Jennifer Hanes MS, RDN, LD
Artichokes are native to the Mediterranean region, where they are used in a variety of ways, including in sauces, quartered in pasta dishes, fried, stuffed, or sometimes eaten raw
They are a good source of fiber, folate, and copper and a moderate source of magnesium and vitamin C. Additionally, compounds in artichokes may help improve blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Most grocery stores will carry jarred or canned artichokes hearts that have already been cleaned and quartered. They will be packed in water or marinated in oil and seasonings. You may also be able to find them frozen or fresh. Just make sure you know what you’re doing if you buy fresh artichokes!
I’ve used the canned artichokes in water in this recipe so I can control the flavor of the overall dish. If you already have marinated artichokes, there’s no reason to go out and buy something different.
The Perfect Pesto
Pesto is an Italian sauce traditionally made with pine nuts, olive oil, parmesan cheese, and lots of basil. You can find lots of amazing recipes online, some traditional and some creative.
Because I wanted to make this recipe as easy to make as possible, I’ve used store-bought pesto and doctored it a bit. However, if you have a recipe that you love, use that. It’ll probably be even better.
And if you wanted to amp up the artichoke flavor, you can through some artichoke hearts in the food processor as well!
Gathering Ingredients for Your Artichoke Pesto Pasta
For this recipe, you’ll need a few more ingredients than some of my other easy recipes. However, they are all easy-to-find ingredients. No need to seek out a specialty grocery store!
- whole grain short pasta (such as rotini, penne, shells, etc)
- dry white wine (I use chardonnay)
- basil pesto
- white beans
- mozzarella pearls
- fresh baby spinach (I used about half of the smaller bag of pre-washed baby spinach)
- fresh basil (for garnish)
- pine nuts (for garnish)
Cooking Artichoke Pesto Pasta
Start by boiling heavily salted water. Add pasta, and cook until al dente according to package directions. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of water for later, and set aside.
Toast pine nuts in a skillet on low heat. Keep them moving constantly for about 2-3 minutes, then set aside.
Next, you’ll build the sauce. In your heated skillet, add 1 Tbsp olive oil, then your garlic and shallot. Sautee for 2-3 minutes, then add white wine. Bring to a gentle simmer, then add your pesto and whisk until combined and smooth.
Add the artichoke hearts, white beans, spinach, and salt and pepper. Allow to heat through, stirring frequently.
Add your drained pasta and mix well. If the sauce is dry or too thick, slowly add in the reserved pasta water until you reach your desired consistency.
Remove pan from heat.
Right before you’re ready to serve, mix in your mozzarella balls. Top with toasted pine nuts and fresh basil to garnish.
Health Benefits of Artichoke Pesto Pasta
With the use of several vegetables, beans, and whole-grain pasta, this dish is full of gut-and-heart-healthy fiber that will fill you up. Each of these has its own nutrient profile, so you’ll get a large dose of various vitamins and minerals.
The beans, pasta, and mozzarella cheese give you a good amount of protein as well!
You should find this dish is filling, but also sticks with you for a while, giving you lots of energy to finish out your night.
Tips and Substitutions
It’s actually really easy to make this dish vegan with very little effort.
Choose a vegan pesto option, either a recipe or buy one at the store.
Omit the mozzarella cheese. This would be the easiest option for you. However, you could also look for vegan cheese to get a similar texture.
There are so many different options here!
If you want to bump up the protein content of the dish, without adding something else to it, you can choose pasta made from chickpeas, such as Banza. This would also be a good option if you needed a gluten-free option. (Just make sure that your pesto doesn’t contain any hidden gluten).
You could also consider being a bit more unexpected and choose a cheese ravioli or tortellini or even some gnocchi.
Pesto does contain nuts and cheese in them, making it potentially problematic when considering food allergies.
Allergy Spot has a great nut-and-dairy-free pesto that would work very well here. And make sure to leave off the pine nut garnish.
Though not technically an allergy, if you are cooking for someone that can’t eat gluten, replace your pasta with chickpea pasta or another gluten-free option.
Remember that food allergies are very serious and if you are making an allergy-friendly version in addition to the original recipe, make sure that there is no cross-contact with allergenic ingredients.
