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.
In the summer, I make copious amounts of garlic Basil Pesto. It’s handy to have around.
When it comes to pesto’s highest calling, however, a fresh batch of pesto pasta (and baked Chicken Pesto Pasta) is darn near impossible to beat.
- This easy pesto pasta recipe is ready in fewer than 30 minutes, and it tastes like summer manifested on your plate.
- It won’t heat up your kitchen and combines carb comfort with the brightness and liveliness of vegetables and herbs.
How to Make Pesto Pasta
Eating pesto pasta is a right of summer passage.
- 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.
Below is a simple vegetarian pesto pasta that we love to enjoy as a meatless main.
- Whole Wheat Pasta. Using whole wheat pasta is an easy, healthy swap. Whole wheat noodles have more fiber and vitamins than white pasta. I recommend using long pasta noodles like spaghetti or fettuccini (or even penne), as they hold the pesto nicely.
- Tomatoes. Pesto pasta with tomatoes is absolutely scrumptious! They are summer soulmates. 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.
- 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!
- Cook the pasta in a large pot. Reserve some pasta water.
- Cook the tomatoes in oil.
- Drain the pasta, then add it to the large skillet with the tomatoes.
- Stir in the pesto from the food processor, juice, salt, and red pepper flakes. Toss to coat and add pasta water as needed.
- Stir in the arugula or spinach.
- Top with pine nuts and parmesan. DIG IN!
- To Store. Refrigerate 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.
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.
What to Add to Pesto Pasta
This easy pesto pasta is a foundational recipe you can enjoy just as it is, or try one of the below pesto pasta ideas:
- Seafood Pesto Pasta. Grilled Cod, Pan Seared Salmon, or Air Fryer Shrimp would all be tasty additions.
- Meat Pesto Pasta. You can’t go wrong by serving this pasta with Baked Bone In Chicken Breast as pesto chicken pasta, Grilled Chicken Tenders, Air Fryer Steak, or Stuffed Pork Tenderloin.
- Veggie Pesto Pasta. Mix Sautéed Mushrooms, Roasted Red Peppers, or Grilled Eggplant into your pasta, or serve them on the side.
- Pesto Pasta with Bacon. Ready to take your pasta to the next level? Top your finished pasta with the crispy bacon Parmesan breadcrumbs from this Cauliflower Pasta recipe. Or crumble on Oven Baked Bacon or Air Fryer Bacon.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Sauté Pan. Perfect for making this pasta.
- Citrus Juicer. The only way I’ll juice lemons and limes.
- Cheese Grater. Grating your own cheese is worth the extra step!
Pesto pasta, a bright, breezy summer recipe to eat and repeat!
Frequently Asked Questions
The best pasta shapes for pesto are long noodles, such as spaghetti, bucatini, capellini, or fettuccine. Short shapes like fusilli are also great, as they will catch the sauce in their ridges.
Yes, you can make pesto with other herbs, nuts, and/or cheeses. Check out the pesto variations listed in my fresh Basil Pesto post for ideas.
Swap the whole wheat noodles for your favorite long, gluten-free noodle.
- 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
- 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.
- *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.
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