Watercress pesto with linguine. As I have some extra watercress at the house, I wanted to make something different.

It is a treat when our local store carries it, and I never pass up the opportunity to enjoy it in an old favorite dish or create a new one with it.

Watercress Pesto With Linguine

Sharp and peppery, the watercress is a great way to enhance any delicious pasta dish.  Taking the classic pasta with pesto up a notch.

Homemade pesto is easy to make and takes a minute with your small food processor. Although always made with basil, here is my version with watercress.

In this Article

What is a watercress?

Watercress is a leafy green that grows in natural spring water. It has a very distinctive peppery taste to it.

Known to be one of the oldest leaf vegetables. It proliferates and is a perennial plant native to Europe and Asia.

Rich in potassium is one of the essential minerals in our body.

What can I do with fresh watercress?

Salads may be the obvious choice for fresh watercress. However, as you will discover here, the possibilities are endless.

Soup, sandwiches, sauces, pesto, and dips, are the perfect combination to use your watercress.

Smoothie for a rich vitamin-packed drink.  Watercress contains potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.

Do you eat the stems of the watercress?

The entire plant is edible. Leaves and stalks can be eaten raw or cooked.

The only part discarded is the roots that do not taste good.

Watercress Pesto With Linguine

Selecting the best watercress

Watercress is related to mustard greens. It grows wild in running water year-round. Look for crisp, dark green leaves without any blemishes.

If you see any flowers, it means the watercress will be bitter.

The watercress leaves must be bright green and not limp.

The season runs from September to May. Usually sold in stores with the hearth still attached in a bundle. This will keep them fresh.

How to prepare your watercress for cooking?

In an enormous container, fill it with cold water and rinse the watercress bundle. Add vinegar to your water to eliminate any tiny bacteria.

Cut the dirt bundle off and go thru all the leaves to ensure nothing is stuck in between.

If you eat it raw, use the small tender leaves. If you are cooking with it, you can use the whole bundle and not cook it too long.

Watercress Pesto With Linguine

What is pesto?

Typically a basil sauce originating from Genova, Italy. However, the word “pesto” derives from eh verb “pestare” which means to “crush.”

Therefore pesto is typically made by crushing the ingredients in either mortar or a food processor.

Variations from the original pesto abound. You can replace the basil with kale, spinach, arugula, and such as here with watercress.

One common denominator is that any basil replacement must have a tangy, peppery taste.

I enjoy eating fresh vegetables with my pasta.

I do enjoy the rich flavor of it and its richness, like these favorite recipes on mine of broccoli pasta or zucchini provolone pasta.

Nothing more filling and delicious

Watercress Pesto With Linguine

Here are a few helpful tips for the ingredients needed

Watercress:  usually sold in bunches with the soil still attached to it. Remove the dirt by cutting thru it.  Make sure your leaves are all evenly bright green and upright.

Garlic clove: a small clove complements the taste of the watercress. Adding more to your pesto is ill-advised as it will change the flavor, and the garlic will overpower your dish.

Parmesan Cheese: Finely grated Parmigiano adds another layer to your sauce. You can replace it with pecorino if none is on hand.

Pine nuts: A must! They are one of the key ingredients in the pesto. You can taste them as their flavor will stand out in this dish. Also, replace the pine nuts with walnuts or, better yet, add half of the pine nuts and half walnuts. You will enjoy the combination.

Olive oil: I enjoy Olio Santo and Bertolli oils. Both are not too heavy and do not change the flavor of food as some Extra virgin olive oil does.  Lighter in taste and easier to cook with.

Pasta: Linguine, fettuccine, penne, farfalle… I leave it up to you to choose the pasta of your liking. Do cook them al dente, meaning remove them a couple of minutes before they are thoroughly cooked. You still want to feel a bite when you bite into it.

Heavy cream: The secret arsenal to all pesto, the original Genovese, and here. The cream breaks down the bitterness and gives a softer flavor to your dish.

