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Your new go-to summer dinner: Pesto Pasta! Vibrant pesto tangled with whole wheat noodles, a handful of Parmesan, and whatever additions you please (tomatoes! spinach! chicken!) this is a fresh, fuss-free dinner to eat and repeat.

Spinach pesto pasta with tomatoes

Why You’ll Love This Summer Pasta Recipe

  • Pesto Pasta Is Summertime Bliss. From Pesto Salmon to Grilled Pesto Chicken Skewers, we enjoy delicious pesto recipes all summer long. When it comes to a batch of Basil Pesto’s highest calling, however, a fresh batch of pasta (or this Chicken Pesto Pasta) is darn near impossible to beat.
  • It’s Easy Yet Impressive. This is the best pesto pasta recipe for an easy weeknight meal or an elegant dinner party. It’s simple to make and ready in under 30 minutes, but it delivers majorly crowd-pleasing flavor.
  • Versatile. Enjoy it as is, or top it with Air Fryer Chicken Breast, Grilled Shrimp Seasoning, or Baked Salmon in Foil.
  • Pesto Pasta Is Good for You. By adding fresh vegetables like cherry tomatoes and spinach, as well as using whole wheat noodles, eating pesto pasta can be healthy and is an absolute pleasure. My homemade Basil Pesto is healthy, so it will help keep this recipe on the lighter side too.
A bowl of the best pesto pasta recipe with tomatoes and cheese

How to Make Pesto Pasta

The Ingredients

  • Whole Wheat Pasta. Using whole wheat pasta is an easy, healthy swap. I recommend using long pasta noodles like spaghetti or fettuccini (or even penne pasta), as they hold the pesto nicely.
  • Tomatoes. Pesto pasta with tomatoes is absolutely scrumptious! The sweetness of the tomatoes pairs wonderfully with the nutty, creamy pesto sauce.
  • Pesto. Deliciously clings to every noodle, ensuring each bite is packed with exuberance.

Market Swap

Go with a classic basil pesto, or try a different pesto you enjoy for this recipe. I love making my own homemade pesto recipe whenever possible. If you’d like to know how to make pesto pasta from a jar of pesto, you can use store-bought pesto instead.

  • Lemon Juice. For brightness, balance, and acidity.
  • Red Pepper Flakes. Adds a touch of heat. If you prefer less spice, you can omit them.
  • Greens. Sneak extra greens into your pasta by adding some arugula or spinach. Both greens are rich in vitamins and minerals.
  • Pine Nuts. A finishing sprinkle of toasted pine nuts adds texture and makes this dish complete.
  • Parmesan. Because you can never have too much parmesan!

The Directions

  1. Cook the Pasta. Reserve some pasta water.
Tomatoes in a skillet
  1. Cook the Tomatoes. Cook until they’re beginning to burst.
Noodles and tomatoes in a skillet
  1. Drain the Pasta. Add it to the tomatoes.
Sauce being added to a skillet of noodles and tomatoes
  1. Stir in the Pesto. Toss with the juice, salt, and red pepper flakes until coated. Add reserved pasta water as desired.
Spinach being added to a pan of pasta
  1. Add the Arugula. Stir until it wilts.
A pot with noodles and vegetables
  1. Add Pine Nuts and Parmesan. Enjoy!

Recipe Variations

Easy pesto pasta using a homemade pesto recipe

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Refrigerate pasta in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
  • To Reheat. Pesto pasta can be reheated. Rewarm leftovers in a skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
  • To Freeze. Freeze pasta in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

Meal Prep Tip

Up to 1 day in advance, prepare the pesto (if making homemade). You can also cut the tomatoes, wash the spinach or arugula, and grate the parmesan cheese. Refrigerate each ingredient until you’re ready to finish the recipe.

How to make pesto pasta from a jar of pesto or homemade

Leftover Ideas

Turn leftovers into a scrumptious pesto pasta salad (yes, pesto pasta can be eaten cold). Toss in additional greens or enjoy it as is.

What to Serve with Pesto Pasta

A bowl of the best pesto pasta with tomatoes and cheese
  • Sauté Pan. Perfect for making this pasta on the stove.
  • Citrus Juicer. The only way I’ll juice lemons and limes.
  • Cheese Grater. Grating your own cheese is worth the extra step!

Recipe Tips and Tricks

  • Pasta Water Is Your Friend. When trying to create the perfect texture for our sauce, using pasta water is key. Not only does it help thin the sauce, but the starches in the water also help it cling to the noodles.
  • Don’t Burn the Pine Nuts! If you decide to add the optional pine nuts, it is imperative that you watch them constantly. It only takes a minute for them to go from delightfully toasted to scorched.
  • Grate Your Own Cheese. I can’t overstress the importance of grating your own cheese for homemade pesto and for this pasta recipe. Please skip the lackluster green can and pick up some real-deal Parmesan cheese!

Pesto Pasta

4.89 from 9 votes
This pesto pasta with tomatoes is the perfect summer meal! Fast and easy with vibrant flavor, enjoy it as a vegetarian dinner or add chicken or shrimp.

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 25 minutes

Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti pasta or fettuccini or another long pasta, which works well for pesto
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup Basil Pesto or prepared pesto of choice
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus additional to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
  • 2 cups arugula or spinach
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts* optional for serving
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Instructions
 

  • Cook the pasta to al dente according to package instructions. RESERVE 3/4 CUP OF THE PASTA WATER.
  • Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook until beginning to burst, about 4 minutes.
  • As soon as the pasta is finished cooking (don’t forget to reserve 3/4 cup of the water), drain it, then immediately add the pasta to the skillet with the tomatoes.
  • Add the pesto, lemon juice, salt, and red pepper flakes. Toss to coat the noodles with the pesto, adding additional pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce.
  • Add the arugula, stirring until it wilts.
  • Sprinkle with pine nuts and Parmesan. Taste and adjust salt as desired. Serve immediately, with additional Parmesan.

Video

Notes

  • *TO TOAST THE PINE NUTS: Place the nuts in a small, dry skillet. Toast over low heat, shaking the pan often, until fragrant and toasted, about 4 minutes. Immediately remove from the skillet.
  • TO STORE: Refrigerate pesto pasta in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
  • TO REHEAT: Rewarm leftovers in a skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
  • TO FREEZE: Freeze pasta in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
 

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 4)Calories: 407kcalCarbohydrates: 51gProtein: 12gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 2mgPotassium: 452mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 1461IUVitamin C: 30mgCalcium: 103mgIron: 3mg

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Frequently Asked Questions

What Pasta Goes with Pesto?

The best pasta shapes for pesto are long noodles, such as spaghetti, bucatini, capellini, or fettuccine. Short shapes like fusilli and rotini are also great, as they will catch the sauce in their ridges.

Can I Make Pesto with Other Herbs?

Yes, you can make pesto with other herbs, nuts, and/or cheeses. Check out the pesto variations listed in my Basil Pesto (pesto made with fresh basil leaves) post for ideas.

How Can I Make Gluten Free Pesto Pasta?

Swap the whole wheat noodles for your favorite long, gluten-free noodle.

What Can You Use Instead of Parmesan Cheese in Pesto?

While Parmesan is what kind of cheese is best for pesto (and pesto pasta), if you need to swap it for another cheese, you could try asiago or pecorino romano. Note that pecorino is saltier, so you should add less.

More Recipes Using Pesto

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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