Basil Pesto Pasta Recipe

Yields: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10-12 minutes


For the Pesto:

  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (toasted for extra flavor)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the Pasta:

  • 1 pound (450g) of your favorite pasta shape (spaghetti, penne, fusilli all work well)
  • Salt for pasta water
  • 1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking water
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving


1. Make the Pesto:

  • Toast the pine nuts (optional): In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the pine nuts until lightly golden brown and fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Watch carefully to prevent burning.
  • Combine ingredients: In a food processor or blender, combine the basil leaves, Parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts, garlic, salt, and pepper. Pulse until coarsely chopped.
  • Add olive oil: While the machine is running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil and process until a smooth (but slightly textured) pesto forms. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

2. Cook the Pasta:

  • Salt the water: Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.
  • Cook pasta: Add your pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente (slightly firm to the bite).
  • Reserve pasta water: Before draining the pasta, scoop out about 1/4 cup of the starchy pasta cooking water and set aside.

3. Assemble the Pasta:

  • Combine pasta and pesto: In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta with enough pesto to generously coat it (usually about 1/2 to 3/4 cup).
  • Loosen with pasta water: Add a splash of the reserved pasta water to help create a silky sauce that clings to the noodles. Toss well. Add more pasta water if needed.
  • Adjust seasoning: Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed.

4. Serve:

  • Divide the pasta into bowls and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a few fresh basil leaves, if desired. Serve immediately.


  • Don’t overcook the pasta. Al dente pasta provides better texture.
  • Use high-quality ingredients. Fresh basil and good Parmesan cheese make a real difference.
  • Pasta water is your secret weapon. It helps the sauce bind to the pasta and adds a touch of saltiness.
  • Make it creamy: Add a splash of heavy cream with the pesto for an extra rich sauce.
  • Variations: Toss in cooked vegetables like cherry tomatoes or asparagus, or add grilled chicken or shrimp.

Enjoy your homemade pesto pasta!


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