You can whip up this amazing pesto pasta recipe in minutes! Make a quick and easy fresh pesto sauce for your pasta, or take a pantry shortcut using jarred pesto.
Regardless, it’s a surefire success for a fast weeknight dinner, and so easy to customize. This wholesome, fresh pasta is bursting with the vibrancy of fresh herbs, and I think you’re going to love it!
Whether you decide to make this dish using fresh pesto or a shortcut jar of store bought pesto, it will quickly become a favorite dish!
It’s full of robust flavor – perfect for lunch or dinner, and so easy to throw together! There’s nothing like the fragrance of basil in your kitchen, regardless of how you use it.
And when it’s combined with pasta? What could be better! Let’s learn how to make this incredibly easy pesto pasta dish for another dinner to add to your menu rotation.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Pasta – I like to use spaghetti, but angel hair, Bucatini spirals, rotini and bow tie pasta all work well. Use your favorite shape! You can learn how to make homemade pasta here.
- Basil – Fresh basil leaves are the foundation for this sauce.
- Pine Nuts – Add a mild, sweet and slightly buttery flavor. They are tender and high in fat and make the pesto really silky. You can substitute walnuts if you don’t have any pine nuts on hand.
- Minced Garlic – No pesto is complete without garlic! Use fresh or minced garlic purchased in the produce section of your grocer for the best flavor.
- Olive Oil – Use a good quality olive oil, or extra virgin olive oil. It really enhances the flavor.
- Red Pepper Flakes – To add a little heat (and a hint of color).
- Parmesan Cheese – Use freshly grated parmesan for the best flavor. You can substitute grana padano or asiago. Even goat cheese offers nice flavor.
- Salt and Pepper – Freshly cracked and to taste.
- Parsley – Switch the basil out and use parsley for a parsley pesto or even arugula pesto!
- Nuts – Eliminate entirely for Nut Free Pesto, or try this walnut pesto or pistachio pesto instead.
- Add cherry tomatoes or toss with fresh greens before serving.
- Pesto Rosso – Make this pesto pasta with sun dried tomato pesto instead!
How To Make Pesto Pasta
- Prepare Pasta – Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare pasta al dente.
- Make the Pesto – Add ingredients to a food processor or blender and pulse until it reaches the desired consistency.
- Combine – Reserving one cup of pasta water, strain noodles. Return to pot and toss with sauce. Use desired amount of pasta water to thin, if needed.
- Garnish – Top with fresh grated Parmesan, salt and pepper to taste.
- Reserve Pasta Water – Starchy water is the best way to thin pesto sauce. It enhances the flavor while helping pesto coat the pasta.
- Season to Taste – Add fresh cracked salt, pepper or red pepper as needed. It’s easy to control the flavor to your preference after you make it. You can even add a squeeze of lemon juice for bright flavor.
- Store Bought Pesto – Replace basil, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil with a store bought pesto in this recipe. It won’t be quite as fresh and vibrant, of course, but it will still be bursting with flavor!
How to Store
- Room Temperature – This pesto pasta can sit out at room temperature for up to two hours while serving.
- Refrigerate – Store refrigerated up to three days in an airtight container.
- Freeze – Store up to three months in an airtight container. Reheat in the oven with a little olive oil to refresh the sauce.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare pasta al dente.
- Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and red pepper. Pulse.
- Reserving 1 cup of pasta water, drain pasta.
- Toss with pesto, adding pasta water, if desired to thin sauce.
- Garish with parmesan and salt and pepper to taste.
- Store Bought Pesto – Replace basil, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil with store bought pesto.
- Pine Nuts – No pine nuts? No problem. Walnuts make a great substitute.
- Minced Garlic – I use store bought minced garlic, but you can replace with 2 garlic cloves.
- Parmesan – You can substitute with grana padano or asiago. Even goat cheese offers nice flavor.
- Add a squeeze of lemon juice or zest over the top of the dish.
- Add cherry tomatoes.
Estimated nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is not guaranteed.