Easy pesto pasta with grated parmesan
Is pesto sitting in the fridge? Use it in pesto pasta for a quick and easy dinner.
Did you know that pesto technically only lasts for 5 days in the refrigerator? Admittedly, I’ve used the fragrant, delicious, and sometimes expensive green sauce long after it came into being simply because I hate to see anything go to waste.
However, if the recipes using pesto you make leave you with leftovers — whether it’s a whole container or a few servings — there are plenty of delicious and easy ways to use it. When you’re looking for last-minute dinner ideas, pesto pasta is one that’s surprisingly elegant and always satisfying.
Main ingredients for pesto pasta
- Pesto: Our recipe calls for classic homemade pesto, made with basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, and olive oil. However, you can use your favorite type of pesto, whether it’s arugula pesto, spinach pesto, or even sweet pea pesto. You can also use prepared pesto if you want to save time. Check out our favorite store-bought pesto brands for guidance.
- the pasta: While we’re using spaghetti, you can really use any type of pasta shape you like. Long, thin pastas such as fettuccine, bucatini and pappardelle are often best for pesto, although you can also opt for shorter, textured pastas if that’s what you have.
- Parmesan: Pre-packaged Parmesan will save you a little time, but grating the cheese yourself from a block means the cheese will melt better over the pile of pasta.
Pesto pasta recipe
This recipe is from Taste of home The Test Kitchen serves 8 people and takes just 15 minutes to prepare. Talk about easy!
- 1 package (16 oz) spaghetti noodles
- 1 cup homemade pesto
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Crushed red pepper flakes, optional
Step 1: Cook the pasta
Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain, reserving one cup of pasta water.
Editor’s tip: Don’t forget the salt! Here’s how to add salt to pasta water the right way so you get enough flavor.
Step 2: Prepare the pesto pasta sauce
In a large bowl, whisk together pesto and 1/3 cup pasta water. Add the cooked spaghetti, and toss to coat.
Editor’s tip: Adding starchy pasta water to the pesto loosens the consistency of the sauce a bit, and makes it penetrate your dish more.
Step 3: Adjust sauce if necessary
Add more pasta water to reach desired consistency. If you want a more concentrated sauce for the noodles, use less water.
Step 4: Sprinkle with cheese and serve
Sprinkle with Parmesan and, if desired, red pepper flakes for a little kick. Once you master pesto, there are lots of things you can do with it, like making pesto pasta.
Tips for making pesto pasta
What is the best pasta shape for pesto?
Pesto is a versatile sauce. They are usually served with long pastas such as spaghetti, linguine, bucatini, capellini and fettuccine, but short pastas such as orecchiette and gemelli would also be suitable.
What else can you add to pesto pasta?
If you want to take your pesto pasta up a notch, there are several ingredients that will serve your purpose. If you prefer a softer, more decadent cheese than parm, opt for some roughly chopped mozzarella or burrata. Add some color with grated cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced roasted red peppers, or roasted cauliflower. Fresh basil, a sprinkling of pine nuts, and a touch of freshly ground pepper will also add plenty of flavor. If you want to add protein, try grilled chicken or crispy prosciutto.
What can you serve with pesto pasta?
Your favorite garlic bread recipe will complement pesto pasta well, as will a simple side salad.
How should you store leftover pesto pasta?
Store any leftover pasta in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When you feel hungry again, be very careful to reheat leftovers, because pesto can easily turn black with high heat. During my short time studying the history of Italian food in Tuscany, one passionate professor said that you should never reheat pesto, but rather reuse it in foods that require no heat—or very little heat. If you like, you can also eat the pesto pasta cold, as you would a pasta salad.
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