Quick Creamy Pesto Pasta Recipe

I just came back from the grocery store. I bought fresh basil, pine nuts, gluten-free pasta, extra virgin olive oil and fresh parmesan cheese. Have you guessed yet what I am making? Yes, delicious creamy homemade basil pesto!

Spaghetti with pesto sauce in a white bowl

This homemade pesto recipe is one of my go-to recipes on a weekly basis. Not many things are approved by both of my boys! If you haven’t tried to make pesto sauce at home yet. Today is the day. Why? Because it could be your new family favorite!

Reasons to love this recipe

  1. Let’s get this out of the way first, this fresh pesto, made at home, is simply delicious.
  2. It is an easy option for busy weeknights. Hardly any prep time. You cook the pasta, blend the pesto, lots of parmesan cheese and as Jammy Oliver would say – Happy Days!
  3. It is quite budget-friendly. The only ingredient that will cost a little more is Parmesan cheese. Look out for promotions and buy in bulk. Grana Padano cheese is an excellent alternative to Parmeganno Regiano. It is the same cheese that hasn’t aged for as long. It still tastes delicious, especially considering we are using it for a sauce.
  4. Great meal-prep option. Keep reading to find out how to store fresh pesto.
  5. This delicious recipe is free from additives, preservatives, artificial colors and flavors. When you make your own pesto you are in control of what goes in. So much better than store-bought pesto.
  6. This is gluten-free pesto sauce! And my favourite reason to make it! This pesto sauce is naturally gluten-free and when served with gluten-free pasta is a great option for people like me and probably you, hence you are on my blog, who have celiac disease and are following a gluten-free diet.
pesto spaghetti on a fork ready to eat

Ingredients

This is a classic basil pesto recipe and it only requires a handful of simple ingredients.

  • Fresh basil
  • Real Parmesan cheese, please try and find Italian cheese if possible, it will make a huge difference to how your pesto will turn out.
  • Pine nuts (or use cashews or pepitas instead)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh garlic, sorry garlic powder won’t work.
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Pasta of your choice
ingredients to make pesto sauce

See the full ingredient list in the recipe card below.

Just a word about pasta

You can use any type of pasta in this recipe. Penne pasta, spaghetti or bowtie pasta (my kids’ favourite), all work really well.

Whatever pasta you use, make sure not to overcook it. Pesto requires al dente pasta, which means the pasta is still a little firm when bitten. Overcooked pasta will incorporate the sauce, leaving you with dry instead of creamy pasta. This is especially true for gluten-free pasta varieties.

How to make it

This easy recipe is absolutely beginner friendly. If you never cooked before, here is the perfect recipe to start.

Always start by cooking the pasta (gluten-free if needed). Set a large pot of water on a stove and bring it to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the cooking instructions until pasta is al dente. This is the longest step in this recipe.

While the pasta is cooking, wash and spin-dry the basil leaves. We don’t use the stems in pesto.

Place washed dried pesto leaves in a food processor, followed by parmesan cheese, olive oil, grated garlic, salt and roasted pine nuts. Blend until you have a smooth paste. How smooth you want your pesto to be is completely up to you.

Add the pesto to the cooked pasta and mix everything together until the pasta is coated with the fresh basil pesto.

How to serve

All of my family members are pasta lovers and we enjoy this delicious dish on its own, sometimes with a quick garden salad on a side. A quick fuss-free meal. But if you would like to add some protein to the meal, why not try some grilled chicken?

EASY GARLIC CHICKEN THIGHS

CHICKEN SHAWARMA

Sprinkle some red pepper flakes before serving it, if you like it a little spicy.

Spaghetti with pesto sauce

How to sore fresh pesto

If you happened to have some leftovers or made the pesto in advance simply put it in an airtight container. Put a tablespoon of olive oil on top of the pesto before closing the container. The thin layer of olive oil will help to preserve the pesto for 3-4 days. Refrigerate.

You can also freeze it for up to 3 months. Just defrost it naturally overnight. Cook fresh pasta, mix in the pesto sauce and enjoy an easy, wholesome weeknight dinner.

Other ways to use pesto sauce

While this is a traditional pesto recipe, you can use it in numerous ways.

  • You can make Simple Creamy Pesto Salad Dressing. I love this recipe from Simple Veggie Kitchen.
  • Marinate chicken breast in pesto and bake it in the oven.
  • Or make pesto-crusted salmon. So many options!

Substitutions

  • Sometimes it can be hard to find good-quality pine nuts. The majority of pine nuts in Australia are imported from China. I prefer to use local produce in my cooking unless the imported products are organic. A great substitute for pine nuts are cashew nuts or pumpkin seeds.
  • Use zucchini noodles instead of pasta to make pesto courgetti. A great low carb and keto-friendly recipe alternative.
  • Swap parmesan cheese for nutritional yeast to make this recipe vegan and free-from dairy.
  • And if you don’t feel like this pesto is creamy enough, add a tablespoon of heavy cream to the pesto sauce. Though I think this is not necessary. ­čśë

Pro Tip

  • Reserve some of the pasta water before you drain it. You can add a little to your pasta if it becomes too dry. Don’t add too much water, we don’t want to dilute the sauce too much.
  • If you cook for little kids be careful how much garlic you add to the pesto. Garlic can be quite spicy and when added too much can make the pesto not so enjoyable for the little ones. The best way to add garlic is to mince it to a smooth paste, so there are no actual garlic pieces in the sauce.

I hope your whole family will enjoy this delicious basil pesto sauce. Please let me know in the comments below if you made it. It would make my day!

And if you like this pasta dish, make sure to try PASTA WITH ROASTED CHERRY TOMATOES.

Watch how to make it

Spaghetti with pesto sauce in a white bowl

Creamy Pesto Pasta Recipe

Elena Elliott
Pasta in delicious creamy pesto sauce. Easy, no-fuss dinner that your whole family will enjoy! Guaranteed!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup tightly packed basil leaves washed and spin-dried
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese approximately 40g
  • 1/4 cup roasted pine nuts or use cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds
  • 1 garlic clove (optional) grated tp a paste.
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Instructions
 

  • Boil water and cook the pasta according to instruction. Make sure pasta is cooked al dente, firm to the bite.
  • While pasta is cooking, wash and spin-dry the basil leaves. Do not use the thick stems.
  • Roast the nuts in a small frying pan. Watch them closely as you do, they tend to burn quite easily. Set aside.
  • Place parmesan cheese, basil leaves, minced garlic, cooled nuts, salt, pepper and half of the olive oil into a food processor and blend it on high until you have a smooth pesto.
    You might need to do it a couple of times, srapping the pesto from the sides of the food processor's bowl. Add the rest of olive oil as needed.
    Alternatively you can use imeersion blender.
  • Reserve some cooking water from pasta before draining it. Half of a cup is more than enough.
  • Drain the pasta and returm back to to the pan. Do not place the pan on a hot stove.
  • Add pesto sauce to the pasta and mix everything together until the psata is covered with pesto sauce evenly. Add a tablespoon of water or olive oil if you need a little more creaminess. Do not add a lot of water, it will dilute the suace, leaving you with plain pasta.
  • Sprinkle some fresh parmesan cheese on top and serve immediately.

Notes

  • A great substitute for pine nuts are cashew nuts or pumpkin seeds.
  • Grana Padano is an excellent alternative to Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
  • If you cook for little kids be careful how much garlic you add to the pesto. Garlic can be quite spicy and when added too much can make the pesto not so enjoyable for the little ones. The best way to add garlic is to mince it to a smooth paste, so there are no actual garlic pieces in the sauce.
 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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5 from 1 vote

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