Basil Spinach Sauce — Healthy Greens Made Simple

Basil Spinach Sauce

A few weeks ago you may have tried my kale carrot smoothie. Although kale seems to have bumped aside spinach–a one-time kitchen staple–both leafy greens are nutrition power houses.*  This versatile spinach sauce is a super-healthy twist on classic Italian pesto. It comes together in minutes–literally. Seasoned rice vinegar adds tang and keeps the greens bright. Warmed up, the sauce is delicious drizzled over seafood or tossed with hot-cooked pasta. If you like it as much as I do, triple the recipe and use it for vegetable lasagna with butternut squash, or zucchini during summer. And if you’re pinched for time, use pre-washed bagged spinach from the grocery store; there are plenty of organic options available.

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Fresh Basil Spinach Sauce

Prep time 10 minutes     Makes 2 cups

6       oz. fresh spinach leaves (6-7 cups lightly packed)
1       large green onion
1/2   cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2   cup water
3/4   cup coarsely chopped basil (about 12 large leaves)
1/2   cup tangy grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
2       Tbsp. Nakano seasoned rice vinegar
2       Tbsp. olive oil

Coarsely chop spinach and green onion. Place in a large microwaveable bowl; add peas and water. Cover and microwave on high 1-2 minutes or until wilted; transfer to blender container. Add basil, cheese, rice vinegar and olive oil. Cover and blend on low speed to start then increase to medium for 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Kitchen Notes:
– No need to chop anything if you use a food processor rather than a blender.
– To double or triple recipe, prepare vegetables then microwave and blend in batches.
– Forgot to thaw the peas? Just add them to the 1/2 cup water and microwave until warm; pour over spinach and onion. Cover and microwave until spinach is wilted, 1-2 minutes.

* Scroll down the article a bit to see nutritionals for kale and spinach.

Nutrition Information per 1/4 cup (no salt or pepper): 80 calories, 4g protein, 4g carb, 5g fat, (1.5g sat. fat), 5mg chol, 180mg sodium, 1g fiber
Recipe and photo by Rita Held

8 thoughts on “Basil Spinach Sauce — Healthy Greens Made Simple”

  • Rita,
    I really love pasta and lots of sauce. Bolognese and pesto are right at the top.

    So when I saw this recipe for pesto with a really healthy twist, I was all over it. I’ll definitely try it real soon.

    ONE QUESTION: Would it be possible to make this without the parmesan and then freeze it? I learned to make fresh pesto with the usual ingredients, BUT to omit the cheese. I this way you can use some immediately, add cheese when you want to and still have the fresh tasting pesto in a week or two. Please let me know Chef Rita.

    Thanks too for the link to the nutrition comparison of kale vs. spinach. Seems spinach has the upper hand on all the macronutrients.


    • John, yes, it’s fine to freeze without the cheese. Adding the cheese when you’re ready to eat will impart a more robust cheese flavor, I imagine. Btw, this spinach sauce does not have the intense basil flavor that traditional pesto does; it’s much lighter in that regard. It’s a thinner sauce as well. Let me know how it turns out for you–if you like it or not.

    • This is actually a spinach sauce with a basil background — much lighter and thinner than traditional pesto — therefore more versatile. The peas add some body to the sauce as well as nutrition.

  • This sounds so yummy. I love pesto but find often that it doesn’t love me. I can’t wait to try with the milder flavor of spinach. Thanks for the FAB recipes!

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