Beet Greens Pesto Pasta, an easy pesto pasta recipe using beet leaves instead of basil. A sustainable twist on classic pesto pasta!

penne pasta noodles with pesto made of beet leaves on a white plate with a gold fork and red beets in the background

Not sure what to do with beet greens? Make a beet greens pesto pasta! Our Beet Greens Pesto recipe is a unique food waste prevention twist on classic pesto, so we decided to show the sauce in action in this easy pesto pasta recipe.

👉 Here are three reasons you should make pesto pasta with beet greens:

  • It’s delicious! First and foremost, pasta with beet leaves pesto is super tasty. With a rich, earthy flavor this will become your new favorite easy weeknight meal that’s perfect for leftovers.
  • Pesto sauce is super versatile. Use any extra pesto in soups, stews, and on top of roasted or grilled vegetables. The pesto possibilities never end!
  • It reduces food waste. This recipe helps you become a more eco-friendly home cook by using up beet greens that would otherwise be thrown out.

Ready to learn how to make this so-easy pesto pasta with beet greens? Let’s do this!

beets with greens and bowls of dry penne pasta, sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, oil, salt, and pepper on a white table
Ingredients: beets with greens, pasta, cheese, nuts or seeds, oil, salt, pepper

🍝 How to make (step-by-step)

1️⃣ Step One: Wash, dry, and cut beet greens

First, cut the beet tops from the stems close to the leaves. Use the beets in salads, soups, or even baked into crispy veggie chips.

Place the greens in a bowl of water and use your hands to remove excess dirt. Remove from water and either spin in a salad spinner or place in a colander to let dry (about 5 minutes).

Once the leaves are dry pick out any remaining hard stems.

beet leaves drying in a colander on a white table
Wash and dry beet greens

2️⃣ Step Two: Prepare beet leaves pesto

Add beet greens, pine nuts (or other nuts/seeds of choice), garlic cloves, olive oil, cheese (or nutritional yeast, if vegan), and a generous pinch of salt and pepper to a food processor or blender.

beet greens, sunflower seeds, cheese, and garlic in a food processor
Add pesto ingredients to a food processor or blender

Pulse the ingredients, adding more oil if needed, but keeping pesto a thicker consistency (we don’t want runny pesto, we want thicker pesto that coats the pasta noodles).

chopped pesto sauce in a food processor
Pulse pesto until smooth

👉 How can I make pesto nut-free? If you want to make a nut-free pesto, we suggest sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds. You can also use beans or even chickpeas, like in our Nut-Free Chickpea Pesto.


3️⃣ Step Three: Boil the pasta

Bring a large pot of water and a generous pinch of salt to a boil, then add pasta and cook to al dente (about 8-10 minutes). Drain water, reserving ½ cup of pasta water.

a spatula with penne noodles above a pot of pasta boiling in hot water on a stove
Cook pasta until al dente

What type of pasta should I use in pesto pasta? Because pesto is a thick sauce, most any type of pasta will be delicious. However, we like either a thick long noodle like bucatini or a thick hollow noodle like penne.


4️⃣ Step Four: Prepare pesto pasta

Add pesto to a large pan and heat over low, adding a small amount of the reserved pasta water and letting it cook down for about 1-2 minutes (the starch in the water will help thicken the sauce).

pesto made with beet leaves in a white pan on a table with red beets
Heat pesto in a pan

Add the cooked pasta and toss to coat the noodles completely in the pesto sauce. Give the pasta a taste and add any more spices or salt and pepper, if needed.

To serve, plate the pasta and sprinkle with a bit of parmesan cheese, or if you’re vegan then a small amount of vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast.

penne noodles in a pan with pesto and wooden spoon on a white table
Add pasta and stir to combine

❓ Recipe + ingredient questions

How can you use the tops of beets?

Beet tops can be used in place of any sturdy green like swiss chard or kale in most recipes. They are delicious in sauces like pesto and chimichurri, salads, pastas, in broths and soups, and even on their own as a side dish.

Can you eat beet leaves raw?

You can eat beet tops raw, they do not need to be cooked before eating. In fact, they’re delicious in salads, sauces, and dips. However, make sure to wash radish greens thoroughly because they are a root vegetable so they typically have dirty leaves since beet roots are grown directly in the soil.

