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

pesto pasta on a blue plate with a gold fork on a white table with red radish

Not sure what to do with those radish tops? Make a radish greens pesto pasta! Our Radish 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.

Not convinced that radishes belong in pesto…or on pasta? Here are a few reasons why you should be making pasta with radish pesto:

  • It’s delicious! First and foremost, pasta with radish 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 radish greens that would otherwise be thrown out.

Ready to learn how to make this so-easy pasta with radish leaf pesto? Let’s do it!

dry pasta, a bunch of radishes, and bowls of nuts, cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper on a white table
Ingredients: pasta, radishes, nuts or seeds, cheese or nutritional yeast, olive oil, salt, and pepper

👩‍🍳 How to make pasta with radish greens (step-by-step)

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

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

radish bulbs cut from the green radish stems and leaves on a white table
Cut leaves from radish roots

Place the greens in a bowl of water and use your hands to remove excess dirt.

radish greens in a bowl of water on a white table
Soak greens in water to clean

When greens are clean, 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.

radish greens in a blue colander on a white table
Let greens dry before using

2️⃣ Step Two: Prepare radish pesto

Add radish 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.

pesto ingredients inside a food processor
Add pesto ingredients to food processor

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).

pesto sauce inside a food processor
Pulse pesto ingredients until combined

👉 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 black pot of boiling water with pasta on a stovetop
Boil pasta

👉 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 curly short noodle like rotini. We chose fettuccine in this recipe, but you can truly use any type of noodle with pesto sauce.


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).

radish greens pesto in a white pan with a wooden spoon

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.

pesto pasta in a white pan with a wooden spoon
Add pasta and stir to combine

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. We also like to add more vegetables by including sliced cherry tomatoes and carrots, and a sprig of radish greens for garnish.

pesto pasta on a blue plate with sliced radishes

❓ Recipe + ingredient questions

How can you use the tops of radishes?

Radish 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 radish tops raw?

You can eat radish 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 radish roots are grown in the soil.

What other ways can you make radish top pasta?

In addition to making radish 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 radish greens.

pesto pasta twirled into small rounds on a blue plate

♻️ Sustainable kitchen tips

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 radishes is you can truly use root-to-stem cooking on all parts of the vegetable. Use radish roots in salads or bake sliced radishes 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 and is closer to grain’s natural state, which means it’s a healthier choice for you and for the planet (EAT Lancet Report).

Stock up on pesto for other meals. Did you make more 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 of pesto fettuccine on a dark plate with a gold fork and red radishes in the background

🌱 More recipes using radish leaves

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

Interested in more pesto pasta recipes? Try our Carrot Top Pesto Pasta!

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

Radish Greens Pasta Recipe

pesto pasta on a blue plate with sliced radishes

Radish Greens Pasta, an easy pesto pasta recipe using radish 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, fettuccine, etc.)
  • 1 tablespoon salt, for pasta water
  • 4 ounces (2 cups, 113 grams) radish 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 sea salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • Optional: sliced carrots, cherry tomatoes, carrot greens for garnish

Instructions

  1. Wash, dry, and cut radish tops: Cut radish root from the stem*. Cut the radish 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 radish top pesto: In a food processor or blender, add radish 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 (we used fettuccine 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, plate, and serve.

Notes

  • Nut-free, vegan, and gluten-free variations: 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 radish 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 radish 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: 922mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 5gSugar: 2gProtein: 12g