Pesto Pasta Recipe

by heidi on August 13, 2013

Simpler summer days call for a simple summer recipe and nothing’s simpler than a basic Pesto Pasta Recipe that even a 9 year old could work up.

Or clean up.

Pesto Pasta Recipe |

Today I spent a good chunk of time teaching Smudge one of the finer skills in life. One that will take her far in life.

Today we spent some quality time learning how to do the dishes.

To her doing dishes is still fun. She gets to wear an apron. She dips her hands into the bubbles and blows them around the kitchen leaving soap spots all over my wine glasses. And she giggles and sings and twirls about to whichever song is on replay over and over in her head.

Pesto Pasta Recipe |

While it seems like my daughter should very well already know how to do this as a almost 4th grader, I’ve noticed her mad skillz slipping of late. It was time to hit the basics again before I sent her off to another school year where the very real possibility of her report of what she learned this summer could possibly include scrubbing the dinner dishes.

Because sometimes the basics are really what’s needed. And craved. Like a basic pesto pasta just yearning for a twirl around the silver twines.

Pesto Pasta Recipe |

I like this pesto pasta plain.

Pesto Pasta Recipe |

I’ll take it with fresh to-maters sliced on top.

Pesto Pasta Recipe |

And I totally dig it with an extra douse of salty parmesan cheese.

See, the best part of a basic recipe is the opportunity to doctor it up any which way you see fit and learn to like a little something new.

I’ve made homemade pesto many times. And many times I’ve totally screwed it up. Why? Because I didn’t keep it basic. Here’s what I learned:

Don’t add any more garlic. You’ll totally ruin the herbacious flavor if you turn it into a vampirefest 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 a tasty alternative.

Pesto Pasta Recipe

Yield: serves 6 as a main course, 8-10 as a side dish

Pesto Pasta Recipe


1 pound spaghetti or other favorite noodle
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and stemmed and finely packed
1 cup olive oil
3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese plus more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
2 tomatoes, cut into large slices


  1. Cook the spaghetti or other pasta in 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.
  2. While pasta is cooking, combine garlic cloves and pine nuts in a food processor or blender and pulse until chopped. Add basil and olive oil and pulse just until a paste forms. Add cheeses, salt and pepper and blend until smooth.
  3. Toss the hot pasta with the pesto in a large bowl and add reserved cooking water ¼ cup at a time or until saucy. Top with fresh tomato slices, season with more salt and pepper and garnish with more parmesan cheese.

Bored with pasta? There’s plenty of ways to use pesto in a variety of dishes besides the basic pasta.

  • Dollop on a baked potato instead of butter
  • Use as a spread instead of mayo for a turkey sandwich
  • Make it a savory addition to your morning omelette
  • Mix with tuna for a mediterranean style salad on greens
  • Plop into a creamy tomato soup with chunks of mozzarella cheese for a slurpy caprese

Need a few more ideas. We’ve got that covered. Check it.


Pesto breaks down the confines of pasta and moves onto potatoes in Erin’s savory breakfast treat in Naturally Ella’s Pesto Potato Skillet.


Pillows of puff make for the perfect nestle spot for toasted almond pesto and fresh cherry tomatoes in Heather’s obsession with Flourishing Foodie’s Tomato and Goat Cheese Basil Pesto Puff Pastry Tarts.


Decadent. Pure decadence I tell you, thanks to this special occasion or maybe it’s Tuesday dish of Marie’s Lobster Cannelloni with Pesto, Rosé Sauce and Toasted Pine Nuts from Food Nouveau.


Laura takes us back to the basics, but with a twist thanks to Fork Knife Swoon’s Soba Noodles with Lemony Kale Pesto. I’m so dousing my next soba adventure in this.


Amy creates another souped up rendition of basic basil pesto by adding one of our favorite ingredients in She Wears Many Hats Creamy Pesto Pasta.


Scape? What in the heck is a scape? Laicie shares the dish on these garlicky little onion style veggies in A Thousand Threads’ Garlic Scape Pesto and Fresh Mozzarella Grilled Cheese.


From scape and now onto ramps. We’re going organically trendy now with Melissa leading the parade thanks to her recreation of a favorite meal with The Faux Martha’s Ramp Pesto Ravioli.


