A fast and insanely delicious creamy pesto sauce with simple ingredients, perfect for busy weeknights. I use store-bought pesto to make it even easier and mix it into a luscious creamy sauce flavoured with parmesan cheese and garlic. Dinner on the table in the time it takes to boil some pasta.
Hello! This really is almost embarrassingly simple but sometimes these recipes are the ones we make the most. I amp up the flavour with extra parmesan cheese, garlic and a squeeze of lemon.
I have used both a homemade busiate pasta (guide coming soon!) and a homemade pappardelle. Use any shape you like. Check out my shapes and guides section if you feel like making some fresh pasta from scratch. My easy homemade pasta dough is perfection, just saying! Oh now I think about it some homemade potato gnocchi would be pretty delicious with this sauce.
Fresh garlic - Even though most pesto has garlic in it already I love flavour, sue me!
Single or light cream - I don't tend to use heavy cream as I add parmesan to cream sauces which thickens it up. If you prefer heavy cream, go for it! You can always thin it down with some pasta cooking water.
Parmesan cheese - Finely grated with a microplane or the star side of your box grater.
Basil pesto - You can absolutely use a homemade basil pesto but for me, this is a quick weeknight dinner so I use a store-bought pesto. A very good quality one though!
Black pepper - I LOVE pepper so I add it to 99% of my pasta recipes.
Lemon Juice - A squeeze of lemon in a creamy sauce just livens the whole thing up and cuts through the richness. It won't curdle the cream if you keep the heat low and mix it in really fast.
Substitutions and variations
Pesto - Use any fresh pesto you like, doesn't have to be basil. You could use a red pepper pesto, anything!
Additions - Some roasted or fresh cherry tomatoes would be delicious, I like to add fresh basil leaves to the top too. Pesto usually has pine nuts but you could add some extra toasted ones into the sauce. To add some greens you could mix through some chopped fresh spinach. A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil never goes astray.
Add some protein - Chicken pesto pasta is a classic so add some cooked chicken breast or thighs into the creamy sauce. Some golden brown pancetta or bacon mixed through would be great addition too.
Type of pasta - There's no rules for a sauce like this use absolutely any pasta shape you love or have on hand.
Have your stove on a low after adding the cream - you NEVER want cream to boil or bubble aggressively.
Add your cooked pasta straight into the sauce - with a little splash of pasta water too. It's a great practice to get into letting your pasta bubble away in the sauce for a minute or two. I undercook my pasta by a minute for this reason, to make sure it is still al dente after being in the sauce.
Reserve some pasta cooking water - I actually don't ever drain my pasta in a colander. I try and time the cooking so I can transfer the cooked pasta straight from the water into the sauce. A spider strainer is the best way (or tongs for long noodle shapes).
How to make creamy pesto pasta
Full ingredient list and method is in the recipe card below. Get your pasta cooking in a large pot of well salted water. This is such an easy recipe, just a few simple steps.
STEP 1: Cook the garlic in olive oil in a large skillet for 1-2 minutes over a medium heat, careful not to burn.
STEP 2: Lower the heat and add the cream, bring to a very gentle simmer.
STEP 3: Add finely grated parmesan. Add one half at a time, letting it melt into the cream in between each addition.
STEP 4: Add the fresh basil pesto and whisk into the cream, I like to use a flat whisk for this.
STEP 5: Add the lemon juice, black pepper and mix well and gently simmer to thicken.
STEP 6: Add the cooked pasta straight into the sauce and let it bubble away very gently for a minute or two. Add a splash of pasta water if needed to loosen.
Easy! Just keep your heat low, the cream should just be at a very gentle simmer. Mix it in really fast with a whisk. You can also add it in last with the pasta.
I really don't think creamy sauces reheat super well but this will definitely keep in an airtight container in the fridge for three days. Next time just eat it all though OK?!
I weigh pasta portions as it just takes the guess work out! Weigh out 100 grams dried per person or 150 grams fresh per person.
Want some other pasta recipes to try?
If you loved this 10 minute creamy pesto pasta then I have so many more delicious recipes for you. My fast and delicious creamy nduja pasta really has become a favorite recipe for so many. If you are feeling like something a touch more healthy my new broccoli pasta is perfect for any night of the week. My cacio e pepe with caramelized onions is probably my new favorite pasta.Print