RECIPE: Spinach Sage Pesto

The February taste test at Parkview Elementary was a huge hit! Fifth graders and Master Gardener Volunteers prepared Spinach Sage Pesto with sage from the school garden for 400 children to sample. Some thought it was spicy, some thought it was earthy, some smothered it on their pizza and many dipped their baby carrots in it. The students loved scratching and sniffing the freshly harvested sage!

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When I returned to my site – Cooperative Extension – with some leftover pesto, my colleagues were begging for the recipe. I would be lying if I said it was remotely possible to create an accurate pesto recipe for 400. With the creativity and varied palates of our 5th graders, we threw in a a little extra garlic to kick it up a notch, a little extra spinach to tone it down a notch, and we kept adding and adding until we ended up with a Vitamix filled to the brim with a dip that most of us agreed tasted irresistible. Here’s the closest to a recipe we could come up with:

RECIPE: Spinach Sage Pesto


  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Four cups spinach (always in season in Guilford County!)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (pine nuts and walnuts work great too, but we were keeping it allergen free)
  • 1/2 cup sage (also always in season!)
  • 1/2 cup parsley (or more sage, or basil, or anything green)
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • A bunch of salt and pepper


  1. Blend the garlic and olive oil to ensure the garlic is evenly distributed.
  2. Add the spinach, pumpkin seeds, sage, parsley and cheese and blend on high.
  3. Sample with whatever your dipping tool will be and adjust salt and pepper accordingly. If you’re tasting the pesto with a raw vegetable, you may need to add a little more salt than if you’re tasting it on a salted cracker.
  4. Freeze any extra pesto (there won’t be) in ice cube trays to use later in sauces, dips, soups, etc.

How to win the kids over:

  • Parmesan! Pumpkin seeds! Olive oil! And garlic even makes it a little spicy – you like spicy food, don’t you!?