Pesto, shrimp, cheese. Kevin goes all in when he takes the kitty with Closet Cooking’s Pesto Grilled Shrimp Caprese Quesadillas.

Happy pesto eating!

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Posted in: noodles, rice and grains,recipes,sauces and condiments

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar August 13, 2013 at 5:34 am

I wish doing the dishes was still fun for me! MAN, that would be the best!! Also, love the simplicity to this pasta!


ashley - baker by nature August 13, 2013 at 5:40 am

I remember vividly helping my mama do the dishes as a tot and thinking it was bliss… oh the irony in that these days! Always love your cute family stories, H! And this pasta looks divine! xo


Tieghan August 13, 2013 at 6:12 am

I wish I had someone helping me do the dishes….least favorite part of the day for sure!!

This pesto pasta is gorgeous Heidi! Sometimes simple is really all we need!


Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. August 13, 2013 at 6:57 am

great looking as always!


Cookin' Canuck August 13, 2013 at 7:08 am

My boys are loving doing the laundry right now. I know that won’t last forever, so I’m feeling grateful for that while it lasts!

“Pesto pasta” (what my boys call it) is one of our favorite year-round meals. And you’re so right about easing off on the garlic when making pesto…let that basil shine!


Bev @ Bev Cooks August 13, 2013 at 7:34 am

Favorite. Food. In. All. Of. The. Life.


Kathy @ Olives and Garlic August 13, 2013 at 9:27 am

Simple yet delicious. Pesto adds so much flavor even to the most simplest dishes and that’s why I love it so much. As always your pictures and so so so so beautiful


Belinda @themoonblushbaker August 13, 2013 at 9:43 am

Pesto is the best thing to hit carbs since butter! I love it on pasta, bread even in rice! SO flavourful no wonder you love it so much. Your pictures are impeccable


Betty Ann @Mango_Queen August 13, 2013 at 11:55 am

What an easy recipe and the photos of pesto pasta are so gorgeous! This post just reminded me I need to go get lunch. Bookmarked this to try soon. Thanks for sharing!


Karen August 13, 2013 at 12:01 pm

everything looks yummy as usual!


Rachel Cooks August 13, 2013 at 12:39 pm

OH man — seriously craving that simple, perfect bowl of pasta. Not to mention all the other fab recipes. Must. go. buy. basil.


Anna @ Crunchy Creamy Sweet August 13, 2013 at 1:07 pm

I love pesto pasta! Simple and delicious dishes like this is what summer is about!


Stefanie @ Sarcastic Cooking August 13, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Ooo I love pesto. I love that your teaching Smudge the awesomeness of doing dishes. My husband and I were just joking that we can’t wait to have another little person around to help with the dishes! That’s probably not a good thing to admit hahaha.


Laura (Tutti Dolci) August 13, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Gorgeous, I want to dive into this!


Des August 13, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Love love love pesto! I never would’ve thought that pistachios would be an option to sub for pine nuts but I am totally loving the idea.
My little dude (21 months) LOVES helping me unload the dishwasher and he’s actually really good about putting things where they go. Keeping my fingers crossed that he continues to enjoy this as he gets older. Maybe I should cross my toes too :)


Patti August 13, 2013 at 7:29 pm

I hope Smudge likes doing dishes more than her mother did. She’s a good little helper. The pesto looks delicious, I used way too much garlic the last time I made it, next time 2 cloves. Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.


Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious August 14, 2013 at 12:05 am

I love the simplicity of this!


Melissa // The Fauxmartha August 14, 2013 at 6:46 am

I heart a good pesto. Love all your tips! And thanks for including me in the mix. Cheers to many successful dishwashing days ahead :)


Charul @ Tadka Masala August 15, 2013 at 10:46 am

oh my! i am literally drooling over all the pasta recipes here. Yum!


natalie @ wee eats August 15, 2013 at 5:29 pm

pesto pasta is basically my favorite ever. actually, pesto anything is basically my favorite thing ever… pesto is like my savory addiction equivalent of peanut butter, IT TASTES GOOD ON EVERYTHING!!!


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