Carrot Top Pasta, an easy pesto pasta recipe using carrot greens instead of basil. Simple, healthy, and a great way to reduce food waste.

rotini pasta with carrot top pesto sauce on a blue plate with a gold fork

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.

Why you should make this recipe:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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!

bowls of dry rotini pasta, cherry tomatoes, carrots with tops, oil, salt, sunflower seeds, cheese, and pepper on a white table
Ingredients: pasta, carrot tops, seeds, oil, vegan cheese, salt, pepper, and tomatoes

🥣 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).

sliced carrot tops on a white cutting board
Cut carrot leaves above the hard part of the stem

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.

cut carrot greens in a colander with running water
Rinse or soak leaves, then let dry

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).

carrot greens, nuts, garlic, salt, and pepper in a food processor
Pulse pesto ingredients until well combined

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.

colored rotini pasta boiling in a black pot
Boil pasta until al dente

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).

a hand stirring green carrot leaves pesto in a white pan
Heat pesto and a small amount of pasta water

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.

a hand stirring pesto pasta in a white pan with a wooden spoon

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.

pesto pasta with cherry tomatoes on a white plate on a white table with carrots and a bowl of tomatoes

🌿 Recipe and ingredient questions

How can you use the tops of carrots?

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.

Can you eat carrot tops raw?

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.

What other ways can you make carrot top pasta?

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.

pesto pasta with cherry tomatoes on a blue plate with a gold fork

♻️ 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.
a close up photo of rotini pasta with pesto sauces and sliced red cherry tomatoes

🌱 More recipes using carrot leaves

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

Did you make this recipe? Leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let us know how it turned out. Save it for later by pinning to your favorite Pinterest board and make sure to tag us on Fork in the Road’s Instagram to show off your sustainable food creations!

Yield: 4 servings

Carrot Top Pasta Recipe

pesto pasta with cherry tomatoes on a white plate on a white table with carrots and a bowl of tomatoes

Carrot Top Pasta, an easy pesto pasta recipe using carrot greens instead of basil. Simple, healthy, and a great way to reduce food waste.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Additional Time 2 minutes
Total Time 37 minutes

Ingredients

  • 6 oz (6 cups, 450 grams) pasta, (rotini, fusilli, spaghetti)
  • 1 tablespoon salt, for pasta water
  • 4 ounces (2 cups, 113 grams) carrot 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 nutritional yeast
  • ⅛ teaspoon quality sea salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • Optional: sliced carrots, cherry tomatoes, carrot greens for garnish

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  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 with sliced tomatoes, a sprig of carrot greens, and a sprinkle of vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast.

Notes

  • 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.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 499Total Fat: 43gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 33gCholesterol: 11mgSodium: 1922mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 5gSugar: 2gProtein: 12g