Pasta Al Pesto is an Italian classic that is easy to make with aromatic pesto sauce without pine nuts and al dente spaghetti. Perfect for family night dinners!
Pasta al pesto is not just a dish, it’s a work of art. And trust me, you don’t have to be Michelangelo to create a masterpiece for your main meal.
Making pesto pasta at home is not just easy, it’s a breeze.
Fresh basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, and extra virgin olive oil are the foundations of a good aromatic and flavorful pesto sauce.
The homemade pesto is free from pine nuts but if you don’t mind them, go ahead and add a handful to your pesto.
Whether you’re looking for a quick weeknight meal or you want to impress your dinner guests, this pasta al pesto is sure to please
I’ve added red onion to the mix to make this pasta even more delicious. It adds so much flavor and depth to this simple pesto pasta, and it’s my secret ingredient!
You may notice I haven’t added any cloves of garlic. This is because there is garlic already in the homemade pesto, which is quite potent.
If you choose to use a jar of store-bought pesto, I tend to find them weaker in flavor and I would suggest adding 2-3 cloves of garlic when cooking your onion.
Why You Will Love This Recipe
- Easy to make with simple ingredients.
- Can be made with homemade pesto sauce or store-bought.
- A traditional and beloved Italian dish.
- Can be made as a quick weeknight dinner.
Ingredient Notes & Substitutions
- Pesto: Use my quick pesto without pine nuts recipe for a delicious and flavorful homemade version. Substitute with a jar of store-bought pesto. If using pesto from the store, I tend to find their flavor weaker than homemade. I suggest adding 2-3 cloves of garlic when cooking your onion.
- Red onion: Adds so much flavor to this pasta. Substitute with brown onion if preferred.
- Spaghetti: You can use either regular or gluten-free spaghetti. Can be substituted with fettuccine or linguine.
- Parmesan cheese: Freshly shaved parmesan cheese works best. You can purchase this in packets, not frozen. The parmesan in a shaker will not work. To make dairy-free, use a dairy-free cheese of your choosing.
Step two: Half-fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil on the stovetop. Once boiling, add the spaghetti and cook it to the packet instructions or to al dente, 7-9 minutes.
Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water then drain off the spaghetti in a colander.
Step three: While cooking spaghetti, pour the oil into a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté for 5 minutes while the spaghetti boils.
Step four: Reduce the heat of the skillet to low. Add the cooked spaghetti and the pesto.
Step five: Gently stir to combine using silicone or metal tongs to avoid the spaghetti breaking up and turning mushy.
Step six: Continue to heat in the skillet until warmed through then turn off the heat. Serve immediately with extra parmesan cheese, fresh basil and toasted bread. Enjoy!
- Sauté the onion well: Thoroughly cooked red onion, almost caramelized (but not) adds so much flavor!
- Salt the water: Be sure to add a generous pinch of salt or 1/4 teaspoon once your water for the spaghetti comes to a boil. To season the pasta which contributes to the overall flavor of the finished dish.
- Don’t overcook the pasta: To get the right texture and avoid mushy pasta, cook the pasta al dente (firm to the bite).
- Add a little pasta water to the sauce: If your pasta is getting too dry, pour in small amounts of the pasta water or warm tap water to loosen up the pasta.
- Use tongs, such as silicone or metal: To stir and combine the spaghetti and pesto in the skillet instead of a slotted turner which can mush the pasta.
- Combine the pasta and pesto in batches: Add half of the cooked spaghetti to the sautéed onion in the skillet then half of the pesto. Stir then repeat. This prevents your spaghetti from breaking up too much and getting mushy.
- Serve it with slices of crunchy toasted bread.
- Pair it with a quick homemade garlic and herb flatbread.
- Serve with a side of quick air fryer roasted tinned potatoes.
- Add cooked proteins such as roasted or grilled chicken breast, shrimp, salmon, sausage, beef or tinned tuna.
- For a vegetarian or vegan option, tempeh or tofu can be sautéed or grilled and added to the pasta al pesto for a source of protein.
Store leftovers in an airtight container, refrigerated, for 3-4 days.
Re-heat leftovers in a skillet with some warm water over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until it’s heated through. Alternatively, reheat in the oven at 356ºF (180ºC) for 15-20 minutes until warmed.
Reheat leftovers in the microwave with some extra water until heated through.
Freeze: Allow the combined pasta and pesto to reach room temperature. Portion the meal into airtight freezer bags, eliminating as much air as possible. Label each bag with the date you made it. Store in the freezer for 2-3 months.
To store, freeze and thaw the homemade pesto, please refer to my recipe for the quick pesto without pine nuts.
Make Pesto in Advance: Make and store the pesto in an airtight container and in the fridge for up to 5 days. Or freeze it in an airtight container or zip-lock freezer bag, pressing out any excess air, and tightly sealing. Alternatively, freeze pesto in ice cube trays and thaw when you’re ready to make this pasta.
Yes, for a more convenient way to make this quick pasta al pesto, use a jar of pesto that is close to 1 1/2 cups, which is 13 ounces or 370 grams. Be sure to use one that is nut-free or if you don’t mind, use a traditional pesto with nuts.
Yes! If you’re using my homemade pesto without pine nuts, simply add up to 1/4 cup of pine nuts into the food processor and blend!
Yes, you can use different types of pasta such as linguine, fusilli, or penne.
Absolutely! Simply use a vegan substitute for the shaved parmesan cheese in the pesto recipe. Then use the same cheese to sprinkle on top when serving.
Of course, you can! Just use gluten-free spaghetti or the gluten-free version of pasta you choose to use. I do this quite often!
If you enjoy this recipe, please consider leaving a ⭐️ star rating and a comment review below. I love to hear what you think and it’s much appreciated. Thank you! Your email address will not be published. Sam x
Pasta Al Pesto (without nuts)
- 1 1/2 cups (370g) pesto sauce, homemade pesto without pine nuts
- 1/4 tsp salt, to season water
- 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 17 oz (500g) spaghetti, regular or gluten-free
- Shaved parmesan cheese, to serve
- Make pesto and set aside.
- Half-fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil on the stovetop.
- Once boiling, add salt and then the spaghetti and cook to packet instructions or to al dente 7-9 minutes.
- While spaghetti is cooking, pour oil into a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and sauté for 5 minutes while the spaghetti boils.
- Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water then drain off the spaghetti in a colander.
- Reduce heat of the skillet to low.
- Add the cooked spaghetti and the pesto. Gently stir to combine using silicone or metal tongs to avoid the spaghetti breaking up and turning mushy.
- Continue to heat in the skillet until warmed through then turn off heat.
- Serve immediately with extra parmesan cheese, fresh basil and toasted bread. Enjoy!
- Make it Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free spaghetti or the gluten-free version of pasta you choose to use.
- Make it Vegan: Simply use a vegan substitute for the shaved parmesan cheese in the pesto recipe. Then use the same cheese to sprinkle on top when serving.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container, refrigerated, for 3-4 days.
- Re-heat leftovers in a skillet with some warm water over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until it’s heated through. Alternatively, reheat in the oven at 356ºF (180ºC) for 15-20 minutes until warmed. Alternatively, reheat leftovers in the microwave with some extra water until heated through.
- To store, freeze and thaw the homemade pesto, please refer to my recipe for the quick pesto without pine nuts.