Creamy Pesto Pasta

How to make creamy pesto pasta In the garden, herbs are some of the first to poke through the warm soil and cheer us with the anticipation of all the fresh produce to come. Once they start growing, they keep us well supplied all summer long. Toward the middle of the summer, there is usually so much dill, basil, parsley, etc, you come up with all kinds of creative ways to incorporate them into every meal.

Growing up in my parents’ household, skipping down the garden path and returning with a fistful of herbs was a daily ritual for me. I still buy herbs almost every week and you’ll find some kind of herbs in my refrigerator at all times. Whenever I smell basil, I close my eyes and am transported to those sunny, summer days, and I half expect to turn around and see my Mom working on the tomato plants and handing me a ripe beauty to munch on. Herbs elevate any any ordinary dish to exceptional with just a sprinkling on top of a finished meal.

Basil pesto is very robust and bursting with flavor. Any dish you add it to will start up a whole choir in your mouth. You can make up huge batches of pesto when you have bunches and bunches of basil, freeze the basil in portions and then add them to many different dishes, and remind yourself of those beautiful summer months.

This is my favorite way to serve Pesto, in a creamy sauce with pasta. Rich, pungent and fresh, it coats the pasta and every bite will satisfy you.  Add some chicken, and you’ll have yourself a whole meal.

The pesto recipe is based on several that I combined, Cook’s Illustrated, Martha Stewart and Food Network.

Ingredients:

1 lb. pasta (fusilli, penne,rigatoni, fettucine, etc.)

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

3 garlic cloves

2 cups packed basil

1/4 cup parsley

1/2 cup Parmesan, divided

salt, pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2-3/4 cup heavy cream

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. This entire recipe will take as much time as it takes the pasta to cook. Awesome, right? While you are waiting for the water to boil, start preparing the pesto sauce.

Toast the pine nuts and garlic cloves in a skillet on medium heat.

You can also use other nuts, instead of pine nuts, such as walnuts. I prefer to use pine nuts. They give pesto a very specific taste that just can’t be replicated by other nuts. The flavor of pine nuts in pesto is incredible.

IMG_2241 (500x334) The pine nuts will toast up much more quickly, take them out of the skillet but continue to roast the garlic cloves until the garlic is golden brown and tender. Cool slightly, peel and chop coarsely.

You can use fresh garlic and omit roasting it, but the garlic will be much more pungent and strong. Roasting it will mellow out the flavor of the garlic, which I definitely prefer. 

IMG_2246 (500x334) Place the basil, parsley, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor.

Basil tends to bruise and darken very quickly. Adding parsley will help give the pesto a bright green color. You can also use spinach, instead of parsley.  You can actually substitute a large amount of the basil for spinach, and you won’t need to use as much basil. This is a big help in the winter months, when basil is so hard to find and is sold in teeny little bags that are like $3 each. You’ll need to spend about $20 to make a portion of pesto. No way. Basil has a very strong flavor, so if you use a small amount, you’ll still be able to taste it.

IMG_2244 (500x334)

IMG_2247 (500x334) Process until finely chopped. IMG_2250 (500x334) Add the olive oil gradually until smooth. Stir in 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

At this point, you can freeze the pesto in portions. You can omit the cheese until you serve it.

IMG_2252 (500x334)

IMG_2259 (500x334) In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer. Add the pesto to the cream and mix to combine. IMG_2255 (500x334) Add the remaining Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

IMG_2257 (500x334) When the pasta is cooked, drain it and add the basil pesto sauce. Toss to combine.

Note: If you prefer a more mild pesto sauce, add only half of it to the cream and freeze the other half. I like a strong pesto flavor. My husband, on the other hand, likes the milder pesto cream sauce version. It’s up to you.

IMG_2263 (500x334) Garnish with more Parmesan cheese and minced basil or parsley.

Creamy Pesto Pasta (500x333)

 

Creamy Pesto Pasta
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Sides
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. pasta (fusilli, penne,rigatoni, fettucine, etc.)
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups packed basil
  • ¼ cup parsley
  • ½ cup Parmesan, divided
  • salt, pepper
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • ½-3/4 cup heavy cream
Instructions
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. While you are waiting for the water to boil, start preparing the pesto sauce.
  2. Toast the pine nuts and garlic cloves in a skillet on medium heat.
  3. You can also use other nuts, instead of pine nuts, such as walnuts. I prefer to use pine nuts. They give pesto a very specific taste that just can't be replicated by other nuts. The flavor of pine nuts in pesto is incredible.
  4. The pine nuts will toast up much more quickly, take them out of the skillet but continue to roast the garlic cloves until the garlic is golden brown and tender. Cool slightly, peel and chop coarsely.
  5. Place the basil, parsley, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor. Process until finely chopped.
  6. Add the olive oil gradually until smooth. Stir in ¼ cup Parmesan cheese.
  7. In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer. Add the pesto to the cream and mix to combine.
  8. Add the remaining Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and add the basil pesto sauce. Toss to combine.
  10. Note: If you prefer a more mild pesto sauce, add only half of it to the cream and freeze the other half. I like a strong pesto flavor. My husband, on the other hand, likes the milder pesto cream sauce version. It's up to you.
  11. Garnish with more Parmesan cheese and minced basil or parsley.

 
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Comments

  1. Oksana says

    Olga, you need to publish a cook book in the near future. You are such a great writer, I love reading your posts and I LOVE pesto!I’ll be making this soon :)

  2. says

    Hi Olga,
    We grow more herbs in our garden every year. Basil isn’t really a traditional Slavic herb so we haven’t really used it before in the past. We do have a patch growing this year so maybe we will get to try out this recipe

    • says

      You’re right, it certainly isn’t a very traditional Russian herb. My Mom loves it though and always grew it in our garden, so I always think of her garden when I smell basil.

  3. alina says

    I make this every summer!! love it! straight from the garden basil if I don’t use as much basil ill substitute it with spinach. its delicious!

  4. Nina says

    It’s just present for me. I was looking for some new recipe for Sunday lunch. We get together every Sunday after church at our home and I always cook something special. I was thinking make a Matzo ball soup and Creamy Pesto Pasta is great match to my soup. What do you think?
    Olga, I agree with Oksana about publishing your cook book. You are a good writer with a big, hot heart. God give you soo many talents. You should use its.
    Just think and pray.
    Be blessed!!!

    • says

      That’s a great tradition, to get together and cook some yumminess. It’s great that you are willing to share your home to others.
      Thanks for the support about the cookbook. I DO love to write and hopefully someday I’ll publish a cook book.

  5. Julia says

    Made this today and my husband & I really enjoyed it. I pretty much followed the instructions to a “t” and did freeze 1/2 for a future use :). It was yummy!!! Thanks!

  6. says

    I’m a HUGE fan of basil pesto and this pasta recipe looks sooo good! I really love the idea of adding some parsley or spinach to keep the bright green color and make more of it. It’s very frustrating that one bunch of basil makes so little pesto at the end. I wish I could have a whole basil field to make a ton of pesto ;)

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