How to Keep Pesto Bright Green | The Recipe ReDux

The secret ingredient that will keep your pesto a brilliant bright green every time.

How to make pesto green |

{Disclosure: As co-owners of The Recipe ReDux, we were compensated to manage this National Pasta Association contest. We are not eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. Thoughts and opinions are my own.}

These’s a secret ingredient that’s in season right now that will keep the pesto for your pasta from turning brownish-green.

Carrot tops.

What? You you didn’t know carrot tops were edible? And if you thought carrots were a spring veggie, instead of fall/winter veggies, you’re not alone.

But according to my father – a farmer – carrots should never be harvested before the first frost; the cold snap concentrates the sugars into the root as the plant prepares to hold out for the winter.

So we decided to test out Dad’s wisdom by planting a few carrots over summer and here’s what happened:

  • Test #1: My 4 year old son came running into the kitchen one day dragging a bunch of dirty roots and bright green stems. “Mommy, look at the carrots I picked!” He was so proud. (: But when we washed and tasted the carrots, “They taste like dirt.” “I like the carrots from the store better.”
  • Test #2: Last week it got down to 39°; not quite a 32° frost. But we decided to do an unofficial ‘carrot tasting’ again. The results: “Mom, these carrots still taste a little bit like dirt, but mostly they are better than those first ones we picked.” OK, not a ringing endorsement. But they were right; the carrots did taste sweeter after the cold snap.

Now, what to do with those big beautiful carrot tops…

How to Keep Pasta Green |

We made pesto. And discovered, surprise: Carrot tops in pesto magically keep it brilliant bright green – instead of turning a dull canned pea color.

This is my best dietitian guess for why: Carrots are high in two powerful antioxidants vitamin A and vitamin C; so carrot tops probably have these antioxidants too which prevent the basil from oxidizing and turning brown.

Upon a bit more research, I discovered in this Cooking Light article, I had also probably been whizzing my pasta to death: Pulse – do not blend, and pulse only about 2-3 times. You could use parsley or spinach to preserve the green color; like I use carrot tops here.

Of course, there is no more delicious way to use pesto than on a simple bowl of pasta. October happens to be National Pasta Month – so The Recipe ReDux is partnering with the National Pasta Association to explore all the ways #pastafits. But in my house, pasta is:

  • Always in my pantry
  • Always affordable
  • Always a way to help my kids enjoy any veggie – by placing it on pasta
  • And – unlike carrot tops – pasta is ALWAYS in season

How to Keep Pesto Green


Bright Green Pasta Pesto with Crispy Ham

The secret ingredient that will keep your pesto a brilliant bright green every time.

  • Author: by Serena Ball, RD
  • Yield: 6 servings


  • 2 ounces thin deli ham, cut into thin ribbon slices
  • 1 (12-13 oz) box tri-colored rotini pasta
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons aged cheese (such as Parmesan; I used Cabot aged Cheddar)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup (lightly packed) basil leaves
  • 1 cup (lightly packed) carrot top leaves


  1. In a dry skillet, cook ham until most slices are golden brown and crispy.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain, reserving about 1/2 cup pasta water. Keep pasta warm.
  3. While pasta is cooking, place all remaining ingredients except carrot and basil leaves in food processor; push 5 times.
  4. Add carrot leaves and basil leaves. Pulse just a few times- about 2-3 times – until pesto is combined and leaves are finely chopped.
  5. Place pasta in serving bowl and stir in amount of desired pesto; add a little pasta water if pasta seems dry. Top with crispy ham.

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And speaking of seasonal, make a batch of this pesto to freeze and use on pasta all winter long…before all the basil and carrot tops at the market are gone.

Do you make pesto for pasta? Do you eat pasta all year long?

Looking for more healthy comfort food – or carb loading for running a race – check out pasta dishes galore:

Cheesy Mushroom Lasagna

Cheesy Mushroom Lasagna -

Pasta with Caper Alfredo Sauce

Pasta with Tomato Alfredo Sauce

 Poached Fennel & Salmon over Linguine

Poached Fennel Salmon Linguine-


We’re Serena & Deanna, two dietitians who love food as much as you do!  

We're also moms and business owners who share our family recipes, healthy kitchen hacks and nutrition adventures while keeping it real in the kitchen with you.

We’re so glad you’ve stopped by!

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