Easy Pesto Pasta Recipe (Italian Basil Pesto Sauce)

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Easy Pesto Pasta Recipe (Italian Basil Pesto Sauce)– a 20 minute pesto pasta! Yes, please! Nothings beats this fresh authentic Italian basil pesto for a quick and healthy meal.

Serve with our famous chicken thighs and homemade bread.

basil pesto pasta on a plate with a bronze fork on the plate.
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Best Pesto Pasta

This is one of our family go-to recipes! You will never buy store-bought pesto after making this quick homemade pesto and tossing it with perfectlu cooked hot pasta. You will love this simple pasta dish!

  • Fresh and Flavorful: The cornerstone of this dish is the homemade basil pesto, bursting with fresh basil, rich olive oil, and aromatic garlic. Each bite is packed with vibrant flavors that are the hallmark of a freshly made pesto.
  • Quick and Easy: One of the best parts about basil pesto pasta is its simplicity. You can whip up the pesto in just a few minutes while your pasta cooks, making it a perfect choice for a quick yet satisfying meal on busy weeknights.
  • Versatile: While pesto pairs beautifully with pasta, it’s also incredibly versatile. Use it as a spread on sandwiches, a drizzle over grilled vegetables, or a sauce for proteins like chicken or fish. The possibilities are endless!
  • Rich in Texture: The combination of crunchy pine nuts, creamy cheeses, and the smooth olive oil in the pesto creates a delightful texture that clings perfectly to the pasta.
Basil pesto tossed with trofie pasta. Served with parmigiano on top.

Simple Ingredients

With only a handful of ingredients you’ll have the best homemade pesto pasta in town right in your own kitchen!

basil pesto ingredients.
  • Pasta of choice. Traditionally, we use trofie pasta with homemade pesto. You will save some of the pasta cooking water.
  • Homemade Pesto
    • Fresh Basil Leaves: The star of the show, basil brings a fresh, vibrant, and slightly peppery flavor. It’s essential for that unmistakable pesto aroma and color. Use fresh leaves and avoid any wilted or discolored ones.
    • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Acts as the smooth, rich base that binds all the ingredients together. A high-quality extra virgin olive oil will contribute a fruity, slightly bitter background note that enhances the overall taste of the pesto.
    • Garlic: Adds a pungent kick to the pesto, balancing the sweetness of the basil and the richness of the nuts and cheese.
    • Pine Nuts: These add a buttery texture and a nutty, sweet taste. Optional: make toasted pine nuts by sauteeing in a pan until they are golden brown.
    • Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese: this aged cheese is known for its complex, nutty, and slightly salty flavor. It lends a depth of flavor and enriches the pesto’s texture.
    • Pecorino Cheese: This is a sharper and saltier cheese compared to Parmigiano, usually made from sheep’s milk. Pecorino Romano or Pecorino Sardo both work well, adding a robust, tangy edge to the pesto.
    • Sea Salt: Just a pinch is needed to enhance all the flavors. Sea salt is preferred for its clean, straightforward saltiness which doesn’t overpower the fresh ingredients.
    • Black pepper for garnish, if desired.

See the recipe card for quantities.

How to Make Pesto Pasta

With just a few easy steps you will have fresh pesto and hot pasta to toss with it. A true match made in heaven! This is one of those simple recipes you will make again and again. See the printable recipe card for detailed instructions.

how to make basil pesto- add the cheese and garlic to the blender.

how to make basil pesto- blend the ingredients until smooth.

how to make best pistachio pesto pasta- strained pasta ready to toss with the pesto.

You can use any pasta you like. Cook your pasta al dente in boiling salted water.

how to make best pistachio pesto pasta- strained pasta ready to toss with the pesto. Add a little pasta water to the sauce.

Tossing the pasta while it is still hot creates a smooth and creamy sauce without adding any cream!

Enjoy your easy pesto pasta recipe! It;s one of thise delcious recipes you will add to your monthly rotation. Buon appetito!

