Creamy Pesto Mac with Spinach

$3.27 recipe / $0.55 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.60 from 50 votes
Pin RecipeJump to recipe →

This post contains some affiliate links, which means that we make a small commission off items you purchase at no additional cost to you.

I bought a little jar of pesto recently and have been having fun finding ways to add it to everyday recipes. Yesterday I noticed a half bag of macaroni that had been sitting in my pantry for a few months and I just knew it was begging for the pesto treatment. So, I whipped up a quick béchamel sauce, stirred in some grated Parmesan, and a good dollop of pesto. I poured the luxurious sauce over my cooked macaroni then aded couple handfuls of thawed frozen spinach (because I’m all about balance), and had myself the most delicious and creamy pesto mac and cheese.

Close up overhead view of a bowl of creamy pesto mac with spinach, fork in the center

What Kind of Pesto is Best?

I used a simple basil pesto, but the wonderful thing about this recipe is that it is very flexible. You could do a homemade Kale Pesto, you could do a sun-dried tomato pesto, or practically any flavor pesto that you’d like.

How to Use Leftover Pesto

Pesto is definitely an expensive ingredient, but it’s so potent that you really don’t need a lot to add big flavor to your recipes. The little jar I bought contains about 3/4 cup pesto and costs $3.99. I usually only use about ¼ cup at a time in a recipe, so there is always some leftover. Here are some other recipes that use pesto:

If you can’t find uses for your leftovers immediately, pesto can be frozen. A lot of people like to spoon it into ice cube trays so they can grab a couple tablespoons at a time to toss into recipes like pasta, salad dressings, and other sauces.

What Else Can I Add to Pesto Mac and Cheese?

You can really take this recipe so many different directions! Try adding a handful of sun dried tomatoes, or maybe some chopped up rotisserie chicken. Or try topping it with some crumbled feta, bacon bits, or some buttered breadcrumbs!

Also be sure to check out my extra cheesy classic Homemade Mac and Cheese recipe!

Close up of a spoonful of creamy pesto mac with the pot in the background

Share this recipe

Creamy Pesto Mac and Cheese with Spinach

4.60 from 50 votes
A simple creamy sauce infused with basil pesto makes this Creamy Pesto Mac and Cheese with spinach the ultimate comfort food WITH a dose of vegetables!
Close up side view of a bowl of creamy pesto mac with spinach
Servings 6 (1 cup each)
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 15 minutes
Total 30 minutes



  • Thaw the spinach at room temperature or in the microwave. Squeeze out the excess water. Set the spinach aside. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add the macaroni. Boil for 7-10 minutes, or until tender. Drain the macaroni in a colander.
  • While the pasta is boiling, prepare the sauce. Add the butter and flour to a small sauce pot. Heat and stir the butter and flour over medium heat until it forms a creamy paste and begins to bubble. Continue to stir and cook for about one minute more.
  • Whisk the milk into the butter and flour, then allow it to come up to a simmer, while whisking. When it reaches a simmer, the sauce will thicken. Remove the sauce from the heat.
  • Whisk the Parmesan and pesto into the sauce until smooth. This will further thicken the sauce. Season the sauce with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Make sure the sauce is well seasoned as the flavors will be less concentrated once the pasta and spinach are stirred in.
  • Return the cooked and drained pasta to the large pot (heat turned off) and add the thawed spinach. Pour the sauce over top, then stir until everything is combined and coated in sauce. Serve immediately.

See how we calculate recipe costs here.


Serving: 1cupCalories: 333.58kcalCarbohydrates: 39.75gProtein: 12.33gFat: 14.08gSodium: 665.92mgFiber: 2.75g
Read our full nutrition disclaimer here.
Email Me This Recipe
Get this sent to your inbox, plus get new recipes from us every week!
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.


Close up side view of a bowl of creamy pesto mac with spinach

How to Make Pesto Mac and Cheese – Step by Step Photos

Macaroni being poured into a pot of boiling water

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the macaroni. Once boiling, add two cups of macaroni and continue to boil until tender but not mushy. Drain the pasta in a colander.

Thawed spinach in a bowl

While the macaroni is boiling, thaw 1/2 lb. spinach and then squeeze out some of the excess water. It doesn’t have to be bone-dry, just make sure it’s not sopping wet.

