One of my favorite ways to enjoy pasta is with fresh pesto. It’s so simple and only requires 5 ingredients! This creamy pesto pasta will be a weeknight staple.
I have found a few versions pre-made at the grocery store, but nothing beats that amazing smell of making it from scratch.
Unfortunately I was never blessed with a green thumb, I even killed a cactus once (oops didn’t know they required water). I love cooking with fresh herbs, but I can never keep them alive. Thankfully, I have this indoor herb garden that has allowed me to enjoy growing fresh herbs with little attention. It was time to harvest and I knew I was going to make pesto immediately.
When it comes to basil, I only use the leaves and the smaller/softer stems. I discard the big stalks because unlike cilantro where the stems are just as delicious as the leaves, the thick basil stems are bitter and will ruin your pesto.
I gathered about 3 cups of fresh basil leaves, garlic, fresh pine nuts, pecorino romano cheese, kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper. Try to use fresh pine nuts and freshly grated cheese because it will enhance the flavor of your pesto.
Making the pesto
The traditional way to make pesto is to use a mortar and pestle (hence the PEST-o). For time and ease, I usually just put it in my food processor/blender. I start with a 1/4 cup of olive oil and then adjust the consistency from there once blending. I also like to scrape the sides down with a spatula in between blending to ensure all the basil leaves get blended and uniform in size. Give it a taste and adjust salt/pepper if necessary.
Creamy pesto pasta
You can use the pesto immediately, store it in the fridge for a few days, or a great way is to freeze it to use at a later date. This sauce is great just how it is, but I wanted to switch it up and make a creamy pesto sauce for my pasta.
In a high walled skillet over medium heat, I melted 2 tbsp of unsalted butter and then added the fresh pesto we just made.
Then I added 3 tbsp of heavy cream and some red pepper flakes because we all know I like some heat in my dishes. If you want the sauce even more creamy add 1 more tbsp of heavy cream. I wouldn’t substitute half and half in this recipe because it won’t create the same consistency that the heavy cream does. Whisk the sauce until it fully combines and lower the heat to simmer.
You can use any pasta you would like for this dish, I had linguine on hand. Feel free to make it with a shorter penne or rigatoni as well. Important, reserve some pasta water prior to draining the pasta. We are going to use some of this pasta water to help thicken the sauce and bring the whole dish together.
Using tongs, I gently tossed the pasta with the sauce and added some pasta water every so often until the desired consistency was achieved.
Serve with freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese over the top and enjoy! I hope this creamy pesto pasta becomes a weekly staple!
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Creamy Pesto Pasta
This creamy pesto pasta sauce made from scratch is the perfect way to use your growing basil plants!
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 8 minutes
- Total Time: 28 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Pasta
- Cuisine: Italian
- 3 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese + more for serving
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 tbsp heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 lb linguine or pasta of choice
- 1/3 cup reserved pasta water
- Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil, cook pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Reserve 1/3 cup of pasta water and drain pasta.
- While pasta is cooking, in a food processor add the basil leaves, garlic cloves, pine nuts, cheese, salt/pepper. Blend on high and slowly add in the olive oil. Open and scrape the sides with a spatula to get any leaves that might have been stuck. Blend again and add additional 2 tbsp olive oil.
- In a large skillet with high walls over medium heat, melt 2 tbsp unsalted butter, add in the pesto, and stir to combine. Add in the 3 tbsp of heavy cream and crushed red pepper flakes. Whisk together until the sauce is fully combined. Add in the cooked/drained pasta and using tongs, toss to coat the pasta. Add in 2-3 tbsp of reserves pasta water until the pasta is fully coated with the sauce. Serve with additional cheese over the top.
- If you want the sauce more creamy add 1 additional tbsp of heavy cream.
- Do not substitute half and half for heavy cream or the consistency will not be the same.
Keywords: Pesto, creamy pesto, pasta