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Rotini Walnut Pesto Recipe

This delightful and nutritious rotini with walnut pesto recipe is just the thing for a quick dinner idea. Combining the wholesome goodness of kale and basil with the rich, nutty flavors of walnuts, this pasta dish is not only easy to prepare but also brimming with taste and health benefits. The addition of lemon pepper chicken adds a delightful twist, taking this simple dish to a new level of deliciousness.

Rotini Walnut Pesto Recipe

Photos of Rotini Walnut Pesto Recipe

While most of the ingredients in this recipe can be found in your pantry or fridge, you might not have kale or basil at hand. These leafy greens are often available at your local supermarket or farmer's market. If not, spinach can be a good alternative. Also, if you don't have walnuts, other nuts like pine nuts or almonds will work just as well. Just remember, the flavor of your pesto will change slightly depending on the type of nut you use.

Ingredients for Rotini with Walnut Pesto

Kale: A nutrient-rich leafy green that adds a hearty texture and slight bitterness to the pesto.

Basil: An aromatic herb that gives the pesto its classic flavor profile.

Garlic: Adds a spicy, pungent flavor that compliments the other ingredients.

Walnuts: Gives the pesto a rich and nutty flavor, and a creamy texture when blended.

Olive oil: Helps blend the pesto ingredients while adding a smooth, fruity flavor.

Rotini pasta: A spiral-shaped pasta that holds onto the pesto well, allowing every bite to be flavorful.

Parmesan cheese: Gives a salty, umami flavor that ties the dish together.

Chicken cutlets: Adds a hearty, protein-rich component to the meal. When seasoned with lemon pepper, it provides a zesty contrast to the rich pesto.

One reader, Donica Dunlap says:

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This rotini with walnut pesto recipe is a game-changer! The pesto is bursting with flavor, and the combination of kale and basil adds a delightful twist. The walnuts give it a nice crunch, and the lemon pepper chicken complements it perfectly. It's a must-try for any pasta lover!

Donica Dunlap

How To Make Rotini Walnut Pesto

A pasta recipe that is delicious and healthy at the same time. The sauce is made of blended walnut pesto, kale, and special herbs served with rotini pasta.

Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking: 20 minutes
Total: 30 minutes



  • 1bunchkale,stems removed
  • 1cupbasil,loosely packed
  • 2garlic cloves
  • ½cupwalnuts,toasted
  • cupwater
  • ¼cupextra virgin olive oil
  • ½tspsalt
  • 12ozrotini pasta
  • Parmesan cheese,for serving

For the Lemon Pepper Chicken:

  • 2chicken cutlets
  • 2tsplemon pepper
  • ½tspkosher salt
  • 2tbspolive oil


  1. Blanch the kale and basil. Set a pair of tongs or a slotted spoon next to the stove. Bring a large pot of water to a boil seasoned with salt. Once boiling, add the kale and basil to the pot for only 10 seconds.

  2. Use the tongs to lift the kale and basil out of the water and let cool on a baking sheet. If it looks like an excessive amount of water remains on the greens, feel free to press them with a paper towel. Use this same pot of water to cook your pasta.

  3. Make the pesto. Add the blanched kale and basil to a blender or food processor with garlic, walnuts, ⅓ cup of water, olive oil, and salt. Blend until pureed into a paste.

  4. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. If the pesto needs more liquid, add water, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, until it reaches your desired consistency.

  5. Add rotini pasta to the water you used to blanch the vegetables. Cook until al dente according to package. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain the pasta.

  6. Return the pasta to the pot and add all the pesto. Stir to combine. If the pesto seems really dry, add reserved pasta water a little at a time. Stir between each addition until it coats the pasta well.

  7. Serve pesto rotini with grated parmesan cheese on top.

Lemon Pepper Chicken:

  1. Season the chicken cutlets liberally with lemon pepper and salt.

  2. In a medium skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and cook cutlets for 5 to 6 minutes per side until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

  3. After they come out of the skillet, let them rest briefly and then slice and serve on top of the rotini.


  • Calories: 452.88kcal
  • Fat: 20.31g
  • Saturated Fat: 3.63g
  • Trans Fat: 0.06g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 12.22g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 3.18g
  • Carbohydrates: 46.37g
  • Fiber: 3.37g
  • Sugar: 2.31g
  • Protein: 21.26g
  • Cholesterol: 37.12mg
  • Sodium: 404.57mg
  • Calcium: 82.78mg
  • Potassium: 448.86mg
  • Iron: 1.98mg
  • Vitamin A: 192.24µg
  • Vitamin C: 41.24mg

Mastering the Art of Walnut Pesto: A Technique Tip

When making the pesto, it's important to add the liquid ingredients slowly and in stages. This allows you to control the consistency of the pesto. If you add all the liquid at once, you may end up with a pesto that's too thin and runny. By adding it gradually, you can stop when you've achieved the desired thickness. Remember, it's easier to add more liquid if needed, but you can't take it out once it's added.

