Pesto Pasta with Peas is a super quick family dinner that’s ready in about 20 minutes. It has plant-based protein, lots of flavor, and is endlessly versatile Win!

pesto pasta with peas in multiple bowls.

Pesto Pasta with Peas

Okay, first things first: Yes, pesto is green. And yes, I know that sometimes is a no-go with kids. BUT it pairs so well with favorite foods like pasta that it has, in my experience, a high chance of being accepted by the kids.

It adds such a yummy flavor to this easy recipe that we make it all the time. I keep a stash of Spinach Pesto in my freezer (or you can simply buy pesto at the store) so I can make this for hot lunches to send to school in a thermos or for easy meals to make at home.

We love having this pasta recipe with peas for added protein and fiber, and also because we like the flavor. There are lots of other options, so see the Notes at the end of the recipe for all of the variations.

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Ingredients You Need

To make this easy family meal you’ll need to have the following ingredients on hand and ready to go.

Ingredients for pesto pasta with peas.
  • Pasta: You can use any variety or shape of pasta that you like here. We tend to make this with smaller shapes so it’s easy to eat with a spoon.
  • Frozen peas: Frozen “petite peas” are usually less starchy and more pleasant to eat than larger ones, so that is my choice here if possible.
  • Pesto: You can use homemade Spinach Pesto, Kale Pesto, or Avocado Pesto, or use basil pesto (or even vegan pesto) from the store.
  • Parmesan: Grated or shredded Parmesan is a nice addition for more flavor before serving.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here’s a look at the process so you know what to expect from making this recipe. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for the full recipe.

how to make pesto pasta with peas in grid of images.
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Place the frozen peas into the bottom of a colander. Drain the pasta, pour it right over the peas to thaw and warm them.
  3. Return the pasta and peas to the pot and stir in the pesto.
  4. Serve warm.

Alternatives to Peas

The beauty of this recipe is that you can use the pesto and the pasta and leave out the peas. You can sub in broccoli (toss it into the pasta water for the last 4 minutes while the pasta is cooking), diced zucchini (toss it into the pasta water for the last 2-3 minutes while the pasta is cooking, or leave out another veggie all together.

spinach-pesto-pasta-with-peas_in bowl

How to Store

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Warm through to serve.

Best Tips for Success

  • Add in a handful of basil if you want, though we love this pesto without basil too.
  • Add a few cups of diced and cooked chicken, shrimp, or sausage if desired.
  • Instead of peas, you can use broccoli (toss it into the pasta water for the last 4 minutes while the pasta is cooking), diced zucchini (toss it into the pasta water for the last 2-3 minutes while the pasta is cooking), or leave out another veggie all together.
  • Use whichever pasta your family prefers.
  • To make this dairy-free, use a vegan pesto.

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pesto pasta with peas in multiple bowls.

Spinach Pesto Pasta with Peas

This bright green pesto is cheesy and mild, making it a perfect sauce for a quick dinner of pasta and peas!
4.89 from 34 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Cuisine Italian
Course Dinner
Calories 401kcal
Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pasta
  • 4 cups lightly packed baby spinach
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 1 whole lemon)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds
  • 2 cups frozen peas
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Instructions

To make the pasta:

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.
  • Place the peas into the colander (still frozen) and drain the pasta over the peas. The peas will thaw almost instantly. Return to the pot.

To make the pesto:

  • Meanwhile, add the spinach, olive oil, lemon juice, Parmesan, and seeds to a blender. Blend very well until very smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Season to taste with salt if needed.
  • Toss with the pasta and serve with additional Parmesan cheese and enjoy warm.

Notes

  • The pesto can be stored in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer in a zip top storage bag (pressed flat and with as much air removed as possible) for up to 3 months.
  • This is enough sauce for a pound of pasta. Use a little less if your pasta package is smaller and store the leftovers for another day.
  • To Use this Spinach Pesto as Pizza Sauce: Simply spread the pesto onto prepared pizza crust and prepare as you normally would with regular tomato-based sauce. For a full size pizza, about ½ cup of pesto is usually the right amount. Adjust as needed.
  • Kale Pesto: Swap in baby kale or regular kale removed of the stems for the spinach. Make as directed.
  • Dairy-Free: Omit the cheese and consider adding an extra ¼ cup sunflower seeds. Add a little nutritional yeast for extra flavor if desired.
  • Add in a handful of basil if you want, though we love this pesto without basil too.
  • To freeze a batch for later, add 1 cup of pesto to a freezer bag, press the air out, flatten, and seal. Freeze for up to 2 months. It will quickly defrost at room temperature. (You can also break off a chunk and add it frozen right into whatever amount of pasta you make and as you stir it in, it will thaw.)
  • Add a few cups of diced and cooked chicken, shrimp, or sausage if desired.
  • Instead of peas, you can use broccoli (toss it into the pasta water for the last 4 minutes while the pasta is cooking), diced zucchini (toss it into the pasta water for the last 2-3 minutes while the pasta is cooking), or leave out another veggie all together.

