Fresh basil is one of my favourite herbs, and I always have some on hand. This creamy pesto sauce can be made easily with just a handful of ingredients. I’ve used pesto in pasta, sandwiches and salads, so its versatility and convenience have its merits. Regarding types of pasta, you can use whatever you prefer. My favourite kind are penne, but spaghetti coming a close second.
A thing to keep in mind – basil doesn’t like heat. It turns black. To keep it vibrant green and flavorful, you should not put it on the stove or reheat it. The pasta itself will warm the pesto without changing its color. Adding pasta cooking liquid will make your sauce thinner and glossier, coating every bit of pasta. Take out way more than you think you need, and reserve for the last step. It’s sometimes surprising how much the pasta can absorb.
To garnish you can add some of the toasted pine nuts, grated Parmesan and fresh basil leaves. Toss some halved cherry tomatoes into the pasta, and/or a handful of spinach or arugula for some extra greens.
I always make pesto pasta one hour ahead because I highly prefer eating it cold, straight from the fridge.
You can make the pesto sauce one day ahead, topping it with 1/2 cm olive oil to prevent browning. Cover with plastic wrap, wrapped tightly onto its surface and chill until needed.
Easy Basil Pesto Pasta Recipe
- 1 bunch basil leaves
- 30 g Parmesan cheese grated
- 1 garlic clove
- 50 g pine nuts
- 80 ml olive oil extra virgin
- ½ tsp salt
- black pepper freshly ground
- 160 g spaghetti
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with a good pinch of salt and cook the pasta until al dente, stirring occasionally. Reserve 150 ml pasta water to add to the sauce before draining.
- For the pesto, toast pine nuts in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring often until golden-brown, about 5 minutes. Let them cool in a food processor or blender. Reserve some for topping the finished pasta.
- Add Parmesan and garlic and pulse until finely ground, about 1 minute.
- Add basil and place the lid back on. In a steady stream pour olive oil until pesto is smooth. Season with salt.
- After the pasta is cooked, drain it and place it in a large bowl, adding pesto and 60 ml pasta cooking liquid. Toss until pasta is well coated with sauce, adding pasta water if needed. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve warm or better yet, transfer to the refrigerator to chill and serve cold.