Time-Saving Tips for Rotini with Walnut Pesto Recipe

Prep ahead: Prepare the pesto and blanch the kale and basil in advance. Store the pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, and the blanched greens can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Multi-task: While the pasta is cooking, you can cook the lemon pepper chicken simultaneously to save time. This way, both components of the dish will be ready at the same time.

Use a food processor: Utilize a food processor to make the pesto quickly and efficiently. It will save time and ensure a smooth and well-blended pesto.

Organize ingredients: Before you start cooking, gather and organize all the ingredients and kitchen tools you will need. This will help streamline the cooking process and save time.

Substitute Ingredients For Rotini Walnut Pesto Recipe

  • kale - Substitute with spinach: Spinach can be used as a milder alternative to kale in the pesto, providing a similar texture and flavor profile.
  • walnuts - Substitute with pine nuts: Pine nuts have a similar rich and buttery flavor, which can be a great alternative to walnuts in the pesto.
  • rotini pasta - Substitute with fusilli pasta: Fusilli pasta has a similar spiral shape and texture, making it a suitable substitute for rotini in this recipe.
  • parmesan cheese - Substitute with pecorino cheese: Pecorino cheese has a similar salty and tangy flavor, which can be used as a substitute for parmesan in the pesto.

Presenting Rotini with Walnut Pesto

  1. Elevate the pesto: Drizzle a small amount of high-quality extra virgin olive oil over the pesto to enhance its flavor and add a luxurious touch.

  2. Garnish with fresh herbs: Sprinkle a few freshly torn basil leaves over the dish to add a pop of color and a burst of fresh flavor.

  3. Plate with precision: Carefully twirl the rotini pasta into a neat mound using tongs or a pasta fork to create an elegant and visually appealing presentation.

  4. Incorporate texture: Sprinkle a handful of lightly toasted walnuts over the pesto to add a delightful crunch and enhance the overall dining experience.

  5. Add a touch of sophistication: Shave delicate curls of Parmesan cheese over the dish using a microplane grater to impart a subtle nuttiness and elevate the flavor profile.

  6. Create a focal point: Arrange the sliced lemon pepper chicken on top of the pesto rotini, ensuring it becomes the centerpiece of the dish, showcasing its succulent texture and enticing aroma.

  7. Emphasize balance: Ensure that the components are harmoniously balanced on the plate, creating a visually stunning and appetizing presentation that reflects the dish's exquisite flavors.

Essential Tools for Making Walnut Pesto Rotini

  • Blender: A kitchen appliance used to blend ingredients or purée food. It's great for making smoothies, soups, and sauces.
  • Food processor: A versatile kitchen appliance that can chop, slice, shred, and purée a variety of foods. It's perfect for making pesto, hummus, and nut butters.
  • Large pot: A cooking vessel used for boiling pasta, blanching vegetables, and making soups or stews.
  • Skillet: A frying pan with a flat bottom and low sides, used for sautéing, frying, and searing foods. It's essential for cooking the lemon pepper chicken.
  • Tongs: A utensil with two arms and a pivot near the handle, used for gripping and lifting items. They are handy for blanching the kale and basil.
  • Slotted spoon: A spoon with slots or holes that allow liquid to pass through, used for lifting and draining foods from liquids. It's useful for removing blanched greens from boiling water.
  • Baking sheet: A flat, rectangular metal sheet used for baking or roasting foods in the oven. It's great for cooling blanched vegetables.
  • Medium skillet: A smaller frying pan used for cooking smaller portions of food. It's ideal for cooking the lemon pepper chicken cutlets.

