Carrot Top Pesto Pasta
Carrot Top Pasta, an easy pesto pasta recipe using carrot greens instead of basil. Simple, healthy, and a great way to reduce food waste.
Not sure what to do with those carrot tops? Make a carrot greens pesto pasta! Our Carrot Top Pesto recipe is a blog reader favorite, so we decided to show the sauce in action in this easy pesto pasta recipe.
👉 Here's why you should make pasta with carrot greens pesto:
- It’s tasty! First and foremost, pasta with carrot top pesto is delicious. With a rich, earthy flavor this will become your new favorite easy weeknight meal that’s perfect for leftovers.
- You can save extra pesto for other dishes. Use any extra pesto in soups, stews, and on top of roasted or grilled vegetables. The possibilities are endless!
- It’s root-to-stem cooking at it’s finest. Root-to-stem cooking means using the full vegetable, from root to stem. This recipe helps you become a more sustainable home cook by using up carrot greens that would otherwise be thrown out.
Ready to learn how to make this so-easy pasta with carrot tops? Let’s do this!
🥣 How to make (step-by-step)
1️⃣ Step One: Wash, dry, and cut carrot tops
First, cut the carrot tops from the stems close to the leaves (the stems are edible, but are sometimes hard).
Place the greens in a colander and rinse well to remove dirt, then set aside and let dry (about 20 minutes). Once the leaves are dry pick out any remaining hard stems.
🥕 Carrot greens tip! Check out our full guide for more in-depth info on How to Wash Carrot Tops.
2️⃣ Step Two: Prepare carrot top pesto
Add carrot 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.
Pulse the ingredients, adding more oil if needed, but keeping pesto a thicker consistency (we don’t want runny pesto, we want a thicker pesto that will cling to the pasta noodles).
👉 What can I use in place of nuts in pesto? 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, 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.
👉 What type of pasta noodles 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 curly short noodle like rotini. We chose rotini in this recipe, but you can truly use any type of noodle with pesto pasta.
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).
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 nutrition yeast or vegan parmesan cheese. We also like to add more vegetables by including sliced cherry tomatoes and carrots, and a sprig of carrot greens for garnish.
🌿 Recipe and ingredient questions
Carrot tops can be used in place of any herb like parsley or cilantro 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.
You can eat carrot 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 carrot greens thoroughly because they are a root vegetable so they typically have dirty leaves since carrot roots are grown in the soil.
In addition to making carrot top pesto pasta, you can also toss pasta in an oil-based sauce with garlic, carrots, tomatoes, and carrot leaves. The pasta possibilities are endless for carrot greens.
♻️ Sustainable kitchen tips, tricks, and 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 carrots is you can truly use root-to-stem cooking on all parts of the carrot. Use the carrot root in a vegetable fritter, use the stems to season a homemade vegetable broth, and use the tops in a sauces 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 carrot greens 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.
🌱 More recipes using carrot leaves
Want more recipes using food scraps? Here are a few of our favorite recipes:
- Want to make a big batch of this pesto? Check out our recipe for Carrot Top Pesto
- Need a sauce? Toss tops with spices and oil in this Carrot Leaves Chimichurri
- Want a side dish? Pan fry up carrot tops on their own in this Sautéed Carrot Greens
- Craving a soup? Use carrot leaves and stems in Carrot Tops Vegetable Stock and mix greens with white beans in this No-Waste Carrot Greens Soup
Carrot Top Pasta Recipe
- 6 ounces whole grain pasta, rotini, fusilli, spaghetti, etc.
- 1 tablespoon salt, for pasta water
- 4 ounces carrot tops and stems, from about 1 bunch, or 8 medium carrots
- ⅓ cup pine nuts, or seeds if nut-free
- 2 whole garlic cloves
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup vegan parmesan cheese, or nutritional yeast
- ⅛ teaspoon quality sea salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- Optional: sliced carrots cherry tomatoes, carrot greens for garnish
- Wash, dry, and cut carrot tops: Cut carrot root from the stem*. If using carrots, wash the root and slice into small slices and set aside. Cut the carrot 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 carrot leaves.
- Prepare carrot top pesto: In a food processor or blender, add carrot greens, pine nuts or seeds, garlic cloves, olive oil, cheese or nutritional yeast, sea salt, and black pebber. Pulse to combine, adding more oil if needed, but keep pesto a thicker consistency.
- Boil pasta: Bring a large pot of water and a generous pinch of salt to a boil. Add desired pasta (we used rotini in recipe photos) 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.
- 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 with sliced tomatoes, a sprig of carrot greens, and a sprinkle of vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast.
- Recipe notes: 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. 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 carrot 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 carrot tops instead of basil. We suggest whole grain pasta when necessary to increase fiber and nutrient content.
UPDATE: This recipe was originally posted in July 2020 and updated for clarity in August 2021.