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Pesto Pasta (Easy Recipe)

Do you love the creamy, cheesy flavors of pesto pasta? An do you dream about becoming a master chef that can cook up delicious Italian dishes in minutes?

If so, look no further! 

Pesto Pasta
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This recipe for perfect pesto pasta will have your mouth watering. It’ll also leave you feeling like a true Italian chef. 

I’ll guide you through step-by-step directions for creating this classic dish.

It uses easy-to-find ingredients, and the outcome is extraordinary. 

So what are you waiting for? Get cooking now to enjoy all the heavenly flavors that come with this delectable dish!

Pesto Pasta

Want a tasty lunch or dinner option that’s ready in 15 minutes? You have to try pesto pasta.

It’s a delicious, light meal with plenty of robust pesto and parmesan flavor. 

It looks, smells, and tastes like a gourmet meal from your favorite Italian restaurant.

Fortunately, it’s effortless to prepare and cook. You won’t need any extraordinary kitchen skills for this dish! 

As long as you can boil water, cut onions, and stir, you’re all set.

Pesto Pasta Garnished with Fresh Basil Leaves Served on a White Plate


You can quickly pull this dish together with only seven ingredients.

(Though you may need a few more than that if you’re making homemade pesto.)

It’s fast, fresh, and fantastically good.

Here’s what you’ll need: 

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  • Pasta. You can choose any pasta you like for this recipe. Just be sure it’s a 16-ounce package. I typically use penne or farfalle, sometimes fettuccine. It’s really whatever you’re in the mood to enjoy. It doesn’t affect the taste, only the presentation.
  • Olive oil. Add this to your pan to cook the onions. It keeps them from sticking and is a good source of healthy fats.
  • Onions. Chopped onions add a bit of crunch and flavor to the dish. 
  • Pesto. This recipe is wonderfully simple to make. It only takes about 15 minutes. So, if you want to take a little extra time and make homemade pesto, go for it! If you’re in a rush, store-bought pesto works fine. I recommend Delallo’s Simply Pesto.  
  • Salt and pepper. Add these flavor enhancers to suit your tastes. 
  • Parmesan. Get grated parmesan or grate it yourself from a larger wedge. It gives the dish its creamy cheesiness and is impossible to resist. 

Some recipes incorporate cherry tomatoes or other fresh veggies. Feel free to experiment with any other ingredients you like. 

How to Make Pesto Pasta

I wasn’t kidding when I said this was one of the easiest recipes you’ll ever make.

Even broken down into super simple step-by-step directions, there are only five steps. 

Essentially, though, there are even fewer than that. I can simplify it into three for you right now. 

1. Boil the pasta. Be sure to use a large enough pot to hold 16 ounces of pasta. Also, add a little salt to your water. 

Boil the pasta uncovered for about 10 minutes until it reaches the perfect al dente texture.

Also, keep a cup of pasta water when you drain it. Set the drained pasta aside in a large bowl.

2. Prepare the onions and pesto. At this point, you’ll make your pesto if you’re making it fresh.

Otherwise, start by cooking the onions. Then, add the store-bought pesto, salt, and pepper. 

Stir everything gently until it’s all warm. 

3. Combine the two. Then, simply mix the onion-pesto mixture with the drained pasta.

Add the reserved cup of pasta water at this point, too. That’ll give you the creamiest possible sauce.

Coat the pasta thoroughly in the pesto mixture. Finally, serve and enjoy! 