Butter and flour being whisked in a sauce pot

Place 2 Tbsp butter and 2 Tbsp flour into a small sauce pot. Heat them over a medium flame while whisking. Once bubbling, continue to stir and cook for about a minute. This mixture is called a roux (this is a blonde roux, in particular) and is used to thicken the sauce. Cooking it for a minute or so slightly toasts the flour so that you don’t have that raw paste-like flavor to your sauce.

Milk being poured into the sauce pot with the roux

Whisk in two cups of whole milk. Let the mixture come to a simmer, whisking occasionally to make sure the milk doesn’t scorch on the bottom.

Thickened white sauce on the back of a spoon

Once the milk starts simmering, that’s when the roux magic happens. The milk will thicken slightly. It won’t be as thick as a cheese sauce at this point, but it should have noticeably more body. Turn the heat off.

Grated Parmesan being added to the sauce pot

Whisk in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. The cheese will help thicken the sauce even more. 

A measuring cup full of basil pesto held over the sauce pot

Then whisk in 1/4 cup basil pesto.

Salt and pepper added to the creamy pesto sauce

Finally, season the sauce with salt and freshly cracked pepper. You want the sauce to be pretty heavily seasoned because it will taste less concentrated once the pasta and spinach are stirred in. I used 1/2 tsp salt and about 5-10 cranks of a pepper mill.

Creamy pesto sauce and spinach added to the pot with the cooked macaroni

Return the cooked and drained pasta to the large pot it was cooked in, add the thawed and squeezed spinach, then pour the creamy sauce over top.

Finished creamy pesto mac in a pot with a large spoon

Then stir all that creamy pesto goodness together. Oh my.

Overhead view of a bowl full of creamy pesto mac with spinach, a fork in the center

I’ll just say it one more time, then leave it there… Creamy Pesto Mac and Cheese with Spinach–OH MY.

Share this recipe

Posted in: , , , , , ,

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Leave a Comment
  1. I love so many Budget Bytes recipes, including other spinach pasta recipes, but this one was a dud for me. Followed the recipe exactly, other than to increase the frozen spinach to a full 10 oz box (squeezed really dry) and use shells instead of macaroni. There was way too much sauce for the pasta and it was REALLY thin and watery. I do know how to make a roux / white sauce, I’m wondering if there was just too much water in the drained pasta?

    1. That isn’t a typical problem we have with this recipe, so my guess is that the extra spinach was maybe still holding on to some liquid or, more likely, the shells were holding water inside them. I do find that shells tend to hold on to more liquid when drained.

  2. I make this all the time! One of my favourite meals. I’ve made my own modifications by sautéing some garlic with the butter as well as adding onion powder and it makes a world of difference omg

  3. Just tried this! As a college student I love looking for easy, cheep, heathy meals and this definitely fit the bill!

  4. This was great! I only had fresh baby spinach, so I chopped it and added it during the last 3 minutes of the pasta’s cooking process. I also added more pesto (Costco’s is so good) and Parmesan. The whole family enjoyed it. Thanks for the recipe!

  5. I made this successfully with almond milk, just had to simmer a few extra minutes after adding all the ingredients to get it to my desired thickness. Paired awesome with baked sweet potatoes.

  6. Made this last week for my kids and me to eat throughout the week for lunch. We all really enjoyed it except for my daughter who didn’t’ care for the frozen chopped spinach (she eats fresh spinach no problem). I do agree that frozen spinach can be a little bitter, so next time I would probably chop and cook some fresh spinach instead of using the frozen. Otherwise, I wouldn’t change a thing. Delicious!

  7. This was yummy when hot out of the pot, some of my adult family members liked it and some didn’t, but I was a fan. It doesn’t taste to me like mac and cheese, but more like Alfredo with a pesto flavor? The leftovers are so-so, as the sauce texture changes, so try to finish it when fresh if possible. I would make it again when craving creamy pasta, but not specifically a macaroni and cheese.

  8. So far, no recipe from this site has failed to be consumed. I might add more pesto next time just because I love it’s flavor, or maybe some white cheddar but it was good. We will be making this again.

  9. Tasted delicious! I accidentally forgot to add milk until after the cheese and pesto, but still worked. I also added some seasoned ground beef to the sauce.