Spicy spring pasta with spinach and pea pesto

Did I add those ingredients just so I could have a fun title? I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t part of the equation — but mostly it’s about the snuck-in secret veggies, because there’s something weirdly satisfying about being able to tick off your five a day very swiftly by whipping up spinach and pea pesto.

Spicy spring pasta with spinach and pea pesto // The Dinner BellWhat can I say? I lead a thoroughly rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.

Honestly, this week we’re all craving green things, whether it’s because we’ve acquired a lot of chocolate or just down to the brighter skies that come with switching the clocks back, (although that always seems to mean losing an hour’s sleep).

But it’s time for fresh starts, again, and rediscovery — the “tomorrow” we were awaiting the arrival of before it’d be sensible to look to getting in shape is here. And so we shake off the darkness of winter, peeling it away like soggy shoes after a rainy commute, and we dig into recipe books, reminding ourselves what vegetables look like, and we chuck in some extras.

This little dish will make you feel virtuous enough as it is, but switching the pasta out for a wholewheat version will give you extra fibre, and a side of asparagus while it’s in season would be a welcome accompaniment.

spring-pastaThe recipe uses frozen peas, and frozen spinach, which are both freezer essentials in our flat over the winter months, but come the summer, fresh veg can be subbed in.

Perhaps you’d prefer to go without the meat. The salt from the bacon in the original recipe and the smokiness of chorizo in this both add another dimension to the flavours, but it’d work without, too. I confess that I switched out bacon in favour of chorizo because it’s one of the main things that would stop me from going vegetarian. There’s just nothing like it.

As for the rest of the ingredients, they’re things you might have laying around, if you’re into cooking: a nubbin of parmesan; a small handful of flaked almonds left over from a long-forgotten baking endeavour; half a bunch of basil, maybe from a plant, if you’re one of those superhumans who can keep potted herbs alive. If not — if you’re buying in — they’re things that’ll keep if you store them properly, and can be used across a load of different dishes. Little waste, that’s what we like to see. .

Serves two, fairly generously

Adapted from Jamie Oliver


200g frozen peas
50g frozen spinach
1 tbsp flaked almonds
1 clove garlic (smoked is great!)
Juice of 2/3 of a lemon
1/2 packet fresh basil – around 15g
15g parmesan, grated, and a little extra for serving
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
150g pasta
100g yoghurt (fat free or low fat if you want to cut some calories!)
1 medium egg
1 inch chorizo, skin removed, and diced
50g button mushrooms, sliced


  1. Boil a big pan of water and pop the peas and spinach into a metal sieve. Dip the sieve into the water, turn the hob down to a simmer, and leave for a minute or two.
  2. While that thaws, lightly toast the almonds in a small frying pan. When they’re just starting to change colour, tip into a food processor and add the peas, spinach, garlic, lemon juice, basil, parmesan, and 2/3 of the chilli. Keep the pan — you’ll need it again later.
  3. Add a teaspoon or so of salt to the pan of water, and cook the pasta according to instructions. While it does its thing, blitz the peas etc until not-quite smooth. A bit of texture is a good thing.
  4. Mix together the yoghurt and egg and set aside. Return the frying pan to a medium heat, and add the chorizo, mushrooms, and remaining chilli. The mushrooms will take on a deep golden colour in the oil from the chorizo, which itself will sizzle a little. Remove from the heat when the mushrooms have softened.
  5. When cooked, drain the pasta, reserving a little water for later, add the 3/4 of the pesto to the pan, and mix thoroughly to heat through.
  6. Remove the pasta and pesto from the heat before adding the yoghurt and egg mixture, and mix briskly to thoroughly distribute. Add it a little pasta water to loosen if necessary. Toss the mushrooms and chorizo through, and serve, with the remaining pesto and a sprinkle of parmesan on top.