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A bowl of pasta with basil pesto and asparagus and peas

Vegetable Pesto Pasta (A Root Formula)

Cook time: 10 mins
Total time: 10 mins
Yield: 6 servings


Boil the pasta in just 2 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon of regular table salt. The boiling pasta (which is just flour, after all) offers body and the vegetables add flavor to the relatively small amount of water, good for moistening the cooked pasta dish.
To bulk up any Vegetable Pesto Pasta, stir 1 can (15 to 16 ounces) drained white beans when tossing the pasta, vegetables, and pesto.
We like using frozen spinach and kale because their volume has been reduced, but you can use fresh if you prefer.


  • Salt
  • 1 pound bite-size pasta (such as rotini, penne, or ziti)
  • 1 pound Prepared Vegetables, your choice (see list below)
  • 1 pound frozen green peas, leaf spinach, or kale
  • 1 cup Pesto (Basil, Sundried Tomato, Lemon, or Kale)
  • Pecorino Romano or Reggiano Parmegiano for sprinkling, optional

Prepared Vegetables (1 lb total)

  • Asparagus. For pencil-thin asparagus, whack off the tough bottom 1 1/2 or 2 inches. For thicker asparagus hold the spear in one hand and snap off the bottom with the other hand, letting it break naturally at the tender part. Cut thin asparagus into 1-inch lengths. Halve thick asparagus lengthwise and cut it into 1-inch lengths. 
  • Broccoli. Cut florets from the stalk and then into bite-size pieces. Use a paring knife to remove the tough outer peel from the stalk and then slice 1/4-inch-thick. Or, buy broccoli crowns and cut florets into bite-size pieces. Or buy packaged broccoli florets
  • Brussels sprouts. Trim root end and halve lengthwise
  • Butternut and other winter squash. Peel and halve, seed, and cut into bite-size chunks.
  • Cabbage: halve, core, and thinly slice. 
  • Carrots. Peel and slice (on the diagonal, if you like) 1/4-inch-thick.
  • Cauliflower. Remove core. Snap florets from the head, cutting into bite-size pieces. Or, buy packaged cauliflower florets 
  • Green beans. Trim ends and snap into bite-size pieces.
  • New or red potatoes. Quarter if small or cut into bite-size chunks if large.
  • Snow peas. Stem(and string, if necessary). 
  • Sugar snap peas. Stem (and string, if necessary).


  • Bring a generous 2 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon of table salt to boil in a large pot. Using back of the box cooking times as a guide, add pasta to the water, stirring several times at the beginning to prevent sticking. The last 4 minutes of the pasta cooking time add the Prepared Vegetables; cook until bright green and tender-crisp. The last minute, add the spinach, peas, or kale and return water to a simmer.
  • With a large bowl under the strainer to catch the liquid, drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add Pesto and up to 1 cup of the reserved cooking liquid; toss to combine. Serve with grated cheese, if you like, and serve immediately.