This Avocado Pesto recipe is made with avocado, spinach, basil, walnuts and cheese. The perfect creamy sauce to have with cavatelli pasta for a meatless dinner.
Now, hold on!
Before anyone gets too excited, I need to clarify: this healthy pasta recipe is creamy, but it doesn’t use cream!
The secret is adding a little bit of the pasta water to the wonderful soft texture of the avocado; that’s why I refer to it as both creamy and healthy.
If you recall, we also used this method to create this creamy lemon pasta recipe.
Nutrition rambling ahead…
Benefits of avocado and spinach
Avocados are awesome sources of monounsaturated fats, which are healthy heart fats, just like olive oil.
They are also a great source of fiber. One medium avocado contains 5 grams of fiber [source].
I could continue to sing the praises of avocado -they’re just a super-food, overall.
They are great in savory and sweet dishes like this avocado pie.
But spinach, the other main ingredient of this pasta sauce recipe, is nothing to sneeze at either!
It is just as good for you, if not more so than avocados. It is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals and very low in calories. So pack as much of it in this pasta sauce as you want.
As a dietitian, I could continue to sing the praises of both of these foods, but I think you can appreciate how wonderful they both are.
It’s time to share this delicious avocado basil pesto with all of you.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. While waiting for this to happen, let’s prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Let’s begin by toasting ½ cup of walnuts.
Place them in a pan over medium heat and give them a couple of shakes. Just a few minutes is all it takes for them to release some of their oils. Can you smell the aroma yet?
Next, add the walnuts with the rest of the ingredients in a food processor.
More specifically, 1 avocado, 1 cup of spinach leaves (loosely packed), 1-2 garlic cloves, ¼ cup of loosely packed fresh basil leaves, ¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese and 2 teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
If you make your pesto, you can easily replace the walnuts, basil, garlic, and cheese with 3-4 heaping tablespoons of pesto. I have been known to use my Basil Pesto in this recipe.
Another substitution I will often make is using roasted garlic.
Set on low and whirl away until the mixture is smooth.
Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
Transfer to a large skillet, set over low heat.
You will notice that it is thick. Once we throw the pasta in the boiling salted water, we will add a ladle or so of the pasta water to thin it down.
Use as much of the pasta water to get the consistency of the sauce that you like.
Time to boil the cavatelli! This homemade pasta is ready in less than 5 minutes!
Please note that this sauce is great with any pasta… we happen to love homemade cavatelli -so that is what I will be using! Gnocchi is another great option.
Once cooked, remove the cavatelli pasta with a spider or strainer and add it directly to the pan. Toss to coat. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Serve immediately with a grating of cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Use any pasta with this sauce.
- This sauce is best the day it is made as it quickly turns brownish because of the avocado.
- 1 serving = 1½ cups
Can I use other nuts?
Absolutely! You can use pecans, almonds, pistachios, or even pine nuts.
Can I make this nut-free?
Yes, replace the nuts with roasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
Can I make this vegan?
Yes, replace the cheese with nutritional yeast.
How do I store leftovers?
Place in an airtight container and refrigerate. Best used within 1 day.
More pesto recipes
Garlic scape pesto is another family favorite. It’s great with pasta, as a sandwich spread or for marinating chicken!
Ever since she was old enough to eat solid foods, my daughter always refused tomato sauce. I’m not talking about grocery store tomato sauce here either!
My parents would make their own passata and can tomatoes every September, enough to last the whole year.
To this day, my mom’s recipe for tomato sauce is the best I have ever tasted – and my daughter has always refused it. (By the way, I keep this tradition alive with my husband, and we still make passata every September!)
So, when my daughter was just a toddler, I had to get somewhat creative with pasta; I couldn’t rely on her to eat old faithful, our tomato sauce. I was always on the lookout for new sauce recipes!
My daughter is grown now, of course, and quite a cook herself, but I guess old habits die hard: whenever I see a new kind of sauce or pasta recipe that doesn’t use tomatoes, I can’t help but try it out to report back to her.
All this to say that I found the initial inspiration for this recipe from Eating Well a couple of years ago.
Using avocado as a sauce has become very popular in recent years and with good reason. If you haven’t tried it, you are in for a nice surprise!
Everything about this recipe reminds me of my daughter that it wasn’t tomato sauce, the fact that it used avocados – so I had to try it.
I love this dish, and, I am happy to say it, so does my daughter.
Do you have any recipes that remind you very strongly of a loved one?
Please share them with me in the comments below!
THANKS SO MUCH for following and being part of the She Loves Biscotti community where you will find Simple & Tasty Family-Friendly Recipes with an Italian Twist.
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★★★★★ If you have made this avocado pasta sauce, I would love to hear about it in the comments below and be sure to rate the recipe!
Avocado Pesto Recipe with Cavatelli
- 1 pound cavatelli pasta I use half of my homemade cavatelli recipe
- 1 cup reserved pasta water or to desired consistency
Avocado Pesto Sauce:
- 1 avocado
- 1 cup spinach leaves fresh
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 1 bunch basil fresh, about ¼ cup
- ½ cup walnuts lightly toasted
- ¼ cup Pecorino Romano grated
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice freshly squeezed
- salt and pepper to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle
- Pecorino Romano cheese to taste
- garnish with fresh basil leaves optional
- Over high heat, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.
- While waiting for the water to boil, make the avocado pesto sauce by adding all the ingredients in a food processor and pulsing until the mixture is smooth.
- Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
- Transfer to a large skillet set over low heat.
- Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente or to desired consistency.
- Add pasta water to the avocado pesto sauce to obtain desired consistency.
- Once the pasta is cooked, remove with a spider or strainer and add it directly to the pan.
- Toss to coat. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Top with extra cheese and a drizzle of olive oil, if using.
- Serve immediately.
- Use any pasta with this sauce.
- This sauce is at its best the day it is made as it quickly turns brown because of the avocado.
- 1 serving = 1½ cups
This post was originally published on January 13, 2018, and republished on April 28, 2020 with updated content and photos. Thanks for sharing!