Pesto Pasta Closeup

Pesto Pasta Tips

Here are a few tips to ensure your pasta comes out perfectly every time: 

  • Remember to reserve some pasta water! Adding a cup of reserved pasta water to the pasta is the best way to ensure you get a rich, creamy, flavorful sauce. You may not need the entire cup, so add it in slowly. 
  • Add salt to the water. Your pasta needs a bit of seasoning. Adding salt to the boiling water is the easiest way to make that happen.
  • Make homemade pesto if you have the time. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with store-bought pesto. I use it all the time. But if you have time, make your pesto from scratch. That way, you can tailor it to suit your tastes and make it as flavorful as you like.
  • Feel free to experiment with ingredients. Try adding cherry tomatoes, spinach, chopped asparagus, or even some lean protein. Fresh herbs are another excellent option.
  • Stir the pasta and sauce regularly. Don’t leave the noodles to cook by themselves without stirring. Ditto the sauce. Frequent stirring prevents sticking and helps ensure everything is heated evenly. 
  • Combine the pasta and sauce in a bowl, not the cooking pot. That may seem arbitrary and like a waste of dishes, but it isn’t. If you combine and toss the ingredients in the pot, the heat can turn the basil black. Pour your drained pasta into a clean, cool bowl. Then, mix and coat everything in that bowl.
  • Store leftovers, if you’re lucky enough to have any, in the fridge. Keep them in a sealed, air-tight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Don’t reheat them, as it’ll turn the basil in the pesto black. Allow it to sit on the counter and warm it to room temperature instead.

Best Pasta for Pesto 

You can use whatever pasta you like best for this recipe. If you have dietary restrictions, choose gluten-free, whole wheat, etc. (Whatever pasta suits those restrictions.)

Here are some of my favorites: 

  • Penne
  • Farfalle
  • Ziti
  • Fettuccine
  • Spaghetti
  • Fusilli
  • Rigatoni

Any pasta will work. My only advice is to stay away from the really small stuff. (Orzo, ditalini, small cuts of mafaldine)

The smaller pasta types get lost in the sauce, which is why I prefer larger varieties. 

What to Serve with Pesto Pasta

Wondering what to serve with pesto pasta? Well, you can check out my post for a bunch of tasty options.

Or keep it simple with:

  • Garlic bread
  • Garden salad
  • Juicy chicken
  • Crispy tofu

Pesto Pasta (Easy Recipe)



Prep time


Cooking time





Have a winner of a dinner with this pesto pasta recipe! Made with just 6 ingredients, this incredible dish is bound to become a staple in your home.


  • 1 (16-ounce) package pasta

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1/2 cup chopped onion

  • 2 -1/2 tablespoons pesto

  • salt to taste

  • ground black pepper to taste

  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


  • Add lightly salted water almost to the top of a large pot. Set the stove eye to high heat, and bring the water to a rolling boil. Pour in the pasta and stir gently until the water reaches a rolling boil once more.
  • Continue to cook and stir the uncovered pasta for approximately 8 to 10 minutes. It should be tender but not soggy or soft. Drain the pasta and pour it into a large bowl. Be sure to save a cup of the water for later.
  • While the pasta is cooking, add the olive oil to a frying pan. Warm it over medium-low heat. Then, add the onions. Cook them, occasionally stirring, until the onions are soft. (Approximately 3 minutes)
  • Add in the pesto, salt, and pepper. Stir gently until everything is warm.
  • Add the pesto and onion mixture to the pasta. Add the parmesan. Pour in the reserved cup of pasta water for an extra creamy sauce. Stir the mixture well, then toss it to coat everything evenly. Serve, and enjoy!
Pesto Pasta

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author avatar
NaTaya Hastings
NaTaya Hastings is a food and recipe writer for Insanely Good Recipes. She’s an educator, boy mom, dog mom, and whatever-stray-enters-the-yard mom. As a result, she's constantly cooking for both humans and animals.

Luckily, she enjoys it!

Though born, raised, and still living in Alabama, her specialty is NOT down-home Southern cooking. Instead, she loves to experiment with Asian, Mexican, Italian, and other ethnic cuisines. She has two mottos when it comes to cooking. “The more spice, the better!” and “There’s no such thing as too much garlic!”

She’s also pretty good with desserts. Especially the easy, no-bake ones.

Her favorite things are cuddling with her four giant dogs, traveling, reading, writing, and hanging out in nature. She’s also pretty excellent at Dominoes.

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