What other ways can you make beet top pasta?

In addition to making beet top pesto pasta, you can also toss pasta in an oil-based sauce with garlic, carrots, tomatoes, and beet leaves. The pasta possibilities are endless for beet greens.

beet leaves pesto pasta on a blue plate on a white table

♻️ Sustainable kitchen tips + tools

We believe that living a green lifestyle starts in the kitchen, so here are a few tips to make this recipe healthy for you AND the planet:

🥕 Use root-to-stem cooking techniques.

The great thing about beets is you can truly use root-to-stem cooking on all parts of the vegetable. Use beet roots in salads or bake them into chips, use the stems to season a homemade vegetable broth, and use the tops in a sauce like chimichurri.

🌾 To make this recipe healthier, choose whole grain pasta.

Choose whole grains whenever possible, including in pasta. Whole grain pasta is higher in fiber and other nutrients compared to refined white pasta, which means it’s a healthier choice for you and for the planet.

🥣 Stock up on pesto for other meals.

Did you make more beet leaves pesto than you actually need for this pasta? Great! Freeze it in an airtight container for up to 2-3 months to enjoy later in soups, stews, and on top of roasted or grilled vegetables.

a plate of penne pasta with pesto sauce on a blue plate with red beets in the background

🌿 More recipes using beet greens

We love reducing food waste by using up beet tops in interesting ways. Here are a few of our favorite recipes:

Yield: 4 servings

Beet Greens Pesto Pasta Recipe

beet leaves pesto pasta on a blue plate on a white table

Beet Greens Pesto Pasta, an easy pesto pasta recipe using beet leaves instead of basil. A sustainable twist on classic pesto pasta!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 5 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 6 oz (6 cups, 450 grams) pasta, (rotini, fusilli, penne)
  • 1 tablespoon salt, for pasta water
  • 4 ounces (2 cups, 113 grams) beet tops and stems, (from about 1 bunch, or 8 medium carrots)
  • ⅓ cup pine nuts, or seeds if nut-free
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup vegan parmesan cheese, or 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • ⅛ teaspoon quality sea salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  1. Wash, dry, and cut beet greens: Cut beet roots from the stem*. Cut the beet greens from the stem and place in a colander or bowl to wash, rinse well to remove dirt, then set aside to dry (about 20 minutes). Once dry, remove any remaining hard stems from leaves.
  2. Prepare beet top pesto: In a food processor or blender, add beet greens, pine nuts or seeds, garlic cloves, olive oil, cheese or nutritional yeast, sea salt, and black pepper. Pulse to combine, adding more oil if needed, but keep pesto a thicker consistency.
  3. Boil pasta: Bring a large pot of water and a generous pinch of salt to a boil. Add desired pasta and cook to al dente (or semi-firm) according to package instructions. Typically this means 8-10 minutes, depending on the pasta shape you choose (thicker pasta shapes require more time). When pasta is done, reserve ½ cup of pasta water and then drain pasta and set aside.
  4. Prepare pesto pasta: In a large pan over medium-low heat, add pesto to pan with a small amount of reserved pasta water and heat for 1 minute. Add cooked pasta and toss to coat it in pesto. Remove from heat and plate, then serve..

Notes

  • Nut-free option: If you cannot eat nuts and are looking to make a nut-free pesto, we suggest using seeds like sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds. You can also use beans or even chickpeas.
  • Vegan option: If you are vegan, use either vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast in place of cheese. Use gluten-free pasta, if needed.
  • Tools Needed: large soup pot, food processor, cutting board, knife set
  • Prep Ahead: Prepare the beet top pesto up to four days ahead of time.
  • Leftovers and Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days; we do not recommend freezing cooked pasta, but you can freeze the pesto and thaw before cooking pasta.
  • Nutrition notes: This recipe is a plant-based pesto pasta recipe, using beet tops instead of basil. We suggest whole grain pasta when necessary to increase fiber and nutrient content.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 497Total Fat: 43gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 33gCholesterol: 11mgSodium: 1905mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 4gSugar: 1gProtein: 13g