Creamy Pesto Pasta

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This quick and easy creamy pesto pasta is a weeknight winner. It takes just a few minutes to mix up the flavorful sauce!

One thing that saves us time and time again when it comes to dinner is having dried pasta on hand.

I know I’m not the only parent who has struggled to feed their kids, especially on busy days. Being able to throw together a pasta dish in under 20 minutes means I can worry about other things instead, like how they’ve already grown out of their new clothes.

White bowl of creamy pesto pasta with cherry tomatoes.

While we love a classic spaghetti sauce, having other options, like this easy creamy pesto pasta, keeps pasta night from getting too routine.

The sauce for this pasta is so incredibly easy. All you need is pesto, cream, and parmesan cheese!

It’s ready in just minutes and you can serve it as is for a simple meal or add your favorite proteins or veggies.

Creamy pesto pasta is sure to be a go-to in your house just like it is mine.

Ingredients for creamy pesto pasta

You’ll need:

Ingredients for creamy pesto pasta on a tile surface with labels.

Pasta – Any pasta shape will work for this recipe, but I especially like ridged shapes that allow the sauce to stick. 

One of my favorites is lumaca rigata, a snail-shaped pasta with ridges. Penne and shells also work well.

Pesto – This recipe is a classic with basil pesto, but you can also use other varieties of pesto like kale pesto or carrot top pesto. 

Heavy cream – Also labeled as heavy whipping cream, this turns the pesto into a creamy sauce. 

You can swap in milk if you prefer, but note the sauce will be a bit runnier.

Parmesan cheese – I recommend grating your parmesan cheese at home rather than purchasing packaged grated parmesan. Bagged parmesan or the parmesan granules (what my kids call “shaky cheese”) does not melt as well as freshly grated cheese.

Salt and pepper – Add seasoning to taste. Don’t forget to salt the pasta water, too!

Overhead of creamy pesto pasta in a skillet.

How to make this recipe

Fill a large pot with water and salt well. Set to boil.

Cook pasta according to package directions. The total cook time will depend on the pasta shape you are using.

When the pasta is done cooking, reserve ½ cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta.

Set a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pesto and heavy cream, whisking to combine.

Once lightly bubbly, add the grated parmesan and stir to melt.

Add the cooked pasta and some of the reserved pasta water. Stir well to coat the pasta completely.

Season to taste and add cooked proteins or chopped vegetables, stirring until heated through.

Serve with additional grated parmesan on top.

Close up of stirring creamy pesto pasta.

Why add pasta water?

When it comes to thinning out pasta sauce, regular water just won’t do!

When pasta cooks, it releases some of the starches into the water. You likely have noticed that the water you drain is a bit cloudy.

This starchy water is great for adding to sauces because it helps the sauce cling to the pasta. It also emulsifies the sauce, giving it a silky smooth texture.

Saucing the pasta directly in the pan will also help create the best saucy texture and flavor, so give it a try.

Creamy pesto pasta in a low bowl with the pot behind.

Recipe suggestions

Add a protein such as chicken, shrimp, or Italian sausage. Cook the meat while the pasta is cooking, then use the same pan to whisk up the sauce. This is also a great recipe for using up roasted or rotisserie chicken!

Pump it up with vegetables like roasted asparagus, juicy cherry tomatoes, or grilled zucchini.

Low bowl of creamy pesto pasta and halved cherry tomatoes.

Finish with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, or mix in some ground chile powder for heat.

Top with extra grated parmesan or chopped fresh basil leaves.

Serve with homemade garlic bread for a delicious meal!

Close up of a pasta shell coated in creamy pesto sauce.

More recipes using pesto

Have leftover pesto? Try it with one of these recipes:

Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-star review below!
It means so much when you enjoy my recipes, so let me know how it goes and leave a comment if you have any questions.

White bowl of creamy pesto pasta with cherry tomatoes.

Creamy Pesto Pasta

Need a quick and easy dinner solution? This creamy pesto pasta is ready for the table in under 20 minutes.
Author : Megan Myers
5 from 45 votes
Print Pin Save
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4
Calories 398 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 8 ounces pasta, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup pesto
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan, plus more for serving
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  • Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve ½ cup pasta water and drain pasta. Set aside.
  • In a sauté pan over medium heat, whisk together heavy cream and pesto until smooth. Cook until lightly bubbling, then whisk in grated parmesan to melt.
  • Add the cooked pasta and, if desired, some of the reserved pasta water. Stir to coat the pasta with the sauce. Season to taste. If adding protein or vegetables, add now and stir until warmed through.
  • Serve pasta with additional parmesan cheese for topping.

Nutrition

Calories: 398 kcalCarbohydrates: 45 gProtein: 11 gFat: 19 gSaturated Fat: 9 gCholesterol: 40 mgSodium: 266 mgPotassium: 166 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 3 gIron: 1 mg

Nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate based on online calculators. Any nutritional information found on Stetted should be used as a general guideline only.

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megan

About Megan

I focus on fresh ingredients and easy methods, with spins that keep meals interesting. Dinnertime shouldn’t be stressful or complicated, and I’m here to help you enjoy the time spent in the kitchen. Read more…

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