I don’t know what it is about spinach but the texture of cooked spinach is just too slimy and stringy for me.
But spinach offers so many health benefits! Plant based protein, iron, calcium, vitamin C, and folic acid to name a few. It also contains high amounts of antioxidants and nitrates which decrease stress in your body and prevent heart disease and cancer.
One of the best ways I’ve found to eat spinach is in a pesto sauce. The tiny pieces of spinach mixed with other ingredients don’t take on the stringy or slimy texture. This works with fresh or cooked spinach.
Hot or Cold
This meal can be served as a hot pasta dish or as a chilled pasta salad. All the ingredients microwave exceptionally well.
Divide as you will
To be honest, I was expecting this to make 8 meals, which is on the high side of what I like to prep in advance. When I started dividing it out, it became clear that this was going to make at least an extra meal, if not two more.
The recipe (and macros) is half of what I made and I think will make 5 meals comfortably.
Macros per meal
This meal prep is made so much easier with a food processor. My favorite is below. I think you’ll also find quite a few of these useful in this meal prep so I included all the following tools:
Meal Prep Tools I Use and Love
1. Meal Prep Containers (PBA-free with microwave-safe lids!) | 2. 8 oz Mason Jars (perfect to bring along toppings like cheese, nuts, herbs, etc.) | 3. Sauce Bottles (just the right size and easy to clean) | 4. Mixing Bowl Set (the vertical sides make spills a thing of the past) | 5. Food Processor (worth investing the money – SO many uses and built to last) | 6. Dutch Oven (versatile, durable, and beautiful color)
Spinach Pesto Pasta
- ½ box Barilla ProteinPlus Penne Pasta
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For sauteed onions
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ sweet onion, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp chopped garlic
For sauteed chicken
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 ½ lb boneless, skinless chicken breast sliced into ¾" pieces
For the Pesto Sauce
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cups fresh spinach
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves (reserve 2-3 leaves for garnish if desired)
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup sundried tomatoes (reserve 1 or 2 tomatoes for chopping for garnish if desired)
- ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp pine nuts
- ½ container mozzarella pearls, halved
- lemon zest
- Cook pasta according to package instructions and add to large mixing bowl when cooked.
- Sautee chopped onion in olive oil until soft and starting to brown. Add garlic and continue to sautee for another 2-3 min until garlic is softened. Add onions and garlic to mixing bowl.
- In same sautee pan, add 1 tbsp olive oil and half the diced chicken. Sautee until cooked through and browned on the outside (5-6 minutes depending on size of chicken pieces – I like to make mine small to cook faster). Add the cooked chicken to the mixing bowl. Repeat with the second half of the chicken.
- Set mixing bowl aside for a bit to cool (to not cook the spinach when it is added later, unless you like the texture of cooked spinach).
- Add the 3 tbsp olive oil, fresh spinach, basil, and heavy cream to a food processor and blend until desired consistency (I left my spinach and basil leaves in very small pieces but not completely liquified). Add the sun dried tomatoes and pulse until tomatoes are chopped to desired consistency (I kept it to about ¼" pieces). Mix in the parmesan cheese.
- Once pasta and chicken have cooled sufficiently (warm or room temp but not hot), add spinach pesto sauce and stir well to coat and distribute evenly.
- Divide pasta into 5 servings. Top with mozzarella, pine nuts, basil leaves, sundried tomatoes, and lemon zest.