This healthy homemade Basil Pesto Pasta Recipe is made with fresh herbs, nuts, olive oil and grated parmesan cheese, nestled in cooked pasta.
If you’ve got 15 minutes, then you can easily make this Mediterranean-inspired Basil Pesto Pasta Recipe for dinner tonight.
Made with simple ingredients that you’ll find at your local grocery store, this dish is just the ticket for healthy eating no matter the reason or season.
Tips to Making the Best Pesto Pasta
Basil Pesto Pasta is an easy recipe to make for busy weeknights. And, with the right ingredients it’ll taste even better.
You too can make the most amazing pesto pasta by following these must-know tips:
• Use the best extra virgin olive oil. This will give you the freshest and richest results.
• Use only fresh herbs. Doing so will provide you with the brightest taste and healthiest, too
• Toast your nuts. Heat brings out the best flavors in the nuts, so toast them for a minute or so in a dry fry pan. Be sure to stir often, so that they don’t scorch or burn (scorching will give the nuts an off taste).
• Use fresh grated parmesan cheese versus packaged cheese. You’ll definitely taste the difference and the results will be exemplary if you do this.
• Use Parmesan Regianno cheese. Why? Because it offers the best taste and pairs well with most nuts and herbs. Plus, its flavor shines regardless whether you serve this pasta sauce hot or cold.
• Don’t cook your pesto. This may draw some opposition here, but hear me out. Pesto is made with fresh herbs and nuts. Heat will not only wilt the herbs further, it will also create soggy nuts. Pesto is meant to be added directly to hot pasta and then hot pasta water is added slowly and just enough to make the pesto rich and creamy. Any more heat and it will give the pesto an off-taste.
What Pasta Goes with Pesto?
Honestly, you can use almost any pasta with basil pesto. For this recipe, I used spaghetti noodles.
But you really don’t have to stop there. Try these other delicious pasta varieties:
- angel hair
- farfalle (bow ties)
- spiralized: zucchini, butternut squash
- spaghetti squash
Is Pasta with Pesto Healthy?
Certainly, there is a lot of great nutritional goodness associated with this recipe, but like any pasta sauce, you can overdo it.
Still, registered dietitians do agree that pesto offers plenty of healthy unsaturated fat, which isn’t necessarily true for the classic Italian Alfredo or Vodka sauces.
In terms of salt, well, you take the reins with this one. Making this recipe from scratch is the best way I know for controlling what goes into your pesto.
I like to err on the side of “less is best” when it comes to adding more salt. The reason? Parmesan cheese already has fair amount of salt already in it, so I’d suggest making the dish in its entirety (pasta included) before adding any more salt to mix.
Remember, you can always add more salt, but removing it is near impossible—just saying.
The long and short of this is you’ll find pesto can be a healthy alternative to some of the more fattening cream-based sauces, just make your own pesto from scratch and keep the serving size within reason.
Recipe Tip: You can vamp this recipe to become a super food if you add some kale along with the basil. Doing so will make it an even leaner and “greener” pesto.
What Goes with Pesto Pasta?
You can serve this Basil Pesto Pasta recipe as a main dish or side, warm or cold, formal or informal (think picnic, pool party, or even potluck).
Pesto Pasta Recipe Variations
What you might not know is that this pesto recipe is just a springboard for more recipe variations.
You can vary the dish with different meats, vegetables, cheeses and nuts.
Here are some of my favorite ideas of ingredients to serve within or alongside this dish:
- Sun Dried Tomatoes
- Spanish Roasted Red Peppers
- Creme Fraiche
- Brazil nuts
Begin by preparing your pasta according to the package instructions.
Next, follow the directions for the preparation of Wisconsin Homemaker’s own: Mixed Herb and Nut Pesto Recipe. Set aside.
Once the pasta has cooked al dente, reserve one cup of pasta water and drain the rest, leaving the pasta in the same pan that it was cooked in.
Add the pesto to the hot pasta and stir well. You will need about one cup of pesto per pound of pasta. You can definitely add more or less to your liking, however.
If the pesto looks like it needs a bit more moisture, add some of the pasta water and stir well. This will make the pasta sauce nice and creamy.
To serve, divide between bowls and garnish with more parmesan cheese, sprinkled on top. Enjoy!
For more delicious Italian-inspired dishes, be sure to check out Wisconsin Homemaker’s Recipe Section and these family favorites:
- 10 Minute One Pan Pasta
- Vegetarian Skillet Pasta
- Easy Baked Italian Penne Pasta with Meat Sauce
- Fresh Spinach Lasagna
- Seafood Medley with White Wine Sauce
Basil Pesto Pasta Recipe
For the Pesto:
- 1 cup basil pesto see Recipe Link below
For the Pasta:
- 1 lb dry pasta
- 1 cup pasta water reserved from pasta cooking liquid
- 1/2 cup Parmesan Reggiano grated
For the Pesto:
- Follow the directions for the preparation of Wisconsin Homemaker’s Mixed Herb and Nut Pesto Recipe (Recipe Link below.) Set aside.
For the Pasta:
- Prepare your pasta according to the package instructions.
- Once the pasta has been cooked al dente, approximately 8-9 minutes, reserve one cup of pasta water and drain the rest, leaving the pasta in the same pan that it was cooked in.
- Add the pesto to the hot pasta and stir well.
- If the pesto looks like it needs a bit more moisture, add some of the pasta water and stir well. This will make the pasta sauce nice and creamy.
- To serve, divide between bowls and garnish with more parmesan cheese, sprinkled on top. Enjoy!
Mixed Herb and Nut Pesto Recipe – https://wisconsinhomemaker.com/mixed-herb-and-nut-pesto-recipe/
This pesto recipe makes approximately 2 cups.