Healthy mint pesto recipe for pasta

Learn how to make pesto sauce without pinenuts and basil- a pesto pasta sauce recipe with cashews and mint with a nut-free option.

mint pesto sauce in a glass jar

Pesto pasta is my go-to pasta recipe on busy (or rather lazy) days when cooking is not on top of my mind. Those long days when you and the family come home tired and hungry, and you’re so tempted to order take-out πŸ™

Try this delicious quick and easy dinner with fresh homemade pesto that’s a healthier option and takes less than 30 minutes of your precious time. You’ll be glad that you did.

How to make pesto sauce

(Full printable recipe below.)

This pesto recipe without pinenuts and basil is different from the traditional basil pesto and uses lesser oil and cheese. You’ll love this recipe because it is customizable according to your preferred taste.


  • Mint and parsley: This combination of herbs have amazing flavors. One of the reasons for using mint and parsley is that they can withstand heat better than basil. Basil pesto tastes great but I wanted to try varitions with other herbs that are equally delicious.
  • Toasted cashews: When compared to pine nuts nutritionally, cashews have more protein and minerals like calcium and iron while less in calories and fat. (source) Cashews are also less expensive than pine nuts, so it helps if you’re cooking on a budget.
  • Roasted garlic: Roasting your garlic rather than using raw garlic makes the pesto taste even better. You’re going to use only a couple of garlic cloves, so roast a few whole garlic heads and refrigerate or freeze the rest. There are tons of ways you can use roasted garlic and they keep well for months. Garlic bread, salad dressings, pasta sauce and dips are some of the recipes where you can use mashed roasted garlic.
  • Chillies: For that spicy kick. You can skip it if you feel it is outrageous to use chillies in pesto!
  • Lemon juice: Adds a bit of zest to the pesto and goes well with mint flavor.
  • Pink Himalayan salt: This is yet another ingredient that gives a unique flavor. It is more of a personal preference and I use it in all my salads and sauces. You can replace it with regular sea salt.
  • Parmesan: Well, after all, it is pesto, folks.
  • Olive oil, that brings it all together into a creamy sauce.

Making the pesto sauce

If you want a smooth pesto, process the toasted cashews, garlic, parmesan, salt and chillies (if using) first until finely chopped. Then add mint and parsley and process until smooth. While the motor is still running, add olive oil and process for a minute or two.

If you like your pesto a little chunky, process all ingredients together except olive oil until you get the desired consistency. Then add olive oil as above.

Chunky or smooth?

The texture depends on how you’re going to use the pesto. As a rule of thumb, if you’re using the pesto recipe for pasta, it is better to have a chunky texture. For other uses such as adding to dips or topping, a smoother texture works great.

top view of mint pesto sauce in a glass jar

How to make pesto pasta

Though any kind of pasta can be used in the recipe for pasta with pesto, spaghetti and angel hair pasta are my favorites since they require lesser pesto sauce that clings to the strands uniformly. I love angel hair pasta especially since it cooks very fast, as we saw in the recipe for angel hair pasta with shrimps and red sauce.

Cook the pasta and drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water. Transfer to a large bowl and immediately toss with the pesto sauce, adding pasta water as required. Serve sprinkled with parmesan and chili flakes.

pesto pasta served on white ceramic plates

Tips to make the best pasta with pesto sauce recipe

  • Reserve a cup of pasta water before draining. This helps in 2 ways:
    1. To get the delicious saucy consistency when tossing the pasta with pesto (the starch in the water does the trick)
    2. While storing leftover pasta in the refrigerator, refrigerate the pasta water also in a separate container. For serving the pasta warm, take out both and leave outside the fridge for about 15 minutes. Then, boil the pasta water and add to the pesto pasta, a little at a time and toss.
  • Do not toss the pasta in the pot in which you boiled the pasta. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl, add the pesto and toss, adding pasta water as you toss.
  • Cold pesto pasta tastes refreshingly good. But if you like warm pasta, do not heat the pesto or reheat the pasta after adding the pesto sauce. If you’re not serving right away, use the above method to warm up the pasta.
pesto pasta served on a white ceramic plate

Is pesto pasta healthy?

