pressure cooker pasta with spinach pesto
This recipe was born out of desperation and improvisation during a long Austrian winter. I turned to spinach when basil was nowhere in sight and we’d had about all of the tomato sauce we could take. Spinach pesto quickly turned into an all-year family favorite.

When I moved to only pressure cooking short pasta, I adapted the spinach pesto recipe to the pressure cooker as well!  If your family is squeamish about the texture of cooked spinach, you can run it thorough the chopper before cooking, or use chopped frozen spinach.  When in season, a bunch of well-cleaned roughly-chopped spinach (same weight as noted in the recipe) is perfect!If you’ve got a “picker” that will remove everything green, even if it’s on pasta, you can set your mind at ease knowing that some of the spinach vitamins will have been released in the cooking water and then absorbed by the pasta.

Pressure Cooker Accessories Pr. Cook Time Pr. Level Open
5 L or larger none 5 min. Low (1) Quick or Normal

3.0 from 2 reviews
Pressure Cooker Pasta with Spinach Pesto Recipe
Recipe type: pressure cooker
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 1 lb (500g) Casarecce or Fusilli or Rotini any other short, twirly pasta that can capture the Spinach
  • 1 lb (500g) Spinach (fresh or frozen)
  • 4 Garlic Cloves (2 smashed, 2 finely chopped or pressed)
  • ¼ cup or 2 oz (50g) Pine Nuts, whole or chopped according to preference
  • 2 tsp. Sea Salt
  • Extra virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 block of Cacio Ricotta (dried and salted ricotta cheese) or Pecorino Romano (optional)
  1. In the pre-heated pressure cooker, on medium-high heat without the lid, add a swirl of olive oil the smashed garlic cloves and spinach. Stir occasionally to ensure the spinach doesn't scorch and reduce all of the liquid. For fresh, or defrosted spinach... about 8-10 minutes (for frozen it may take about 15).
  2. Then, add the pasta, salt and enough water to cover the pasta. Mix well and smooth it out with your spatula to get an even layer.
  3. Set the pan to cook on LOW pressure. Turn the heat up to high and when the pan has reached LOW pressure, lower the heat and count 5 minutes (or the recommended time).
  4. When time is up, open the cooker by releasing the pressure.
  5. Add the finely chopped or pressed garlic, give the contents a stir and let the pasta sit for about a minute while you gather the bowls and utensils.
  6. Top each bowl with a sprinkling of pine nuts a small swirl of fresh olive oil, and optional flakes of cheese (peel them off the block with a vegetable peeler).
  7. Caution your guests that the pasta is very hot and to test out the temperature before taking a big bite!

Pressure Cooked Pasta with Spinach Pesto Sauce

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  1. Oh wow… there is a skill to pressure cooker cooking!

  2. Thanks for another great recipe, and thanks very very much for elaborating on the timing – I don’t feel so stupid this time around :)

  3. jeroxie, ; )

    dw, for the one person that asks the question there are at least 10 more that wondered the same thing. Thanks for letting me know the instructions of the first recipe in this series were a little fuzzy for the beginner!



  4. This looks delicious. Would love for you to share this with us over at

  5. Just eaten this, made in my new WMF, what can I say, cooked perfectly, easy to use, no sticking and the dish was lovely! Have to choose something else for tomorrow, was supposed to be Xmas present, but cannot bear to ack it away. Thanks Laura for you guidance.

  6. I made a modified version of this today and it came out pretty well despite a few mistakes on my part.
    The Mods: First I used Kale instead of Spinach. Next, I made the pesto in my food processor. Then I sauteed the pesto in the olive oil until it all of the oil was absorbed. I added the pasta (1 lb. of whole wheat penne) and water and cooked as directed. I used nutritional yeast instead of cheese and I think it came out pretty well.
    The mistakes: 1) forgot to add salt to the pasta water, 2) forgot to add lemon juice when I made the pesto. I also didn’t add enough garlic due to a comment I read in the pesto recipe (from another site) stating that 3 cloves was too much, so I only added 2. Luckily all 3 of these can be adjusted after the fact. Still, I believe this was the difference between good and Amazing! Definitely will try again without the errors. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Yes, garlic tends to “disappear” a bit under pressure so you have to overcompensate for it. I can’t wait to hear how it turns out with the little additions you plan to include next time. Kale is a fantastic idea!