Nutrition

Calories: 401kcal, Carbohydrates: 51g, Protein: 14g, Fat: 16g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g, Monounsaturated Fat: 8g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 6mg, Sodium: 175mg, Potassium: 355mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 1739IU, Vitamin C: 22mg, Calcium: 113mg, Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

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Comments

  1. Hi Amy,
    I can’t wait to try this recipe tonight! I didn’t see a step to cook the frozen peas. Is that missing from the recipe? It says on the bag that they need to be fully cooked to 165 degrees (not just thawed).

    1. Hi- I’ve always just drained the pasta water over them, but if your bag says that, you can steam lightly first and drain, then add to the pasta. Enjoy!

  2. Ive followed this recipe and there doesn’t seem to be enough liquid for the blender to make it smooth like yours?

    1. Either use the stick that came with your blender to help move the mixture or add more olive oil as needed.

  3. 5 stars
    Came across this recipe because I was looking for hot-lunch ideas that would fit in a hot food thermos for my 4.5 year old.

    He eats hot veggies and protein at home but school lunch can’t be heated (iykyk)

    My son loves this and he’s getting so many healthy veggies he wouldn’t otherwise get. I love the nutty flavor and it’s balanced with the lemon.

    We even used cauliflower pasta.

  4. Could I use pine nuts instead of sunflower seeds? I missed that ingredient somehow when doing my shopping

      1. 5 stars
        Could I use roasted pumpkin seeds? I have some on hand and would like to use it up!

  5. This was such a yummy recipe! Anything that comes together while the pasta is cooking is a huge win. I added some garlic cloves to the pesto and toasted pine nuts at the end but other than that made it as is.

    Even my least adventurous eater (my mother lol) enjoyed this

  6. 5 stars
    This was a big hit all around- my husband, 20-month-old daughter, and I loved this pesto pasta! My daughter has a severe nut allergy and I couldn’t find sunflower seeds that weren’t completely nut-free, so I used 2-3 TBSP of sun butter instead of the seeds and 1 cup grated Parmesan. It was super easy to make! Thanks for another great family dinner idea! 🙂

  7. 5 stars
    Baby loved it, thank-you! I used part sprouted pumpkin seeds and part walnuts, and added a little basil. I loved it too. The store was out of alphabet pasta so I used vermicelli, but can’t wait to try alphabet pasta next time.

  8. 4 stars
    Very easy to follow and modify! I added 1/2 an avocado, more cheese and only 1 cup of peas and it turned out great!

  9. 3 stars
    I followed recipe exactly and it was a bit too strong on the green pea taste for our liking. My toddler didn’t care for it. I will try this again with maybe half the amount of peas. On the plus side it’s easy to make.

  10. We make this pesto very often and love it. I have some chard I need to use up – do you think it would work in place of spinach?

    1. Yes though the flavor may be stronger—and it may turn out a little brown depending on the color of the stems of the chard.

      1. I tried the recipe over the weekend, everyone loved it (includes my LO and Husband). one quick question, do you think i can use EVOO instead of Olive Oil will work

      2. I used frozen before reading the comments and it actually turned out great! Thank you!

  11. Could you use sunbutter instead of seeds? I bought some for my daughter but she doesn’t seem to like it. I was thinking this would be a good way to use it. If so, do you know how much I should use?

    1. That’s an interesting idea! It would add nice creaminess though the flavor is a little different so I wouldn’t add more than 2 tablespoons to start with. If it’s not too noticeable in the mix, you can add a little bit more. (It seems to be very hit or miss with kids since it definitely has a different flavor than peanut butter!)

  12. I know this is an older post, but do you have any recommendations for switching out the almond? I have a VERY allergic (to peanuts, tree nuts, & eggs) one and a half year old who loves pasta 🙂

    1. Hi! You can use sunflower seeds if you can find some that are certified to be processed in a nut-free facility. I use them frequently and they have great flavor and results. Otherwise, you can just omit the nuts or seeds (and maybe up the cheese a bit:)