When you look at the ingredients individually, each of them have great health benefits like antioxidants, HEART-HEALTHY FATS, fibre and a whole lot of NUTRIENTS. However, the pesto has a bad reputation of being high in calories due to the large quantities of olive oil. In this recipe, I’ve used an optimum quantity of olive oil (1/2 cup for 2 cups of pesto that equals 8 servings when added to pasta) that gives a nice balance so the pesto pasta is delicious and saucy, yet not so greasy with too much oil.

How to use pesto

Apart from pesto pasta, pesto can also be added to dips and sauces to enhance their flavor. Drizzle on your pizza, pasta salad, fries or roasted veggies. Or make a pesto pasta salad with chicken. (See the creamy chicken pasta salad for tips on chicken pasta salad.)

If you love vegetarian pasta salads, try this easy Italian pasta salad.

*****Did you try this recipe? Please give a star rating in the comments below to help more readers see this post. *****

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– Sheeba.

mint pesto sauce in a glass jar

How to make pesto sauce for pasta

Learn how to make pesto sauce and recipe for the best pasta with pesto, a quick and easy dinner that's delicious and healthy.
4.41 from 5 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course sauce
Cuisine Italian
Servings 2 cups
Calories 198 kcal


  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup cashewnuts
  • 1/2 cup parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt or sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cups mint leaves tightly packed
  • 1 cup parsley tightly packed
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 or 2 green chilies (optional)


How to make pesto sauce

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F. Brush the garlic cloves with olive oil and wrap them in a piece of baking paper and place in the oven. Roast for about 15 minutes. (note 1)
  • Spread cashews on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 5 minutes.
    Alternatively, the garlic and cashews can be dry roasted (separately) in a pan on stovetop until browned. Roast the garlic with the skin and remove it after it cools down.
  • Place the cashews, roasted garlic, parmesan, chilies (if using), salt and lemon juice in a food processor. Process until finely chopped. Add the mint and parsley and process until you get the desired consistency. (see the post above for chunky vs smooth pesto)
  • While the motor is still running, add olive oil and process for a minute more.

How to make pesto pasta

  • Cook 350 grams/ 12 oz of pasta in salted water as per package instructions.
    Drain, reserving a cup of pasta water. Transfer to a large bowl.
  • Add 1 cup of pesto to the pasta (this recipe yields 2 cups) and 3 tablespoons of pasta water and toss well.
  • Before serving, add the required amount of remaining water, a little at a time and toss. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve.


  • Roasting garlic heads: It may not be (energy) efficient to roast 2 cloves of garlic. Whole garlic heads can be roasted in a similar way for 25 to 30 minutes. The remaining cloves can be refrigerated. Mashed roasted garlic tastes great in dips, pasta sauces, garlic bread and almost any recipe that uses garlic.
  • Substitute: For a nut-free option, swap cashews with an equal amount of toasted pumpkin seeds
  • Add-ons: Sun-dried tomatoes, sliced olives, toasted walnuts, crumbled feta cheese, chopped parsley and roasted vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts and zucchini can be added for more flavor and nutrition.
Healthy mint pesto recipe for pasta
Keyword how to make pesto pasta, how to make pesto sauce, pesto recipe without pine nuts, pesto with pasta recipes

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10 thoughts on “Healthy mint pesto recipe for pasta”

  1. 5 stars
    I actually don’t like basil in pesto so this would really work for me. I love the sound of the lemon and mint with the garlic. Great flavour combos and I’m all for a quick and easy meal in the week. Thank you for sharing them with #CookBlogShare

  2. 5 stars
    I make pesto all the time and thought I’d tried pretty much every combination. But I haven’t yet tried parsley and mint together and especially not with chilli. It sounds intriguing and delicious.


    1. Thanks, Choclette! The chilli does make a difference and if you like spice, you should try it with the chilli. Please let me know how it turned out for you.

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