This Pesto Pasta Recipe will show you how to make a delicious pasta with homemade basil pesto sauce from scratch. Even though this recipe is for pesto pasta, but you can use this flavorful pesto sauce on pizza, toast or as a spread on your favorite veggie sandwich or even grilled cheese.
Table of Contents
About the Recipe
Pesto sauce is one of my favorite green sauces and this simple, homemade version is delicious. I love making homemade pesto to use on pasta and pizza as it is so much more fresh and flavorful than store-bought pesto sauce.
This vegetarian recipe includes fresh basil leaves, garlic, almonds and parmesan cheese. For a vegan version, simply skip the parmesan cheese garnish.
Making pesto sauce from scratch may seem like a lot of work, but it is actually quite simple. This recipe will show you how to lightly roast the almonds to bring out the flavor before grinding them.
It will also go over how to crush the basil leaves while adding just the right amount of oil for the perfect sauce consistency.
Follow the steps below and you will have a tasty homemade pesto sauce for a nice flavorful pasta dish your whole family will enjoy.
Ingredients you need
- Almonds: Typically pesto sauce is made with pine nuts, however in this recipe I have replaced pine nuts with almonds. You can also use cashews or pistachios instead of pine nuts.
- Basil: Fresh basil is one of the most important ingredient that gives a lovely herby aroma and flavor to the sauce.
- Extra virgin olive oil: Do not skip on this one and do not use any other oil. Do use a good quality extra virgin olive oil.
- No parmesan cheese in the sauce: Pesto also usually has parmesan cheese mixed into the sauce, but I added it as a garnish on the pesto pasta instead. This means it can be left off for a dairy-free dish and also means the sauce itself is dairy-free and so can be used in any of your vegan dishes.
- Pasta: You can use pasta like fusilli, spaghetti, farfalle, rigatoni or macaroni to make this recipe. I used a mix of fusilli pasta and macaroni pasta. For a healthier dish, use whole wheat pasta if possible.
How to make Pesto Pasta
To prepare pesto sauce:
1. Heat a pan and place ¼ cup almonds on it. Keep the heat to a low.
2. Lightly toast the almonds stirring often for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the lightly toasted almonds from the pan and place them on a separate plate and let them cool at room temperature.
3. Then place the almonds in a food processor or food chopper or a small to medium grinder jar. I have used a food chopper.
4. Process the almonds to a coarse texture.
5. Rinse 2 cups (50 grams) of basil leaves. Then place leaves in a colander or strainer to dry naturally or you can use a salad spinner to dry them quicker. Add the basil leaves to the food chopper. Also add 2 small to medium garlic cloves. Optionally you can also add 4 to 5 whole black peppers. Sprinkle ⅛ teaspoon salt or add as required.
6. Process or crush the basil leaves while adding olive oil in parts from the top. Add a total of ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil. In case you add extra virgin olive oil directly to the jar, then add in parts and process.
7. Blend to a semi fine or fine consistency. You can blend to a smooth or chunkier sauce according to your preferences. You can also add a few drops of lemon juice to preserve the green color.
Use a spatula to remove the pesto from the sides and bottom of the food processor, food chopper or grinder jar. Place it in a mixing bowl or pan. Cover and set aside.
Making pesto pasta
8. Bring 5 to 6 cups water to a boil on a medium to high flame. Add 1 teaspoon salt or as required to the water.
9. When the water comes to a boil, then add 2 cups fusilli or macaroni pasta (200 grams).
10. Cook the pasta until it is al dente. Or, if you prefer, cook pasta until it is completely done. With a slotted spoon, remove the pasta from the pan. Drain it very well.
11. Add the cooked pasta in a mixing bowl.
12. Add all of the prepared pesto sauce and mix very well. If you want you can add some lemon juice, or crushed black pepper or extra virgin olive oil at this point.
14. Serve pesto pasta garnished with some vegetarian parmesan cheese. You can also garnish with cheddar cheese or vegan cheese. Garnish is optional. Pesto pasta can be served warm or at room temperature.
Tips & Variations
- Freshness of Basil: Use fresh basil in the recipe. Avoid dry or wilted leaves.
- Nuts: You could replace almonds with pine nuts, walnuts, cashews or pistachios.
- Scaling: This pesto recipe is for 2 cup of dried pasta, but you can easily double or triple the sauce recipe to have it for a larger serving of pasta or pizzas, or just to have in the fridge for when you need to add some extra flavor to your sandwich or toast.
- Adding Vegetables: If you are looking for added nutrition or a heartier dish, feel free to add some mixed veggies to the pasta and sauce. Simply steam or boil some vegetables and toss them with the finished pasta and sauce. Or sauté some onions and veggies and then add the pasta and pesto and mix together until everything is coated with the sauce.
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Pesto Pasta | Basil Pesto Pasta
for the basil pesto sauce
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves or 50 grams fresh basil leaves
- ¼ cup almonds
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves – small to medium-sized
- 4 to 5 black peppercorns – optional
- ⅛ teaspoon salt or add as required
for cooking pasta
- 2 cups fusilli pasta or macaroni, 200 grams – you can also use 200 grams of pasta like spaghetti or farfalle or rigatoni
- 5 to 6 cups water or add as required
- 1 teaspoon salt or add as required
- Heat a pan and add lightly toast almonds for 2 to 3 minutes on a low heat. Set aside in a tray or plate for the almonds to cool.
- Rinse the basil leaves using a strainer or colander.
- Spread them on a tray or a dry colander or strainer so that they dry naturally. You can use a salad spinner to dry the leaves.
Making basil pesto sauce
- Once the almonds cool at room temperature, add them in a food processor or food chopper or a small to medium grinder jar.
- Crush them coarsely.
- Add the basil leaves which has been rinsed first and then dried naturally. Also add the garlic cloves. Optionally you can also whole black peppers. Season with salt.
- Process or crush the leaves and from the top add olive oil in parts. If adding extra virgin olive oil directly in the jar, then add in parts and blend.
- Grind to a semi fine or chunky consistency according to your preferences. You can also add a few drops of lemon juice to preserve the green color.
- Remove the pesto in a mixing bowl or pan. Use a spatula to remove the pesto from the sides and bottom of the food processor, food chopper or grinder jar. Cover and keep aside.
Making pesto pasta
- Bring water and salt to a boil on a medium to high flame.
- When the water comes to a boil, then add the pasta.
- Cook the pasta till they are al dente. Depending on your taste preferences, you can even cook them till they are completely done.
- With a slotted spoon take the pasta from the pan. Drain it very well.
- Add the cooked pasta in a mixing bowl. Add all of the prepared pesto sauce.
- Mix very well. If you want you can add some lemon juice or crushed black pepper or extra virgin olive oil.
- Serve pesto pasta garnished with some vegetarian parmesan cheese or vegan cheese. Garnish is optional.
- Basil: Use fresh basil in the recipe and avoid dry or wilted leaves. Basil can be substituted with some mint leaves or a mix of mint and cilantro.
- Nuts: Replace almonds with pine nuts, walnuts, cashews or pistachios.
- Scaling: This pesto recipe is for 2 cup of dried pasta, but you can easily double or triple the sauce recipe and have it for a larger serving of pasta or pizzas, or just to have in the fridge for when you need to add some extra flavor to your sandwich or toast.
- Adding Vegetables: For added nutrition, feel free to add some mixed veggies to the pasta and sauce. Simply steam or boil or roast some vegetables and toss them with the finished pasta and sauce.
Nutrition Info (Approximate values)
This recipe post from the archives (December 2016) has been republished and updated on 11 September 2020.