Ok folks, it doesn't get much easier or tastier than this dish, my easy pesto pasta recipe. The satisfaction and fullness from the pasta, the energy from the beans and the flavors from the pesto and tomatoes make this one of the best dishes you can have in your repertoire. This pesto pasta will be a new favorite once you give it a try.
I have been making this basil pesto pasta recipe the exact same way since I was in college and I am not tired of it yet.
What I needed back then (and still do today) is a dish that I could easily make and that would keep me full for the day. I would pack up this pesto pasta and bring it with me on campus (at the time) or work and it would fuel me for an entire day.
The only cooking you need to do is cooking the pasta and the rest is just assembling (including the pesto).
This is proof that great meals can be assembled! This basil pesto pasta is the perfect meal to eat at home or as a take along to an outing since it is served at room temperature. It also heats up nicely in the microwave if you prefer it hot.
Ingredients in this easy pesto pasta
This pesto pasta recipe has a few usual ingredients (the obvious, pesto and pasta) and a few new ingredients (Italian beans, tomatoes and one other ingredient that I bet you would never guess.) I am going to break down all of them for you.
Now for the pesto, if you have a favorite jarred pesto brand that you like, then by all means use that if it is easier for you. Just make sure it is a good one.
I often use a store bought pesto for this recipe. If you want to make your own, I have a wonderful walnut pesto recipe that I have been using for years and I love it.
This is the pesto I love adding to this pasta when I have time to make it.
If you do decide to make your own pesto, I highly suggest making a double batch and freezing some it until you need it. Why go through all that work for one batch when you can essentially make 2 batches in the same amount of time.
I am always thinking of these shortcuts in the kitchen.
I have made and bought my own pesto and there is no shame in store bought. In fact it is a real time saver for quick meals to keep some in your pantry.
The Cannellini Beans in this pesto pasta
Now that we have talked about the pesto, it is time to discuss the other ingredients. This recipe also calls for cannellini beans which can totally be optional, however, I highly recommend them in this dish.
It makes the pasta go from just a regular pesto pasta to a high energy dish. The beans are really good for you and the creaminess from these Italian beans goes so well with the flavors in this pesto pasta.
Tip: Make sure that you rinse your beans well before adding them into your pasta since canned beans sit in a brine.
Fresh Tomatoes in this pesto pasta
Tomatoes are the fresh ingredient that balances this pesto pasta and keeps it feeling light. I also happen to love tomatoes.
The combination of pesto and tomatoes is a match made in heaven!
For this recipe, you can use any tomatoes you like. I will use large tomatoes that I dice up if that is what I have in the house.
Sometimes I may have cherry or grape tomatoes. In that instance, I slice them in half for more manageable bite sized pieces.
The Secret Ingredient in this basil pesto pasta recipe
There is only one more ingredient we haven't talked about with this pesto and pasta recipe. The ingredient that you will see that is a little different from other pesto and pasta recipes is the addition of balsamic vinegar.
This to me is very important and it really adds a depth of flavor that I feel pesto pasta lacks.
Pesto on its own is bold and full flavored but once it is mixed with pasta it dulls the flavors a bit. The balsamic vinegar helps wake those flavors back up and adds a faint touch of sweetness in the background.
It is just a little that you add so don't worry that it will be too much.
You will see many recipes that just add lemon juice right into the pesto to brighten up the flavors and that works too but this is my preference and so good!
How to make
Making this pesto pasta is so easy. Here are what the steps look like:
- Cook pasta.
- Add beans, tomatoes, pesto and balsamic vinegar to a large bowl.
- When pasta is done cooking, add that to the bowl and toss together.
That is it! This pesto pasta is served warm and the heat from the pasta is what warms all of the ingredients.
If you would prefer a hot pesto pasta then you can heat the beans in a sauce pan or microwave until warmed through and then follow the rest of the recipe.
I think this pesto pasta is perfect as is!
How to make store bought pesto better
If you are working with store bought pesto for this recipe, there are some ways to make it taste better. Even if it is your favorite brand and already delicious on its own.
Here are my tips for adding a little more flavor to store bought pesto.
- Add additional finely shredded Parmesan. I will usually eyeball this but I like to add around ¼ cup of very finely grated Parmesan to the pesto.
- Add a little balsamic vinegar to brighten up the flavors. I give my recommendations for the amounts I like to use below.
- Add a little fresh lemon juice. You only need to squeeze about ½ of a lemon into the store bought pesto.
- Add a little extra salt. Sometimes store bought pesto just needs a little salt. I like to use kosher salt and I start with just a pinch of this until it it seasoned to my taste.
- Olive oil. Sometimes store bought pesto is too thick. When this happens, I like to add a tablespoon or so of extra virgin olive oil and mix it well.
If you are looking for things to serve with this easy pesto pasta, here are some ideas:
More easy Italian pasta recipes
If you love this easy pesto pasta recipe, you may also like:
Tried the Recipe? We Would Love To Hear From You In The Comments Below!
- 1 lb penne pasta choose a shape that holds the pesto well like corkscrew or penne
- 1 cup store bought pesto or homemade pesto Recipe for homemade pesto. If you want to buy your pesto, I love Sacla brand which I find in the Italian section of the grocery store.
- 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
- 15 oz can of cannellini beans rinsed well and drained
- 2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
- kosher salt and pepper to taste
- Cook pasta according to the package instructions1 lb penne pasta
- In a large bowl, combine the drained beans, pesto, tomatoes and balsamic vinegar1 cup store bought pesto or homemade pesto, 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, 15 oz can of cannellini beans rinsed well and drained, 2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
- When pasta is fully cooked, strain and add it to the bowl
- Toss pasta and ingredients together well to combine
- Taste for seasoning and see if salt or pepper is neededkosher salt and pepper to taste
Nutrition Values are estimates only.See full nutrition disclaimer here
Loved this pesto pasta! Easy and so flavorful
So glad you enjoyed it!
Hi, This pasta sounds delicious! I'm also looking for easy recipes to meal prep for campus lunches. How long would you say this keeps in the fridge?
Hi Maddie. I've had great success keeping it in the fridge for one week. I like to add a little extra balsamic to the pesto pasta I pack up to keep it from drying out. You could also add a little extra olive oil. If you're bringing it to campus, no need to heat it up if you let it come to room temp. Hope this helps 🙂
This pesto pasta was easy and really delicious! We used pesto from a jar but definitely want to try your homemade pesto next.
Hi Annabelle. I'm glad you enjoyed the pesto pasta 🙂 Let us know when you try the homemade pesto!
I made this pesto pasta for dinner and it was really good. Everyone enjoyed it! Easy and lots of flavor.
So glad you enjoyed it!
Bridgette L says
Everyone really enjoyed it. Very easy and great flavor.
So glad you enjoyed it!
Made this and it was really good!
So glad you enjoyed it Eric!
Came out amazing! Followed recipe exactly and used the pesto recipe as well.
So glad you enjoyed it!
This was a very delicious pesto pasta! Love the addition of balsamic. I think it really makes it special
Thanks Sarah. I am so glad you enjoyed it 🙂
We made this pesto pasta with store bought pesto that we already had then followed the rest of the recipe exactly and it was a winner! Very delicious and so easy.
I am so glad to hear that!
Yum. We made it and really liked the addition of the beans. It was really good