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.
There are definite skills one should pass along to the younger generation, the secrets to succeed in life. At our house, one of those skills is keeping up with the daily family chores (I LOVE what the former Dean of Freshman at Stanford has to say about why!!!) and whether Smudge likes it or not, she’s getting a good education in this area. She used to think “getting” to do the dishes was fun — she got to wear an apron and play with bubbles as she twirled about to whichever song is on replay over and over in her head — but these days, that shine has certainly worn off.
With summer’s laziness giving way to back-to-school’s busier nights of homework, two soccer teams to practice with, basketball practice and her other basic daily chores, Smudge’s dish washing time has gotten the squeeze right along with the time I have in my schedule to create time-intensive dinners, if I remember to get anything ready for dinner at all!
That’s why keeping super simple, basic recipes like this one in my back pocket are always weeknight saviors, for days when the basics are really all that’s needed. And craved. Like my basic pesto pasta just yearning for a twirl around the silver twines.
This is an old and familiar recipe here on the blog but I recently took some new photos and tweaked my basic homemade basil pesto recipe.
I’ve made homemade pesto many, many times. And many times I’ve totally screwed it up. Why? Because I didn’t keep it basic.
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 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.
About the Recipe
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:
Pesto and pasta is perfectly delicious served plain with a bit of parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of extra roasted pine nuts if you have them.
Pesto works for any shape 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.
When cooking your pasts, 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.
Or, I LOVE to toss in a few fresh to-maters on top. 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.
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment below or take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
- 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 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 cooking 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.
What to Serve With Homemade Pesto Pasta to Make a Meal
Pesto pasta can certainly make a meal on its own, but it also comes together quick as an easy side dish. Here’s a few main meal ideas of to cozy it up next to.
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