Nut-Free Pesto Pasta with Panko Bread Crumbs

Did you know that you can make nut-free pesto with Panko bread crumbs? Instead of using pine nuts, use Panko!

Both of my kids love this pesto, and it’s a great way to include leafy greens in their meals. Panko makes it a little lighter than nut-based pesto, making it a great summer meal.

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You can safely pack this in school lunches too. However, if you send this for young kids in preschool or under, you might want to add a sticky note for the teachers explaining that it’s homemade nut-free pesto. One time, my daughter’s preschool teachers assumed it had pinenuts, and my daughter wasn’t yet eloquent enough to explain what it actually was.

I like to add manchego cheese and cherry tomatoes to my pesto pasta, but my kids aren’t into raw tomatoes yet. So I used tomatoes as toppings on mine and served them on the side for my kids. I guessed that they wouldn’t touch tomatoes, so I served some fresh strawberries as well. Even if my kids don’t eat certain foods, I try to include them as sides because you never know when they will change their minds. But if I stop serving them all together, it’s a guarantee that they will continue to avoid the food.

Note on pasta. Shells or fusilli works well with pesto, but you can use any shape of pasta. Just make sure to reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water before draining the pasta. Of course, you can use whole wheat pasta to boost some nutrition, but we had regular wheat pasta today.

Please let me know in the comments if you try this recipe. I would love to hear from you!

Visit my Amazon Store to find the dinnerware and the kitchen tools I use.

If you enjoyed this recipe, check out my Baked Feta Pasta with Butternut Squash and Mushrooms recipe as well.

Nut-Free Pesto Pasta with Panko Bread Crumbs

A school-safe, summery pesto pasta. A great way to get some fresh greens into kids' meals – my kids love it!

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings 4
Author whiteblankspace


  • 2 handfuls of fresh basil the amount I can hold with two hands
  • 2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach
  • 2/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove of garlic or 1 tsp of minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil or more to desired consistency
  • 1 lb cooked pasta shells or fusilli works well
  • 1 cup pasta cooking water
  • optional cubed manchego cheese
  • optional quartered cherry tomatoes


  1. Place basil, spinach, panko, parmesan cheese, and garlic in a food processor and process until smooth. Stop the processor and scrape down the sides if needed.
  2. While the food processor is running, drizzle olive oil through feed tube. Stop the processor as soon as you finish pouring the oil. Try not to over-process.
  3. In a large bowl, mix pasta, pesto, and a little bit of pasta cooking water. Keep adding more water until the pesto sauce becomes creamy.
  4. Mix in manchego cheese and cherry tomatoes if desired.

Recipe Notes

“2 handfuls” is about the amount I can hold with my two hands.

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