Beetroot Pesto Pasta

There are loads of incarnations of pesto on the internet. From classic basil to walnut to citrus to rosemary; they’re all there. But I like our version of a beetroot pesto because, well firstly, it’s really pretty and secondly, it has some excellent nutritional benefits and some brilliant workout functions.

Evidence suggests that the juice of beetroot can improve cardio respiratory endurance in athletes by increasing efficiency, which improves performance at various distances, increases time to exhaustion at sub maximal intensities, and may improve the cardiorespiratory performance at anaerobic threshold intensities and maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max).[1]  In addition, the findings of studies other than that referenced below, have led researchers to hypothesize that supplementing with beetroot juice could mitigate the ergolytic effects of hypoxia on cardiorespiratory endurance in athletes. However, note also that itis possible that the effects of supplementation with beetroot juice can beundermined by interaction with other supplements such as caffeine.

Obviously,that’s all a bit ‘sciencey’, but could be useful if you’re into running or other intense cardiovascular training. Maybe try carb-loading with our beetrootpesto pasta before a trail run or other endurance event. Or just make it and eat it because it’s pretty and tastes good. Either way, we’ll be happy!


Suitable for batch cooking but will probably dry out if kept in the fridge after being mixed with pasta. So, beforere-serving, drizzle some olive oil on top.

Timeto make:

  • Prep: 15 minutes
  • Cook: around 40 minutes
  • Total: around 55 minutes – 1 hour

Itend not to do nutritional information (so you know the ‘Katie’ recipes whenyou see them!) I do ‘good for’ instead. This is Good For:

  • Training (esp. cardiovascular)
  • Nutrient hit (folic acid, manganese, potassiumand B vitamins)
  • Sweet tooths (beetroot is fairly sweet to taste)
  • Optional low carb
  • High fat
  • Fibre
  • Making bulk (pesto) and keeping for use as pestoor dip
  • Photos



  • 1 bunch of fresh beetroots (approx. 400-500g)
  • Crushed garlic (who is anybody to tell you whento draw the line on how much? – I used 4 cloves)
  • The juice of 2 fresh lemons
  • Extra virgin olive oil (preferably a ‘robust’flavour)
  • ‘Good’ salt (i.e. not refined table salt. Saltwith a nutritional value, like sea salt, Himalayan salt etc.)
  • Tablespoon of nutritional yeast
  • A handful of pine nuts


  • Pasta of any type, 500-600g (spirals andspaghetti work well with the texture of the pesto and I opt for spelt pasta asit’s pretty low carb, but use whatever is your preference!)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, robust flavour
  • Good salt


  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Good salt
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Sprinkle of pine nuts
  • Thinly sliced spring onion
  • Juice of 1 lemon (shared between 4 servings)

Special equipment

  • Food processor/blender (a stick blender willlikely not do).
  • Gloves
  • Camera


  1. The pasta may cook quickly or slowly dependingon what type of pasta you’re using and how much you’re making, so make a callon when during the below process, to put it on. I find the spelt pasta I usegoes quite quickly, so I tend to make the pesto and then make the pasta, justso I can keep control of everything.
    1. Puta good glug of olive oil and at least a tsp of salt in the bottom of a pan.
    1. Putthe pasta you’re cooking on top of the oil and salt in the pan.
    1. Boilthe kettle
    1. Pourboiling water over the pasta until the pasta if fully submerged.
    1. Boilthe pasta, stirring occasionally, until al dente or at desired consistency.
    1. Drain, drizzle over some olive oil and toss tocoat to prevent sticking (esp. important in non-traditional pastas like spelt).
  2. Get a pair of gloves on.
  3. Chop the leafy tops off the beetroot and thenpeel the beetroots.
  4. Wrap the beetroots up in kitchen foil and placein the oven at 200°C / 400°F for about 30 mins or until tender. You can takethe gloves off now. Keep checking by stabbing them with a fork or knife as somesmaller bulbs will go quicker than others. 
  5. Once done, unwrap them and leave them to coolfor a few minutes whilst you’re sorting the pine nuts (next step).
  6. Grab allof the handful of pine nuts and dry fry them in a pan until slightly brown andfragrant.
  7. Put the handful of pine nuts, (keeping asprinkle aside to garnish) half thelemon juice, the crushed garlic, 5 tbsp. of olive oil, the nutritional yeastand at least a tsp of salt in the blender. Don’t blend yet.
    1. Sidenote. If you blend warm pine nuts, they’ll turn gluey. So give them 5 mins tocool.
  8. Chop the cooled beetroot into ‘bite-sized’chunks and chuck them in the blender with everything else.
  9. Blend (less rather than more to start, you wanta bitey, crunchy texture, not gloopy).
  10. Taste. You’re looking for balanced (not too muchlemon vs not overpowering earthiness from the beetroot) and salty taste and avibrant pink/red colour.
    1. Ifyou taste too much lemon, add a bit more olive oil and salt.
    1. Ifyou taste too much earth, add a bit more lemon juice.
    1. Ifit seems good, but just not particularly tasty or ‘needs something else’ – addmore salt and keep adding it until it’s right. You’ll know when you get there.
    1. Ifthe texture is too thick, add more olive oil.
    1. Ifthe texture is too thin, add more roastedpine nuts (your flavour will die if you add raw pine nuts). If you have leftover beetroot ready to go, you can add that. To maintain the colour, do not addmore nutritional yeast or any basil.
    1. If you’ve got the texture right but the tastewrong, remove from the blender and stir through your tweaking ingredients.
  11. Add the pasta back to the pan it was cooked in(making sure any left-over water is removed).
  12. Add the pesto on top and turn the gas on low.
  13. Stir the pesto through the pasta untilcompletely covered.
  14. Remove from heat and portion between plates.
  15. Garnish with cracked pepper, fresh basil leaves,additional salt, a sprinkling of roasted pine-nuts and a drizzle of lemon (itneeds the drizzle people).

[1] Domínguez, R., Cuenca, E., Maté-Muñoz, J. L., García-Fernández,P., Serra-Paya, N., Estevan, M. C., Herreros, P. V., Garnacho-Castaño, M. V.(2017). Effects of Beetroot Juice Supplementation on CardiorespiratoryEndurance in Athletes. A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 9(1), 43.doi:10.3390/nu9010043

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