      I don’t know where you saw the comment that it was too much garlic – but please be sure to leave your feedback with your rendition and about the garlic there, too!



  7. Hey Laura,

    Thanks for the tip about the garlic. Now that you mention it, I do recall you having said that somewhere on the site, but I obviously forgot. I haven’t made this again yet but I did add a considerable amount of garlic powder to the leftovers and it made a world of difference. I can now say that it tastes Amazing!

    So . . . for the next rendition, when you say overcompensate for the disappearance of garlic under pressure, can you give me an idea about how much? I really like garlic and I understand that the flavor/strength is affected by a number of things such as variety, size and age of the cloves, etc. Since the pesto recipe I used called for 3 cloves and I used 2, would you try 4 or 5 or some other number? I’m thinking 4 since that was what you originally called for plus I can always add more, but I can’t take it away once it’s in there. Let me know what you think.

    BTW: I shared a portion of the leftovers with one of my pals that I’m trying to bring over to the plant side and she thought it was pretty good without the extra garlic (same thing I said). I asked her to try it both ways and let me know. I’ll keep you posted!

    1. Try the recommended amount – I think you’ll be happy with it. The most “garlic” flavor comes from the fresh garlic added at the end. It won’t have any “raw garlic bite” as the heat of the pasta will cook it quickly. And, of course, it’s better than garlic powder (I’ve always found that to be slightly bitter). : )

      But don’t ask me how much garlic is too much… I love it. So “too much” doesn’t exist for me!



  8. Hey Laura,

    Just wanted to give you an update. I tried this again today. I can rarely make a dish the same way twice, so this time I made it with half kale, half cilantro. I remembered the salt and the lime this time and increased the garlic to 4 cloves. The pesto was a little hot when it was done, but very good. After the pesto cooked with the pasta it was absolutely perfect. I was concerned that the cilantro might be a little too strong but it balanced very nicely with the kale. I will definitely be sharing this with friends.

    Thanks again!

  9. What side dishes would you recommend?

    1. How about a nice tomato salad with just extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of salt?



  10. Made this recipe yesterday. It was outstanding! I used the frozen spinach option. Was a little confused as to the timing, since my pressure cooker doesn’t have a low setting? The pasta I used was Rotini, it listed several cook times on the box depending on what you are going for. The longest cook time was for 10 minutes for well done. I just halved it to 5 minute under “high” pressure and all worked out just fine.

    The pine nuts were outrageously priced at my local market, so substituted raw almond slivers, which seemed to work fine and were much more affordable. Also at the end I used shredded Romano cheese, liberally applied. Personally, I don’t think the use of cheese should be considered an option, it is integral to the entire experience.

    1. I have always used walnuts if I can’t find pine nuts. The chopped walnuts seem to have a similar flavor and texture as the pine nuts. And, I agree about the Romano.

  11. I followed the recipe as written using an InstantPot. The pasta came out really mushy and overdone with a lot of excess water. Also, you should really finely chop or blend the spinach if it’s going to be like pesto, it came out stringy and goopy. Also, it is super duper bland; I added some oregano, cooking wine, parsley, white pepper and red pepper which helped a little, but it was still really mushy. Anyway, this was my first time cooking pasta in the pressure cooker, and I learn some important lessons on what not to do! Unfortunately this recipe ultimately went in the trash :(

  12. Any more comments about using the Instant Pot? The last poster was unsuccessful but I wonder if that was unique experience.
    My son and husband are convinced that pasta will make the Instant Pot explode. My son made my husband promise to send photos of the explosion aftermath. Do you have a science based explanation that it is safe. I see that a dramatic reduction in water is used. I secretly did one pasta serving and lived to tell the tale. …
    Thanks for the garlic explanation. Now I saute garlic first, remove it, and add to finished dish.

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