Classic Pesto Spaghetti

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Classic Pesto Spaghetti Recipe

Pesto spaghetti is one of my all-time favorite simple dishes to cook at home.

You’ll love it because it’s easy to make, big on flavor, and packed with nutrient-dense ingredients.

This pesto spaghetti recipe combines the vibrant flavors of fresh basil, garlic and lemon juice with umami-rich Parmesan and savory pine nuts, creating a meal that’s not only a delight for the taste buds but also packed with health benefits.

This dish is a perfect example of how simple ingredients can create a flavorful and wholesome meal, making it an ideal choice for a quick weeknight dinner or a nutritious meal prep option.

Pesto Spaghetti Recipe on plate

Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need to make Pesto Spaghetti:

  • 16 ounces spaghetti (or any noodle of your choice) (450 grams)
  • 2-3 large garlic cloves
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves (50 grams)
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (sub raw almonds, walnuts, cashews or pumpkin seeds, if desired) (45 grams)
  • 1/2 cup real Parmesan cheese, grated (60 grams); use the good stuff and grate it yourself!
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (160 ml); use a little more if needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt (I use Read Salt); (6 grams; more or less to taste, plus more to salt the pasta water)

Pesto Spaghetti Steps

See the printable recipe card below for detailed instructions.

  1. Prep: Bring a large part of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt to the water. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, make the pesto.
  2. Make the Pesto: In a food processor, pulse the garlic until finely chopped (it will stick to the sides of the food processor. Add the basil, pine nuts, lemon juice and salt. Pulse until the basil is coarsely chopped. Gradually add olive oil while the processor is running. Season with salt, then stir in the grated parmesan cheese. Tip: The pesto will be thick and “tight.” That’s okay. You’ll use some pasta water to thin it out and make the sauce.
  3. Cook the Spaghetti: Once the water is boiling, add spaghetti and cook according to package instructions until al dente (usually 1 minute before the package indicates). Reserve about 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the spaghetti.
  4. Combine: Return the spaghetti to the pot. Add the pesto and toss to coat evenly, adding a little reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce if needed.

Variations and Substitutions

  • Nut Substitutions: Pine nuts are traditional in pesto, but almonds, walnuts, and cashews are all also lovely.
  • Nut-Free Version: Replace pine nuts with sunflower seeds or omit the nuts.
  • Vegan Alternative: Use nutritional yeast instead of parmesan cheese.
  • Herb Variation: Classic pesto is made with fresh basil, but you can use any combination of fresh herbs to make it your own. I love adding 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves or fresh cilantro for an extra burst of flavor. Another option: using 1 cup fresh basil with 1 cup baby arugula is also really nice.
Classic Pesto Spaghetti Recipe

FAQs

  • Can I use store-bought pesto? Absolutely! For a quicker version, feel free to use high-quality store-bought pesto.
  • How long do pesto spaghetti leftovers keep? Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Print
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Pesto Spaghetti Recipe on plate

Classic Pesto Spaghetti

  • Author: Elizabeth Rider
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Blend, Boil
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

Classic Pesto Spaghetti is a simple, classic, and delicious meal that’s great for lunch, dinner, or meal prep. Made with fresh basil, Parmesan, garlic, lemon and nuts, it’s the perfect choice for an easy, flavorful meal. This recipe makes 4 large or 8 small servings.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 16 ounces spaghetti (or any noodle of your choice) (450 grams)
  • 23 large garlic cloves
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves (50 grams)
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (sub raw almonds, walnuts, cashews or pumpkin seeds, if desired) (45 grams)
  • 1/2 cup real Parmesan cheese, grated (60 grams)
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (160 ml); use a little more if needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt (I use Read Salt); (6 grams; more or less to taste, plus more to salt the pasta water)

Instructions

  1. Prep: Bring a large part of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt to the water. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, make the pesto. Grab and set aside a mug or heat-safe container with a handle to reserve some of the pasta cooking water for the end.
  2. Make the Pesto: In a food processor, pulse the garlic until finely chopped (it will stick to the sides of the food processor. Add the basil, pine nuts, lemon juice and salt. Pulse until the basil is coarsely chopped. Gradually add olive oil while the processor is running. Season with salt, then stir in the grated parmesan cheese. Tip: The pesto will be thick and “tight.” That’s okay. You’ll use some pasta water to thin it out and make the sauce.
  3. Cook the Spaghetti: Once the water is boiling, add spaghetti and cook according to package instructions until al dente (usually 1 minute before the package indicates). Reserve about 1 cup of pasta water in a mug or heat-safe container to help make the sauce, then drain the spaghetti.
  4. Combine: Return the spaghetti to the pot. Add the pesto and toss to coat evenly, adding 2 tablespoons of reserved pasta water at a time to loosen the sauce if needed.

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Hi, I'm Elizabeth

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