Pesto Pasta is a vibrant entree that’s made with real basil pesto! Once you try how deliciously fresh this pasta dish tastes, you’ll never go back to buying store-bought pesto again. Fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic and more are blended to perfection and tossed with the pasta of your choice to make your new favorite easy dinner!

A large white bowl is filled with pasta and is topped with fresh basil leaves.

Pesto Pasta

Yes, this is SO much better than any jar of pesto sauce you’ve ever tossed onto pasta before! I feel like every jarred pesto I’ve tried never has that fresh, vibrant flavor I’m looking for. You can really only find that when you make the real deal at home! Luckily, making your own homemade pesto is inexpensive, so easy, and takes no time at all.

If you’re a big pesto lover like I am, be sure to check out more details about Basil Pesto here! Is there a difference between a jar of pesto and pesto sauce that’s tossed on pasta? Nope. The only actual difference is that when you make Pesto Pasta, you add a little bit of the water that the noodles were cooked in to the dish to give the pesto the perfect consistency.

Don’t forget to top off your Pesto Pasta with a little (or a lot) of freshly shaved parmesan cheese. It’s like the cherry on top of a sundae – you just can’t go without it! And if you really want to show off and enhance the vibrancy of this dish even more, you can always toss a few fresh basil leaves on top as well. As long as you serve this pasta with a fork, there’s really not a bad way to go about it!

A bowl of cooked pasta is topped with a large spoonful of pesto.

How to Make Pesto Pasta

Calling all pesto lovers! This easy dinner recipe is sure to be one of your new favorites. It’s quick, so freshly flavored, and so simple it’s honestly hard to mess up.

  1. Toast the pine nuts. Add the pine nuts to a skillet over medium heat and toast until golden brown. Check out How to Toast Pine Nuts for even more details on that process.
  2. Make the pesto. Add 1/2 of the toasted pine nuts, 3 cups of the fresh basil, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese and some lemon zest to a food processor. Pulse the ingredients until finely chopped. Drizzle in about 3/4 cup of the olive oil while still blending, stopping and scraping as needed. Add the remaining ingredients. Pulse until finely chopped and smooth.
  3. Move it to a bowl. Transfer the basil pesto to a bowl and stir in the remaining olive oil. Season with a little salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Cook the pasta. Add the pasta of your choice to boiling water and cook according to the package instructions until al dente. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl and reserve 1 cup of the starchy liquid it was cooked in.
  5. Toss it all together. Add the pesto to the pasta and toss to coat. Stir in the reserved cooking liquid 1/4 cup at a time until the desired consistency. Keep in mind that you may not need all the liquid.
  6. Enjoy! Season with a little salt and pepper if desired and garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
A single serving of pesto pasta is topped with a basil leaf.

Why do I need to use reserved pasta water?

The reserved water that the pasta was cooked in does wonders for the consistency of the pesto. It helps the pesto evenly coat the pasta and provides the perfect amount of needed moisture to the dish. Also, if you don’t need all of the water you reserved, that’s okay! Add a little bit at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

How long will Pesto Pasta stay fresh?

In an airtight container in the fridge, your Pesto Pasta will stay fresh for about 3-4 days.

A white plate is topped with a serving of pesto pasta.

If you’re a pasta lover like me, you’ve come to just the right place!

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A large white bowl is filled with pasta and is topped with fresh basil leaves.

Get the Recipe: Pesto Pasta

Easy and quick Pesto Pasta is made with fresh basil pesto tossed with tender, perfectly cooked pasta. A great weeknight dinner!
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Ingredients

For the Basil Pesto:

  • 4 ounces pine nuts
  • 4 cups fresh basil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

For the Pasta:

  • 1 pound Spaghetti or other pasta
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • Extra parmesan cheese, for serving

Equipment

  • 1 saucepan

Instructions 

For the Pesto:

  • Add the pine nuts to a small skillet over medium heat and toast until golden brown, approximately 2-3 minutes.
  • In the bowl of a food processor, add 1/2 the pine nuts, 3 cups basil, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 cup cheese and lemon zest. Process the ingredients until finely chopped, approximately 30 seconds.
  • While the processor is still running on low speed, slowly drizzle 3/4 cup of olive oil and prices until a smooth paste begins to form. Stop the food processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  • Add the remaining pine nuts, basil, garlic and cheese to the bowl. Pulse until finely chopped.
  • Using a rubber spatula, transfer the pesto sauce to a bowl and stir in the remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • This step can be done up to 5 days in advance. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Bring a large pot water to a boil and season with salt.
  • Add the pasta to the water and cook according to the package instructions to al dente.
  • Transfer the pasta to a large bowl and reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
  • Add the pesto to the pasta and toss to coat.
  • Stir in the remaining cooking liquid 1/4 cup at a time until the desired consistency. (You may not need all the cooking liquid.)
  • Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Serve hot with parmesan cheese, if desired.

Notes

Basil Pesto can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Calories: 479kcal, Carbohydrates: 61g, Protein: 19g, Fat: 18g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 11mg, Sodium: 1436mg, Potassium: 352mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 980IU, Vitamin C: 5mg, Calcium: 249mg, Iron: 3mg