My other kids liked it a lot, too. Thanks for the great recipe!

  • I made this tonight, and it was excellent!! I subbed feta cheese for the parm, and I didn’t add the greek yogurt – sauce was still fantastic! With the roasted tomatoes on top, it was an awesome meal all around. Thanks!

  • Kat Moore

    Thank you thank you! Tried this one last night – children AND hubs all gave it thumbs up! And my meat lovers have agreed to do two meatless meals a week. Huge step forward.

  • Sarah

    I made this earlier this week–used arugula instead of spinach because that’s what my CSA sent this week and it was SO GOOD. I agree about the roasted tomatoes–especially at this time of year when they’re soooo sweet and delicious. Thank you for sharing!