Fresh Pesto Pasta with Peas
This recipe for basil pesto pasta with peas is simplicity at its finest. Make your own pesto or use store-bought – either way, this is easy, delicious, and ready in just 15 minutes!
Easy meals are my summer jam, and I suspect you feel the same way! Who wants to slave over a time-intensive dish when you could be sipping a drink, out for a walk, at the pool, or just chilling with family and friends.
This pasta is ready in 15 minutes flat! Plus it’s one of those dishes that I want to eat in moderation, but I honestly just can’t stop. It’s so simple and SO GOOD. And it works for basically every occasion. Ultra-fast main dish? Yes. Easy side? Yes. Potluck contribution? Definitely. So you can see why I’m a little obsessed.
How to make pesto pasta
This recipe literally takes just 15 minutes, even with making the pesto from scratch! Fresh pesto is just one of those things that makes everything it touches turn to gold. Of course, if you want to make this dish even faster, you can use store-bought pesto, as well. There are definitely some good brands out there that I keep in the pantry for pasta emergencies!
Here’s what you’ll need if you’re making the pesto from scratch. There are approximately 892733872342 recipes for homemade pesto out there, but this is my go-to for a few reasons.
- 1/2 cup nuts – I normally use a blend of walnuts and pine nuts, because it adds subtle flavor and is more affordable than using pine nuts alone. You can also use all walnuts.
- A little lemon zest – this is my favorite “secret” ingredient. It gives the pesto just a little pep and extra freshness!
- About 4 cups fresh basil leaves.
- About 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Freshly-grated is outstanding, but the pesto will be good with any type of Parm that you have.
- Kosher salt, black pepper, and extra-virgin olive oil to bind it all together.
On a side note, I am doubling down this summer on efforts to grow basil at home, using all the tips from Laura’s post here. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Then of course you’ll also need:
- Pasta – 1 lb. I love this with penne or rotini, but any medium-sized shape with some ridges will work well. You want to give the pesto some nooks and crannies to fill.
- Peas – about 1 cup. Frozen work great, or fresh shelled if you have ’em! If using frozen, there’s no need to defrost them first.
Step by step instructions and photos
To make this recipe as efficient as possible, start by boiling a large pot of water. And salt it generously, always! You’ll have time to make the pesto while the water comes to a boil and cooks the pasta.
Now, to make the pesto, first add your walnuts/pine nuts, garlic, and lemon zest to the bowl of a food processor or blender. Pulse until everything is combined and has a sort of mealy texture.
Add all the basil, Parmesan, salt, and pepper. Run the processor to break down the basil and combine everything. Looking good!
Now keep the processor running and pour in about 1/2 cup olive oil. Let it go until everything is smooth and the texture you want. If I’m adding the pesto to pasta, I like it to be sort of average – not too thick, not too runny. It should hold easily on a spatula, as you see below.
There’s your pesto!
Meanwhile, when the water boils, add the pasta and cook according to package directions just to al dente. Add the peas during the last minute of cooking time. They’ll cook right there in the same pot. See? So easy!
Drain the pasta and peas together, mix with the pesto, and serve.
Is pesto pasta healthy?
Of course that depends on how you define healthy. Pesto pasta is not low-carb, but could be made so if you substituted zoodles for traditional pasta shapes. And it does have a lot of green, between the basil and peas, which are relatively high in fiber and protein. So, I call this a win. 🙂
What to serve with pesto pasta?
This is a filling main course on its own, or delicious as a side with grilled chicken or steak. We enjoy it hot, room temperature, or cold, making it terrific for prepping ahead of time or taking to a potluck. I also love to eat the leftovers for a quick lunch, maybe throwing in some arugula, mushrooms, or a few cherry tomatoes, depending on what’s in the fridge.
More Pesto Recipes and Ideas
- Quick, Healthy Zucchini Basil Pesto
- Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
- Everyday Basil Pesto with Lemon Zest (the basis for the pesto used here!)
- Pesto Cavatappi (Noodles & Co. copycat)
- Gnocchi with Pesto and Charred Cherry Tomatoes
- Salmon Pesto Pasta
More Quick and Easy Pasta Dishes
- Caprese Pasta Salad with Prosciutto and Pine Nuts
- Lemon Asparagus Pasta with Shrimp
- Tortellini with Mushrooms, Butter, and Parmesan
- Penne alla Vodka with Chorizo and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
If you try this pesto pasta or any other recipe on the blog, please rate it and leave a comment below. I love hearing from you, and other readers will benefit from your experience!
Fresh Pesto Pasta with Peas
- 1/4 cup walnuts or walnut pieces
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 6 cloves garlic peeled
- zest of half a lemon
- 4 cups fresh basil leaves
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 lb. pasta
- 1 cup frozen or fresh shelled peas
- Add walnuts, pine nuts, garlic, and lemon zest to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for 20-30 seconds to finely chop. Add basil, Parmesan, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, add olive oil, and process until thoroughly pureed, about 60 seconds. Set aside.
- Boil a large pot of water for the pasta, and add a generous pinch of salt. When boiling, add pasta and cook according to package directions to al dente. When one minute remains in the cooking time, add peas to the boiling water. Drain pasta and peas together.
- Allow pasta to cool for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a large bowl and stir in about half of the pesto. Add more pesto to taste, or a drizzle of extra olive oil, if desired. Serve warm or cold, with additional basil, pine nuts, or lemon zest for garnish.
- To make this even faster, use 1 cup of good-quality store-bought basil pesto. My favorite brand is DeLallo. Just begin with step 2 above.
- You can also make the pesto in the blender, and sub any combination of nuts you prefer. Using all walnuts is also delicious and they are usually more affordable per ounce than pine nuts.
- We find this recipe pretty filling, and it serves 8-10 as a side. You may want to plan on fewer servings, 4-6, if preparing as a main.