Nut Substitutions for Pesto

Other types of nuts to use in pesto instead of pine nuts:

  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Pepitas
  • Pistachios
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Hemp seeds (nut allergies)

Variations

  • Pesto Pasta Salad: You can serve this dish warm or cold. For a cold salad toss with cherry tomatoes. Add red pepper flakes for heat.
  • Sun-Dried Tomatoes: Stir in chopped sun-dried tomatoes for a tangy, sweet contrast to the creamy pesto. They add a lovely chewy texture and vibrant color.
  • Roasted Vegetables: Mix in roasted vegetables like zucchini, bell peppers, or cherry tomatoes. Roasting brings out their natural sweetness, providing a delightful complement to the herbal notes of the pesto.
  • Creamy Pesto: For a richer, silkier texture, add a splash of heavy cream or a dollop of ricotta cheese to your pesto sauce. This makes the pesto luxuriously creamy and softens its intense flavors.
  • Chicken Pesto Pasta or Shrimp: Include grilled or sautéed chicken breasts or shrimp for a protein-packed meal that’s filling and flavorful. The protein pairs well with the nutty and herbal flavors of the pesto.

Equipment

Storage

See my homemade basil pesto post for storage ideas on the pesto. To store the pesto pasta keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Basil pesto tossed with trofie pasta. Served with parmigiano on top.

My Pro Tip

Recipe Tips

  • Use high-quality, authentic Italian ingredients, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheeses and extra virgin olive oil from Italy.
  • For the perfect texture, cook the pasta al dente, as is traditional in Italian cuisine.
  • Toss the pasta with the pesto before serving to ensure fresh and vibrant flavors.
  • Garnish with additional cheese and chopped pistachios for added texture and flavor.

FAQs

Can I make pesto in advance?

Absolutely! Pesto can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Cover it with a thin layer of olive oil to help preserve its vibrant green color and freshness. It can also be frozen for up to three months.

What type of pasta works best with pesto?

Pesto clings best to pasta with texture, such as spaghetti, linguine, or short shapes like penne and fusilli. The ridges and grooves in these shapes help capture the sauce, ensuring a good pesto-to-pasta ratio in every bite.

What’s the best way to mix pesto with pasta?

To evenly coat the pasta, reserve a bit of the pasta cooking water before draining. Mix the pesto with a few tablespoons of this starchy water to help it adhere to the pasta more effectively. This creates a creamy sauce.

Looking for other recipes? Try these:

What to Serve With Pesto Pasta

Fresh basil pesto pasta makes a delightful side dish, or you can enjoy it on it’s own for a lighter meal.

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Best Easy Pesto Pasta Recipe

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20 minute pesto pasta! Yes, please! Nothings beats this fresh authentic Italian basil pesto for a quick and healthy meal. An easy weeknight meal you will come back to time and time again.

  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 46 servings 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1 lb (450g) pasta of your choice (such as trofie, spaghetti, linguine, or penne)

Basil Pesto: 

  • 4 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and quartered
  • 4 packed cups sweet Italian basil, leaves picked, thick stems removed
  • 1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil (add as needed if consistency is too thick)
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, (Parmesan cheese), grated
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, grated

Instructions

  1. Cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions until al dente. Reserve about 1 cup of pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta and set aside.
  2. Prepare the pesto: Combine the pinenuts, garlic cloves, and basil leaves in a food processor or blender. Pulse until coarsely chopped.
  3. Add the cheeses and olive oil: Add the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheeses to the food processor. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil until the pesto reaches your desired consistency. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  4. Combine the pesto and pasta: In a large mixing bowl, toss the cooked pasta with the freshly prepared pistachio pesto until well coated. If the pesto is too thick, add a splash of reserved pasta cooking water to thin it out and help it adhere to the pasta.
  5. Serve: Divide the pesto-coated pasta among serving plates or bowls. Garnish with additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Serve immediately, and enjoy your authentic Italian basil pesto pasta!
  • Author: Elena
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Savory
  • Method: Italian
  • Cuisine: Italian

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About Elena

My dream is to share delicious wholesome recipes that you will share around the table with all your loved ones. The memories surrounded by food are the heart and soul of CucinaByElena.

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