Pesto Pasta recipe

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 5 servings

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Pesto Pasta is a simple summer pasta recipe made with homemade pesto. Fresh basil, olive oil, pine nuts, and plenty of parmesan add loads of flavor!

white plate full of pesto pasta with basil leaves beside.

Enjoy more of the best meatless pasta recipes like Garlic Parmesan Orzo Pasta, Tomato Basil Pasta and One Pot Pasta Primavera.

Nothing quite says summer like this easy Pesto Pasta recipe! This vibrant recipe features tender bites of spaghetti (or really whatever pasta you love) coated in homemade basil pesto.

Basil, olive oil, parmesan, pine nuts and garlic are all you need to make the very best pesto. You won’t find any unnecessary ingredients in this foolproof recipe.

It’s also worth mentioning that this pesto pasta recipe takes just 20 minutes to make from start to finish! It’s such a quick and easy pasta recipe that I never grow tired of.

Why we love this Pesto Pasta Recipe:

  • Quick: With just about 10 minutes of prep time and 10 minutes of cook time, you’ll love how delightfully quick and easy this basil pesto pasta is.
  • Inexpensive: One quick look at the ingredients listed below will show you just how short your shopping list will be. We love to make this recipe in the summer when fresh herbs are abundant!
  • Classic: No frills to be found here. Just the timeless basil pesto ingredients you know and love.
  • Meatless: While you can certainly add a protein like chicken or shrimp if you’d like, this pesto pasta recipe is vegetarian if a vegetarian cheese is used!
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Pesto Pasta Ingredients Needed:

ingredients needed for pesto pasta in glass bowls.
  • Spaghetti: You can use any other pasta you prefer or happen to have on hand for this versatile recipe.
  • Olive Oil: A good quality extra virgin olive oil works wonders for the flavor and texture of the pesto.
  • Basil: Make sure you’re using fresh basil, not dried! We like to save this recipe for when basil is in season, but you can make it with store-bought pesto through the winter if you want.
  • Parmesan: Freshly grated parmesan is preferred for the very best flavor and consistency. Swap for another hard cheese like Romano or Grana Padano if desired.
  • Pine Nuts: If you want to enhance the flavor of the pine nuts even more, roast them lightly (just to slightly brown them) in a pan over medium heat for a minute or so. These can be a little pricier, so you can swap with almonds or walnuts if necessary.
  • Garlic: fresh for the best flavor!

How to make Pesto Pasta

Making pasta with pesto is quick, easy, and kind of fun! For more detailed step by step instructions just scroll down to the recipe card.

  • While the spaghetti is cooking, make the pesto! Add the olive oil, basil, parmesan, pine nuts and garlic to a food processor (or blender).
  • Pulse/blend until smooth and combined. Conduct a taste test to see if any salt and pepper is needed.
  • Once the pasta is cooked al dente, reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining.
  • Add the fresh pesto to the pot with the cooked pasta. Mix in a few tablespoons of pasta water.
  • Mix everything together. Add more pasta water if needed.

Variations and Substitutions

  • Herbs: Not a basil fan? No worries! Substitute it with any other fresh herbs you enjoy like dill or parsley.
  • Pasta: Any kind of pasta works here! Just make sure it’s cooked to al dente and that you reserve some pasta water.
  • Seasonings: A pinch of red pepper flakes adds a delicious spicy kick.
  • Cream: Make some creamy pesto pasta by adding a splash of heavy cream or half and half.
  • Lemon: A squeeze of fresh lemon juice or a sprinkle of zest does wonders here!

How to store Pesto Pasta

Leftover pesto pasta will stay fresh in the fridge for about 2-3 days. Note that the pesto may dry out a little bit when stored, so reheat with care! Microwave for just 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time it stops, until warmed all the way through.

Can I freeze pesto pasta?

You can, but I prefer to freeze the pesto alone and simply toss with freshly cooked pasta for the best results.

Freezing basil pesto

You can place the pesto in a freezer-safe zip-top bag or container and freeze for up to 3 months. To use, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and add to hot pasta, tossing with pasta water if necessary.

Freezing prepared pasta

Once the pesto pasta has totally cooled to room temperature, transfer it to an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Don’t forget to date and label!

Once you’re ready to serve it, let the pasta thaw in the fridge for a few hours. If you’re reheating an entire serving, just toss it back in a pot/pan over medium-low heat and stir until warmed back up.

Why do I need to use pasta water?

It’s so important to reserve that pasta water before you drain the pasta! The starches in the pasta water help to create the very best sauce. It thins out the pesto into a smoother consistency and makes it creamy. Also, it helps the creamy basil pesto really cling to the pasta in a way that plain water doesn’t.

white plate full of pesto pasta and a fork.

Serving suggestions:

Serve this basil pesto pasta next to a protein like Baked Chicken Breasts, Air Fryer Salmon or Air Fryer Steak for a filling meal.

You can also let the pasta serve as an entree and plate it with a vibrant side dish like Cheesy Baked Asparagus or some Roasted Carrots for a pop of color. Don’t forget a slice of Crusty No Knead bread alongside it!

More Pasta Recipes You’ll Love:

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Simple Pesto Pasta recipe

5 from 2 votes
Pesto Pasta is a simple summer pasta recipe made with homemade pesto. Fresh basil, pine nuts, and plenty of parmesan add loads of flavor!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Cuisine American
Course Main Course
Servings 5 servings
Calories 546cal

Ingredients

  • 1 lb spaghetti (454 grams)
  • cup olive oil
  • 2 cups lightly packed basil leaves (about 40 grams)
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, almonds or walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • reserved pasta water

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the spaghetti. Cook according to package directions.
  • Meanwhile, make the fresh pesto. To a blender or food processor, add olive oil, basil, Parmesan, nuts and garlic. Process until relatively smooth and combined. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper, process again and adjust to your tastes as necessary.
  • When pasta is cooked to al dente, reserve 1 cup pasta water and drain.
  • Add the pesto to the pot with the spaghetti, along with a few tablespoons of pasta water. Toss until the pesto coats the pasta, adding additional pasta water as desired to make the sauce come together. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
  • Serve.

Notes

Ingredients and Substitutions:
  • Herbs: you can swap some of the basil with other fresh herbs you have and enjoy, such as dill or parsley. 
  • Pasta: any kind of pasta works here, since we are cooking it to al dente. Use whatever you have on hand!
  • Seasonings: feel free to add a pinch of red pepper flakes for heat, a squeeze of lemon juice for brightness, or a splash of cream for added richness. 

Nutrition Information

Serving: 303grams | Calories: 546cal | Carbohydrates: 70g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 7mg | Sodium: 167mg | Potassium: 271mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 586IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 163mg | Iron: 2mg
Keywords pesto pasta

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Meet Ashley

My name is Ashley Fehr and I love creating easy meals my family loves. I also like to do things my way, which means improvising and breaking the rules when necessary. Here you will find creative twists on old favorites and some of my favorite family recipes, passed down from generations!

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