Storing and Freezing Rotini with Walnut Pesto

  • To store leftover rotini with walnut pesto, allow it to cool completely to room temperature before transferring it to an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3-4 days.
  • When ready to enjoy, reheat the pasta gently in a pot over low heat, stirring occasionally and adding a splash of water or olive oil if needed to loosen the sauce.
  • For longer storage, you can freeze the pesto separately from the cooked pasta:
    • Transfer the cooled pesto to a freezer-safe container or ice cube tray, and freeze until solid.
    • Once frozen, pop out the pesto cubes and store them in a freezer bag for up to 3 months.
    • Cook the pasta fresh when you plan to serve it, and thaw the required amount of pesto in the refrigerator overnight before use.
  • It's not recommended to freeze the pasta and pesto together, as the texture of the pasta may become mushy upon thawing and reheating.
  • If you have leftover lemon pepper chicken, store it separately in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave or in a skillet over low heat until warmed through.

How To Reheat Leftover Rotini with Walnut Pesto

  • To reheat leftover rotini with walnut pesto, start by placing the desired amount of pasta in a microwave-safe bowl. Add a splash of water (about 1-2 tablespoons per serving) to the bowl, which will help rehydrate the pesto and prevent the pasta from drying out during the reheating process.
  • Cover the bowl with a microwave-safe lid or plastic wrap, leaving a small gap for steam to escape. Microwave the pasta on high power for 1-2 minutes, depending on the quantity. Stir the pasta halfway through the reheating process to ensure even heat distribution.
  • Alternatively, you can reheat the rotini with walnut pesto on the stovetop. Place the desired amount of pasta in a small saucepan and add a splash of water (about 1-2 tablespoons per serving). Heat the pasta over low heat, stirring gently and frequently, until it is warmed through. This method allows for more control over the reheating process and can help prevent the pasta from becoming overcooked or mushy.
  • If the reheated pesto appears too thick or dry, add a small amount of extra olive oil or reserved pasta water to the dish and stir well to combine. This will help to loosen the sauce and restore its original consistency.
  • Once the rotini with walnut pesto is heated through, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. You may want to add a sprinkle of salt, freshly ground black pepper, or a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten up the flavors.
  • Serve the reheated rotini with walnut pesto hot, garnished with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of chopped fresh basil or parsley, if desired. If you have any leftover lemon pepper chicken, you can slice it and serve it on top of the pasta for a complete and satisfying meal.

Interesting Trivia About Rotini with Walnut Pesto

The walnut pesto in this recipe is a great source of healthy fats and protein, thanks to the walnuts. Walnuts are also high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart health. Additionally, kale is a nutrient-dense green, packed with vitamins A, C, and K, as well as antioxidants. This combination makes the rotini with walnut pesto a nutritious and delicious meal option.

Budget-Friendly Cooking: Rotini with Walnut Pesto

This rotini with walnut pesto recipe is quite cost-effective for a household. The main ingredients, such as kale, basil, and pasta, are affordable and readily available. The addition of walnuts and chicken cutlets may slightly increase the cost, but they provide essential nutrients and protein. The versatility of the dish makes it suitable for various occasions, adding value to its cost-effectiveness. Overall Verdict: 9/10. Approximate cost for a household of 4 people: $15-$20.

Is Rotini with Walnut Pesto Healthy or Unhealthy?

The rotini with walnut pesto recipe is a relatively healthy dish with some room for improvement. Here's why:

  • Kale and basil are nutrient-dense greens packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
  • Walnuts provide heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and protein
  • Olive oil is a healthy source of monounsaturated fats
  • Garlic offers potential health benefits, such as boosting the immune system and reducing inflammation
  • Whole grain rotini pasta can provide fiber and complex carbohydrates for sustained energy

However, the recipe also includes some less healthy elements:

  • The sodium content may be high due to added salt and parmesan cheese
  • The lemon pepper chicken, while adding protein, also contributes additional fat and sodium

To make this recipe even healthier, consider the following suggestions:

  • Opt for whole grain or legume-based pasta to increase fiber and nutrient content
  • Reduce the amount of added salt and rely more on herbs and spices for flavor
  • Use a lighter hand with the parmesan cheese or choose a low-sodium variety
  • Prepare the chicken using a healthier cooking method, such as grilling or baking, and use less oil
  • Incorporate additional vegetables into the dish, such as cherry tomatoes or roasted red peppers, to boost the nutrient profile and add color
  • Experiment with different types of nuts or seeds in the pesto, such as almonds or pumpkin seeds, for variety and added nutrition

Editor's Take on This Delightful Walnut Pesto Pasta

The rotini with walnut pesto recipe is a delightful and flavorful dish that combines the earthy taste of kale and walnuts with the freshness of basil. The pesto is vibrant and aromatic, and it pairs beautifully with the rotini pasta. The addition of lemon pepper chicken adds a protein element that complements the dish perfectly. The recipe is well-balanced and offers a satisfying and wholesome meal. It's a great way to incorporate nutritious greens into a delicious pasta dish. Overall, this recipe is a winner and is sure to impress anyone who tries it.