Watercress Pesto With Linguine

Equipment you will need

  • A food processor is a fastest and easier way to prepare this dish. You are done with all the ingredients, a few pulses, and voila, you are ready to enjoy it.
  • Large pot to cook your pasta. Pasta needs water to boil and swirl around it.
  • Use a colander to drain your pasta.
  • Tongs or cooking spoons to mix the pasta, butter, and heavy cream.
  • Serving plates. If you are preparing this dish for your friends and want them to serve themselves, use a large pasta dish. Otherwise, you can mix everything back in the pot where you just cooked the water and serve it into individual plates.

Watercress Pesto With Linguine

Cooking tips and step by step to make this fabulous watercress pesto recipe:

As you can see, this recipe takes less than 30 minutes to prepare. While the pasta is cooking, you can prepare the pesto.

  • Use a large and with high border pasta pot to cook your pasta in it. I am of the “do not break your linguine club.” Therefore I dump the pasta into the roaring boiling water and then mix.
  • Clean well the watercress. Little specks of dirt can hide on the bottom leaves. Use a large bowl and do a couple of rinses. They may not be necessary, but you better be safe than have to bite on a speck of dirt.
  • The food processor will do it all for you. I like to chop the watercress to facilitate the chopping process. Add all the ingredients and grind until a smooth paste is created.
  • When the pasta is al dente, meaning it still has a bite, reserve one cup of water before draining. This water will come in handy if your pasta is too dry. The water contains natural starch and acts as a binding agent.
  • No need to dirty another pan; once drained, place the pasta back into the cooking pan, add the butter and heavy cream, and mix well until the butter has melted.
  • Reserve a couple of spoonfuls of pesto, add the remainder watercress pesto to the pasta, and mix well.
  • Top with parmesan shavings.

Can you make this ahead of time?

Yes, you can. The pesto will store well in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Storage instructions and reheating

A glass jar with a tight-fit lid is always my choice. Last longer, and there is no odor remaining in the container.

If you use a container with a light color plastic lid, beware that the green pesto will stain your cover if it comes into contact.

Storing only the pesto: bring it back to room temperature before adding it to your pasta.

Storing with the pasta: Add the pasta with pesto in a small pan. Add a few tablespoons of water and warm up over medium-low heat. Cover to keep the heat in and for faster warming up. Stir once in a while, and be careful that it does not burn. Add more water and a small dollop of butter if too dry.

Watercress Pesto With Linguine


  • Watercress can be substituted by using basil and making it the original pesto. Kale, as well as spinach.
  • Pecorino for the Parmigiano cheese
  • Walnuts can substitute pine nuts. Start with a lesser amount and increase it to satisfy your palate.
    In regards to pasta, you can choose any type of pasta you wish with this dish. This sauce is thick and rich that it will stick to any pasta you select

Equipment and ingredients used to create this recipe.

Watercress Pesto with Linguine

5 from 6 votes
Watercress Pesto With Linguine
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Sharp and peppery, the watercress is a great way to enhance any delicious pasta dish.  Taking the classic pasta with pesto up a notch.


  • 1 bunch watercress
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 4 tablespoons parmesan cheese , + shavings
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 pound linguine pasta
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon butter


  • Rinse the watercress and remove as many of you can of the thick stems.
  • In a food processor, add the watercress, garlic, parmesan cheese, and pine nuts and chop until it becomes a puree. Slowly add the olive oil while the motor is running the food processor. You should have a creamy-thick green sauce
    Watercress Pesto With Linguine
  • Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large, salted pot and cook it to al dente, a couple of minutes before recommended manufacturer cooking time.
  • Save 1 cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta and put it back into the cooking pot.
  • Add the butter and heavy cream. Mix well and once the butter is melted, add some of the watercress pesto. Mix well and serve on a pasta plate.
  • Add a spoonful of watercress pesto to each dish and top with parmesan cheese shavings.
    Watercress Pesto With Linguine


Calories: 870kcal | Carbohydrates: 88g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 50g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 10g | Monounsaturated Fat: 26g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 28mg | Sodium: 117mg | Potassium: 397mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 551IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 106mg | Iron: 3mg

Giangi’s Kitchen provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as a registered dietician does not calculate them.

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