The Best Pesto Pasta
Fresh basil pesto works on just about anything; eggs, on protein, in rice, you name it! Which is why it’s a no brainer to pair this classic sauce with pasta to make a quick and tasty side dish with fresh summer ingredients. This is one of our favorite pasta dishes to serve up in the summertime, but it’s delicious any time of year.
What You Will Need
- fresh basil leaves – perfect for harvesting from the garden all summer long or pick some up at your local farmers market or grocery store.
- parmesan cheese – option to purchase an already grated cheese or grate a block yourself.
- pine nuts – adds that classic nutty flavor that is a classic ingredient for any basil pesto! Toasted pine nuts is an added step, but adds a subtle smokey flavor.
- garlic – everything is always better with some fresh garlic in it.
- lemon juice – a little bit of acidity to really bring out the great, fresh flavor!
- kosher salt – a simple seasoning that is a must.
- extra virgin olive oil – The oil base for this simple sauce! Feel free to add a little more if you want to thin out the texture.
- water – The base for cooking your pasta.
- medium pasta shells – We picked shells, but penne pasta or any pasta of your choice will work well.
- reserved pasta water – This starchy pasta water helps your delicious pesto coat all of your noodles perfectly.
- parmesan cheese – Just a bit to use as a garnish.
- optional protein add ins – Add your favorite protein to make this a complete meal. Our favorites are grilled chicken breasts, salmon, shrimp, or tofu!
How To Make Pesto Pasta
Start by gathering all of the pesto ingredients and add them to a small food processor or blender. Then blend all the ingredients together until you notice a smooth consistency.
Feel free to adjust the salt after tasting. If you’d like your pesto to be a bit thinner, add additional olive oil, one tablespoon at a time.
Next, cook your pasta al dente according to the package directions. Before draining your pasta, carefully scoop out approximately a half cup of pasta water with a measuring cup or soup ladle. Once the water has been collected, drain the pasta and return it to the warm pot along with the pesto sauce and a splash of the reserved pasta water.
Stir the pesto and al dente pasta so that the pesto sauce covers all of the noodles. Feel free to add additional splashes of pasta water to reach your desired consistency.
To amp up the flavors in this basil pesto pasta, experiment with add-ins like red pepper flakes, sliced grape tomatoes, feta cheese, black olives, or fresh mozzarella balls. Or add chicken breasts to make chicken pasta salad. Tell us which add-in was your favorite!
- Dairy-Free: We’ve got you with this dairy-free pesto recipe.
- Pesto: Store bought pesto will work in this recipe, but we promise that the homemade pesto sauce is lightyears brighter, fresher, and just better.
- Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container for the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
- Nutrition: The nutrition information in the recipe card accounts for the pasta and pesto sauce, not the optional added proteins.
Made this pesto pasta salad recipe and loved it?! We would love it if you would take a minute and leave a star rating and review – it is also helpful if you made any substitutions or changes to the recipe to share that as well. THANK YOU!
Pesto Pasta – a delicious and easy homemade pesto pasta recipe that is perfect for an easy weeknight dinner or quick lunch!
- 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (more as needed)
- Pesto (or sub store-bought): Add ingredients to a small food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Taste and add additional salt, as desired. Add additional olive oil, a tablespoon at a time, to thin.
- Pasta + Pasta Water: Cook pasta al dente according to package instructions. Remove approx. 1/2 cup pasta water and then drain pasta. Return to warm pot along with the pesto and a splash of paster water (set remaining pasta water aside).
- Sauce it up: Stir and let the hot pasta water create a beautiful, thinned out pesto sauce that will coat your noodles beautifully! Add additional splashes of pasta water, as needed, to reach your desired consistency (you may not use it all).
- Serve: Serve with some grated or shaved parmesan cheese for garnish. If you want to add a protein you could do grilled chicken, salmon, shrimp, tofu!
- Dairy-Free: you can use this dairy-free pesto recipe if you prefer.
- Pesto: definitely use a store-bought pesto if you want to make this recipe even easier!
- Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
- Serving Size: 4 oz
- Calories: 328
- Sugar: 1.1 g
- Sodium: 188.7 mg
- Fat: 20.1 g
- Carbohydrates: 30.8 g
- Protein: 8 g
- Cholesterol: 3.2 mg
Keywords: pesto pasta