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Pesto shrimp pasta makes a great main dish with spinach avocado pesto sauce and shrimp. A few ingredient swaps boost the nutrition of traditional pasta.
After spending January decompressing from all of the special occasion food that comes along with the holiday season, we’re quick to run up against Valentine’s Day, which threatens to throw us off any well-intentioned eating resolutions we may have made just a few weeks prior. It’s one of the first holidays in the new year with a food emphasis, whether that be a fancy dinner out, fancy dinner in, or chocolate on chocolate on chocolate.
As for Brian and I, we’re big fans of date night at home, and Valentine’s Day is no different. Getting to skip the crowds and prix fixe dinners, all the while wearing our comfiest of lounge clothes? Perfection. While we always pick a special recipe to make for dinner, this year I’m excited to make spinach avocado pesto shrimp pasta. It’s an ultra satisfying pasta recipe with a few tips and tricks taken along the way to sneakily boost the nutrition.
In short, savoring a special meal doesn’t have to waylay your intentions or resolutions if you choose the right ingredients, and this dish delivers!
A common theme when it comes to our date nights at home is Italian food. When we were in college, I spent a week eating my way through Rome when I visited Brian as he studied abroad for a semester. Needless to say, we take every opportunity to cook Italian food and reminisce about that dream vacation.
The foundation of this spinach avocado pesto shrimp pasta recipe is Barilla ProteinPLUS® Spaghetti, which contains a whopping 17g of protein per serving! Barilla is an authentic Italian food brand that has been my go-to pasta for years. I trust its high-quality products to help me grace my dinner table with great-tasting, wholesome dishes, and its proven to be a perfect match between pasta and a variety of sauces.
In my opinion, one of the best parts about it is that Barilla ProteinPLUS Spaghetti tastes exactly like standard-variety pasta, making this a no-brainer, extra-nutritious swap for all of our favorite pasta recipes.
Now let’s talk pesto sauce! It’s green as always here, but baby spinach leaves join the more-traditional basil for some extra-added vitamins and minerals. And in place of a good portion of the olive oil? An avocado. It adds a wonderful, creamy aspect to the sauce while lessening the calorie count that would come along with using a full half-cup or more of olive oil.
Plus, when combined with lemon juice and olive oil, the avocado in the pesto sauce doesn’t oxidize as quickly as fresh avocado does. In my experience you can enjoy leftover portions of this pasta for days without there being any change in color. A win!
Lastly we have the shrimp, which are simply cooked in a skillet for a few minutes before being added to the pot of pasta and sauce to be tossed together. I head right for the frozen, uncooked shrimp in the supermarket, as they have been flash-frozen and can be thawed quickly before cooking. Did you know that most of the shrimp in the fish department has actually been previously frozen, but allowed to thaw in the case? Using frozen shrimp gives you a lot more flexibility for when to cook the shrimp, and eliminates the worry of how long the shrimp in the case have been thawed.
Plus you can purchase them, for example, when there’s a sale and save them in the freezer until you’re ready to use. Easy breezy.
I found Barilla ProteinPLUS Spaghetti at Kroger, which has a pretty big selection of the different varieties of Barilla pasta. Keep your eyes peeled for the yellow box with the blue stripe to find the Barilla ProteinPLUS shapes available! 👀
Be sure to check out Barilla’s “Wonderful Your Way” website for even more recipe inspiration!
- 1 cup packed baby spinach leaves
- 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup pine nuts (or walnuts)
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- 1 ripe avocado
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb fresh frozen medium shrimp, peeled & deveined, tail-off*
- Salt and pepper, a generous amount
- 1 14.5-oz package Barilla ProteinPLUS® Spaghetti
- Parmesan cheese, for serving
- Add spinach, basil, pine nuts, and garlic to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the leaves are chopped into small pieces.
- Add the olive oil, lemon juice, avocado, and salt and pepper and process until sauce is creamy. Set aside.
- Before beginning the shrimp, set a large pot of water over high heat to bring to a boil. This will be for boiling the pasta, but you can cook the shrimp in the time it takes for the water to heat.
- Once the shrimp are thawed, add olive oil to a non-stick skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, add shrimp and a sprinkle a generous amount of salt and pepper over top.
- Let cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring shrimp occasionally so that they cook evenly. The shrimp will turn opaque and pink on the outside and curl up when done.
- Once done, transfer shrimp to a plate.
- Once the large pot of water comes to a boil, salt the water and add the package of Barilla ProteinPLUS Spaghetti. Let cook for 10-11 minutes, or until preferred doneness, stirring occasionally so that the spaghetti doesn't stick.
- Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the shrimp and pesto sauce and stir to coat the spaghetti and shrimp evenly.
- Serve with Parmesan cheese, if desired.
The shrimp are prepared simply to not compete with the spinach avocado pesto sauce flavor, but you can add additional flavoring if you like. Suggestions are squeezing a lemon over the shrimp once cooked, sprinkling them with crushed red pepper flakes for some heat, an extra drizzle of olive oil, etc.