Consider different pesto options
I really like sun-dried tomato pesto, but it seemed a bit much for this dish. But if you like it, go for it! You’ll never know how good it’ll be until you try it.
You could also look for an artichoke pesto, or add artichokes and your store-bought pesto and make your own.
You’ll find that many pesto recipes will change out the pine nuts for walnuts, pepitas, hemp seeds, or even pistachios. Different herbs or cheeses can be changed or added to alter the flavor, depending on your preferences.
Saveur has a great gallery of different pesto varieties so you can go wild!
You could make this summery pasta dish even more seasonal by adding roasted yellow squash and zucchini at the same time as the artichokes.
Roasted, halved cherry tomatoes could work too, but may be a bit too strong against the already strong and acidic artichokes.
I think red pepper flakes mixed throughout the dish would be really good too. I didn’t include them in this recipe, because my son would never eat something that might be spicy!
Artichoke Pesto Pasta
- 1 large skillet
- 1 large sauce pot
- ¼ cup pine nuts (optional)
- 2 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- 8 oz whole grain rotini pasta
- 2-3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 shallots finely minced
- ⅔ cup dry white wine
- ¾ cup prepared basil pesto
- 1 14 oz can quartered artichoke hearts, packed in water chopped to small, bite-sized pieces
- 1 14 oz can white beans drained and rinsed
- 4 oz mozzarella "ciliegine" or pearls
- 3 oz fresh baby spinach I used the pre-washed bagged spinach
- fresh basil for garnish
- Bring salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook to al dente according to the package directions. Start on the next steps while you wait. Drain when done, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.8 oz whole grain rotini pasta
- If you're using the pine nuts, toast them in a warm skillet for 2-3 minutes. Don't walk away, and keep them moving. They'll go from toasted yumminess to burned real quick. Set aside.1/4 cup pine nuts
- In your heated skillet, add your garlic and shallot. Saute for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.2 tbsp olive oil, 2-3 cloves garlic, 2 shallots
- Add the white wine and bring to a gentle simmer.2/3 cup dry white wine
- Add the pesto and whisk until combined and smooth.3/4 cup prepared basil pesto
- Add your artichoke hearts, white beans, spinach, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 3-4 minutes. The spinach will wilt down considerably.1 14 oz can quartered artichoke hearts, packed in water, 1 14 oz can white beans, 3 oz fresh baby spinach
- Add drained pasta. If the mixture is too thick or dry, gradually add the reserved pasta water until you reach your desired consistency. Remove pan from heat.
- Mix in the mozzarella pearls and serve immediately.4 oz mozzarella
- Garnish with fresh basil and toasted pine nutsfresh basil
*Nutrition Facts are an estimate only. Differences are expected when making substitutions for any ingredient or when different brands are used.
This recipe can cover all of your nutritional bases as is. It’s got plenty of fiber, protein, and fats, with quite a variety of ingredients.
But if you wanted to stretch it out among more people, or are feeding bigger appetites, consider adding an Italian-inspired salad before the meal.
Those that eat meat, could also consider adding salmon or chicken breast on the side as well. (My guys chose salmon).
You’ll probably do best with a white wine. The easiest option would be to go with the wine that you used in your sauce. It’ll be more likely to compliment your dish.
I don’t drink white wine usually, so I usually cook with Chardonnay because most grocery stores sell Chardonnay in single-serve bottles.
After some brief research, it appears that Sauvignon Blanc is likely the best option to go with the ingredients I’ve used in this recipe. Pinot Grigio seems to be the second-best choice.
Ultimately though, go with what you want, even if it’s a red wine. Or some other beverage you enjoy.
Storage and Reheating
Store any leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
To reheat pasta, I like to add a splash of water, microwave, then mix well. This keeps you from eating dried-out pasta the next day. You could also try some vegetable broth for a similar result.
Please let me know if you’ve tried this recipe! Let me know what you changed and how your family responded in the comments below.
For more easy recipes, consider trying my easy vegetarian poutine or my sheet pan dinner.
Jennifer Hanes MS, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian, mom, wife, and vegetarian in North Texas. She has dedicated Dietitian Jenn to be a source of information, ideas, and inspiration for people like her, vegetarians that live with people with different dietary beliefs and/or needs in a multivore household.