Enhance Your Rotini Walnut Pesto Recipe with These Unique Side Dishes:

Garlic Bread: Savory garlic bread with a crispy crust and soft, buttery center
Roasted Vegetables: Colorful medley of roasted vegetables, caramelized and bursting with flavor
Fruit Salad: Refreshing fruit salad with a mix of seasonal fruits, tossed in a light citrus dressing

Delicious Alternatives to Rotini with Walnut Pesto

Creamy Mushroom Risotto: Creamy and flavorful risotto made with arborio rice, mushrooms, and parmesan cheese. Perfect for a cozy night in.
Honey Garlic Glazed Salmon: Delicious and tender salmon fillets glazed with a sweet and savory honey garlic sauce. A healthy and satisfying meal.
Grilled Peach and Burrata Salad: A refreshing and vibrant salad featuring grilled peaches, creamy burrata cheese, and a tangy balsamic glaze. Perfect for a summer day.
Butternut Squash Soup: A comforting and velvety soup made with roasted butternut squash, onions, and a hint of nutmeg. Perfect for a chilly evening.
Chocolate Lava Cake: Indulgent and decadent chocolate lava cakes with a gooey molten center. A perfect dessert for chocolate lovers.

Appetizers and Desserts to Elevate Your Rotini with Walnut Pesto Meal

Stuffed Mushrooms: Create a savory and indulgent appetizer by stuffing mushrooms with a flavorful mixture of herbs, cheese, and breadcrumbs. Bake until golden and serve hot for a crowd-pleasing starter.
Bruschetta: Elevate a classic bruschetta by topping crispy bread with a variety of fresh and vibrant toppings, such as diced tomatoes, basil, and balsamic glaze. This appetizer is perfect for a light and refreshing start to any meal.
Chocolate Mousse: Indulge in a rich and velvety chocolate mousse, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa powder. The perfect way to satisfy your sweet tooth after a delicious meal.
Strawberry Cheesecake: Delight in a creamy and luscious strawberry cheesecake, adorned with fresh strawberry slices and a drizzle of strawberry sauce. A decadent and fruity treat that will leave you wanting more.

Why trust this Rotini Walnut Pesto Recipe:

This recipe offers a delightful fusion of flavors and textures, creating a harmonious balance that will tantalize your taste buds. The vibrant kale and basil are blanched to preserve their nutrients and vibrant color, while the walnuts add a rich, nutty dimension. The pesto is elevated with extra virgin olive oil and a hint of garlic, resulting in a luscious, velvety texture. The succulent lemon pepper chicken complements the pesto rotini perfectly, adding a zesty and savory element to the dish. Trust in the quality and freshness of these ingredients to elevate your culinary experience.

Excited to try this rotini walnut pesto recipe? Share your experience and any tips you discover in the Recipe Sharing forum!
Can I use a different type of pasta for this recipe?
Yes, you can definitely use a different type of pasta if you don't have rotini on hand. Penne, fusilli, or any other short pasta shape would work well with this walnut pesto.
Can I substitute the kale with another leafy green?
Absolutely! If you're not a fan of kale, you can use spinach, arugula, or even Swiss chard in place of kale for the pesto. Each will bring its own unique flavor to the dish.
Can I make the pesto in advance?
Yes, you can make the pesto in advance and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Just make sure to press a layer of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pesto to prevent it from browning.
Can I make this recipe vegetarian?
Definitely! You can make this recipe vegetarian by omitting the lemon pepper chicken. The walnut pesto and rotini pasta are delicious on their own, and you can also add some roasted vegetables like cherry tomatoes or bell peppers for extra flavor.
Can I make the walnut pesto without a blender or food processor?
If you don't have a blender or food processor, you can finely chop the blanched kale and basil, garlic, and walnuts by hand. Then mix them together with the olive oil, water, and salt in a bowl until well combined. It will have a slightly different texture but will still be delicious.

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