Busy weeknights call for simple recipes that can be pulled together in a flash, and nothing’s simpler than a basic, homemade basil pesto pasta recipe that even a kid can make and clean up after too.
Every summer, when my garden is overflowing with basil I get busy making jars of my favorite homemade basil pesto recipe (I love freezing it for quick and easy meals on the fly). I love incorporating it into a variety of dishes, like my pesto chicken, pesto pasta salad, and arugula salad with pesto shrimp, Parmesan, and white beans. This super simple pesto pasta with cherry tomatoes is one recipe I love having in my back pocket. It’s a total weeknight savior, for busy days when I need to get dinner on the table fast, but don’t want to think about cooking.
What’s in This Pesto Pasta
You only need a handful of ingredients to make this pesto pasta (and if you already have your pesto made, you only need pasta and tomatoes to make it!).
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Bucatini (spaghetti, linguine, or any other long noodle works great)
- Pine nuts
- Olive oil (a quality, fruity extra-virgin olive oil is best here)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cherry tomatoes
How to Make This Pesto Pasta
Cook your pasta. Cook the spaghetti or other pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water according to package directions or until al dente. Drain the pasta and reserve 1 cup of the cooking water.
Make the pesto. Add the roughly chopped garlic, toasted pine nuts, and finely grated parmesan cheese to a food processor and process until smooth. Then, add in the basil. Pulse a few times until chopped then let it run as you drizzle the olive oil into the processor as it runs until emulsified. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, give a squeeze of lemon juice, and whiz again until combined. Taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking.
Toss and season. Toss the hot pasta with the pesto in a large bowl and add the reserved pasta water ¼ cup at a time or until saucy. Top with the cherry tomatoes and season with more salt and pepper if desired and garnish with more parmesan cheese. If you want a little kick, sprinkle in some red pepper flakes!
Tips for Making Pesto at Home
Check out my post on how to make homemade pesto here, or here are a few highlights:
- Don’t add any more garlic. You’ll totally ruin the herbaceous flavor if you turn it into a vampire fest and it will turn the sauce into tin. Seriously, I’ve done it.
- Be sure to pulse your food processor or blender when chopping the herbs. This will keep it a fresh green color rather than a murky, bottom-of-the-pond color.
- Use a fresh and fruity olive oil for the lightest flavor.
- Because the flavors are so simple, use the best you can afford and fresh, leafy herbs always shine the most.
- Out of pine nuts or simply can’t afford them? Walnuts, Marcona almonds, and even pistachios are tasty alternatives.
What to Use in Pesto Besides Basil
I used the bunches of garden basil from my garden before the freeze sets in, but if basil isn’t in season, pesto can always be made with any of these greens:
What to Use in Pesto Besides Pine Nuts
While pine nuts are my favorite nut to use in pesto, they’re definitely more expensive than other varieties.
Other types of nuts to use in pesto instead of pine nuts:
- Almonds (I like Marcona almonds)
- Sunflower seeds
- Hemp seeds (safe for nut allergies)
Tip: No matter what kind of nut you use, just be sure to toast them. Toasting maximizes the flavor of the nut and adds a great depth of flavor to the pesto.
The Best Pasta Shape for Pesto Pasta
Pesto works for any shape of pasta, but typically long and thin or short and compact varieties are most familiar. I used the thicker bucatini here. Here are a few more types to consider:
And when making lasagna or stuffed shells, pesto is an awesome alternative to marinara or tomato sauce for a lighter, brighter flavor.
Tip: When cooking your pasta, always salt your water generously, wait until your water has come to a boil to avoid pitting your pan, and cook your pasta until al denté so the noodles still have a good texture that hasn’t turned to mush.
What Goes With Pesto Pasta
Pesto pasta can certainly make a meal on its own, but it also comes together quickly as an easy side dish. Here are a few main meal ideas to cozy it up next to.
- 30-Minute Caprese Chicken Recipe
- Garlic Grilled Shrimp Skewers
- Chicken Caesar Salad Recipe
- 5-Ingredient Baked Halibut
- Baked Chicken Parmesan
- Crispy Italian Oven Baked Chicken
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
Homemade Pesto Pasta Recipe
- 1 pound bucatini , spaghetti or other favorite noodle
- 1 garlic cloves
- ½ cup toasted pine nuts
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves , washed and stemmed and finely packed
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese plus more for garnish
- ½ lemon , juiced
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- fresh ground black pepper
- Cherry tomatoes
- Cook the spaghetti or other pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water according to package directions or until al dente. Drain the pasta and reserve 1 cup of the cooking water.
- While pasta is cooking, add the roughly chopped garlic, toasted pine nuts, and finely grated parmesan cheese to a food processor and process until smooth. Then, add in the basil. Pulse a few times until chopped then let it run as you drizzle the olive oil into the processor as it runs until emulsified. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, give a squeeze of lemon juice, and whiz again until combined. Taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking.
- Toss the hot pasta with the pesto in a large bowl and add reserved pasta water ¼ cup at a time or until saucy. Top with the cherry tomatoes and season with more salt and pepper if desired and garnish with more parmesan cheese.
More Pesto Recipes to Try
- Pesto Pasta Salad with Bell Peppers and Peas
- Creamy Chicken Pesto Penne with Broccoli
- Arugula Pesto
- One-Pan Chicken with Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Sauce
- Arugula Salad with Pesto Shrimp, Parmesan and White Beans
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