A quick dinner of your favourite pasta smothered in fresh basil pesto. Make it as garlicky, cheesy, salty or even as spicy as you like.

Ready in 15 minutes! Including making your own homemade pesto.

Pesto spaghetti on a light grey plate being swirled with a gold fork. The pasta is sprinkled with baby basil leaves, toasted pine nuts and parmesan. The plate is on a light grey surface.

Pesto pasta makes such a great dinner when you’re after something quick, filling and flavourful.

Yes, you can use ready-made basil pesto (which I sometimes do too!). If you do, I’d always recommend going with with fresh pesto – it seems to be more vibrant and tasty than the jarred stuff.
However, if you make it at home, you can personalise it to your exact taste. Maybe add in a fresh chilli, some leftover rocket, throw in some walnuts. Whatever you fancy.

Plus making it at home only takes a few minutes to whizz together – which is easily done in the same time your pasta is cooking.

📋 Pesto Sauce Ingredients

Ingredients for homemade pesto on a light grey surface
  • Fresh basil – and plenty of it
  • Olive oil – try to go for a good quality extra-virgin olive oil if you can
  • Garlic – a must for that fragrant garlicky flavour
  • Parmesan (or vegetarian Italian-style hard cheese if you want a vegetarian version)
  • Pine nuts – for that creamy nuttiness
  • Salt and Pepper

🔪 How to make Pesto Pasta

Full recipe with detailed steps in the recipe card at the end of this post.

Overhead shot of homemade pesto in a small food processor, on a light background.
  1. Cook the spaghetti until al dente in a large pan of boiling salted water. Once cooked, drain it and reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, pulse basil, garlic, pine nuts, grated parmesan and black pepper and salt together for a few seconds in a small food processor (or mini chopper or even a blender). This helps to initially break up the garlic and pine nuts.
  3. Then, with the motor running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream. If you’re using a blender (I sometimes use my Nutribullet), simply add in half the oil, blend, give it a good shake, then add the rest of the oil and blend again.
  4. Give it a taste, then add in more salt (crushed Maldon is lovely, but table salt is also fine).
  5. Toss the pesto with the cooked pasta and some of the reserved pasta water. That pasta water will loosen up the sauce and make it cling to the spaghetti beautifully.

👩‍🍳PRO TIP Just add a little (1/2 tsp) Maldon salt before blending the pesto, then taste after blending and add more salt then. This ensures you get the seasoning just right. Also, adding the Maldon salt after blending means you get that lovely salty crunch.

Overhead image of pesto spaghetti on a light grey plate. The pasta is sprinkled with baby basil leaves, toasted pine nuts and parmesan. The plate is on a light grey surface and there is a gold fork on the plate.

🍽️ What to serve it with



🍲 More fantastic quick pasta recipes

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Pesto Pasta

A quick dinner of your favourite pasta smothered in fresh basil pesto. Make it as garlicky, cheesy, salty or even as spicy as you like. Ready in 15 minutes.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian

Ingredients

Pasta:

  • 400 g (14 oz) dried spaghetti

Pesto:

  • 50 g (1.75 oz) fresh basil leaves (this is approx two packed cups)
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled
  • 40 g (3 tbsp) pine nuts
  • 30 g (1/3 cup) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp Maldon salt
  • 90 ml (1/3 cup) olive oil

To Serve:

  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts (* Note1)
  • 1 handful of fresh baby basil leaves

Instructions 

  • Add the dried spaghetti to a large pan of salted boiling water and cook for 10-13 minutes (so it's to the texture of your liking).
    400 g (14 oz) dried spaghetti
  • While the pasta is cooking, make the pesto.
  • Add the fresh basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, black pepper, and Maldon salt to a food processor and pulse for about 10 seconds to break up the garlic and pine nuts.
    50 g (1.75 oz) fresh basil leaves, 2 cloves garlic, 40 g (3 tbsp) pine nuts, 30 g (1/3 cup) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp Maldon salt
  • Turn the food processor back on and pour in the olive oil in a steady stream – which should take about 10 seconds.
    90 ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
  • Check for consistency – if you like it a little chunky, it’s ready to go. If you like it smoother, whizz for another 10-20 seconds, until the texture is to your liking.
  • Taste the pesto and add in a little more salt if needed. Put the pesto to one side.
  • When the spaghetti is ready, drain in a colander, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
  • Place the spaghetti back into the pan you cooked it in. Add in the pesto and a good splash (about 1/3 of a cup) of the pasta cooking water.
  • Toss the spaghetti in the sauce, using a set of tongs, over a low heat, until the sauce coats the pasta. Add in more of the pasta water if you want to loosen up the sauce more.
  • Divide the pasta between bowls and top with a sprinkling of black pepper, grated parmesan, toasted pine nuts, and some fresh baby basil leaves.
    1/2 tsp black pepper, 2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts, 1 handful of fresh baby basil leaves

Notes

Note 1 – How to toast pine nuts
Place the pine nuts in a medium dry (no oil) frying pan and heat over a medium heat, stirring/tossing often, until the pine nuts are golden brown. This should take about 2-4 minutes. Keep a close eye on them, as they can burn quicky.
Remove them from the pan fairly quickly at this point, otherwise they will continue to brown in the residual heat of the pan.
Making the toasted pine nuts ahead 
I like to to toast extra pine nuts to use for salads, avocado toast etc. So I usually toast a larger batch than needed for this recipe.
You can toast pine nuts ahead of time. Storing them in an airtight container at room temperature, once the pine nuts have cooled. 
They go rancid quicker once toasted, so don’t store them at room temperature for more than about 5 days.
You can freeze toasted pine nuts and they’ll last longer (about 3 months in an airtight container).
Just defrost the required amount at room temperature before using.
Storage
Store the pesto in sealed jar, for up to a week, in the fridge. It may lose a little of the vibrant colour during this time, but will still taste great.
If you are storing in the refrigerator for more than a day, I like to add in a tablespoon of lemon juice to help maintain the vibrant colour.
Alternatively, you can freeze the pesto in portions (I use an ice cube tray) – then defrost in the fridge or add the frozen pesto cubes directly to the dish you’re making – it should defrost pretty quickly with heat.
Ingredient swaps
  • Swap the spaghetti for short pasta such as rigatoni, fusilli or penne pasta
  • Swap the pine nuts for walnuts, almonds or cashews
  • Swap the Parmesan for vegetarian Italian-style hard-cheese for a vegetarian version.
  • Add in a green chilli before blending, or stir in 1/4 tsp chilli flakes after blending for a kick of heat.
Nutritional information is approximate, per serving. This recipe serves 4.

Nutrition

Calories: 702kcal | Carbohydrates: 79g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 19g | Cholesterol: 9mg | Sodium: 473mg | Potassium: 379mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 752IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 139mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links – which means if you buy the product I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you). If you do buy, then thank you! That’s what helps us to keep Kitchen Sanctuary running. The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary depending on several factors. For more information please see our Terms & Conditions.

Welcome to Kitchen Sanctuary

Hi, I'm Nicky and I love to cook! I want to share with you my favourite, delicious family friendly recipes. I want to inspire you to create fantastic food for your family every day.

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