This easy pasta al pesto is the perfect weeknight meal. All you need are a few simple ingredients and 15 minutes for pesto that's better than store-bought. Naturally vegan, dairy and gluten free.
Is there anything better than simple pasta with pesto?
It's the ultimate weeknight meal for the whole family: simple, quick and 100% satisfying.
I make this homemade pesto sauce regularly and love having a jar of it in the freezer so I can whip it out for a quick meal when needed.
And this very popular dish is so easy to make.
All you need are simple ingredients (basil, olive oil, cashews or pine nuts, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper) and a blender or food processor to throw this amazing homemade basil pesto together.
Why you'll love this
Naturally dairy-free/vegan - No cheese is added, so this is a dairy free pesto pasta recipe. Perfect if you're vegan or lactose intolerant!
Rich in plant protein & healthy fats - cashews offer a source of protein and healthy fat. (Tip: use a bean-based pasta for more protein!)
Quick - Only 15 minutes total to make! Perfect as a quick dinner.
SO satisfying - This basil pesto sauce is flavourful, savoury, oily and salty and the pasta gives it a delicious heartiness. Need I say more?
Pasta - I've used linguine here to be more traditional, but all types of pasta work. Use gluten free or bean-based pasta if desired.
Cashews - Provide creamy texture and taste. No cheese needed! You can also switch these for pine nuts if preferred. (See below for cost-effective variation using seeds.)
Fresh basil - Be generous with your basil! It's the main flavour for the pesto so you want to use as much as the recipe calls for - don't scrimp!
Garlic - I like to use 2 cloves, but you can use more for a stronger taste if preferred.
Olive oil - Don't be stingy with it! Good pesto contains a lot of (good quality) extra-virgin olive oil - it makes all the difference to the taste and texture.
Lemon juice - A squeeze of lemon juice adds a little brightness/freshness to the pesto.
Salt - An important ingredient in pesto! I like to use quite a bit of salt as I find it makes a huge difference to the taste. Ideally you want the pesto to taste too salty, as when mixed with pasta the saltiness will decrease.
Budget-Friendly - Cashews are expensive! Switch out up to half the cashews for sunflower or pumpkin seeds for a cheaper option. Your pesto will have an earthier, nutty flavor.
(I don't recommend using only seeds, as this will impact the taste)
Lemon zest - If you're looking for a lighter-tasting pesto, adding the zest of one lemon before blending is a great way to add that fresh flavour.
Cheese - Although this pesto doesn't need it, you can switch out half the cashews for your favourite cheese if desired. I love plant-based cheeses like Violife Just Like Parmesan Cheese.
Gluten free - This pesto is naturally gluten free. However it goes without saying that you should be sure to use gluten-free pasta if you're avoiding wheat. I love using Rizopia brown rice pasta.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions (usually 7-10 minutes).
Quickly drain when al dente and return to pot to keep warm.
While pasta is cooking, add cashews to a food processor or blender and process until fine.
Add basil, crushed garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to blender.
Process until well combined but still slightly chunky. (If you're using a blender, the texture will naturally be smoother.) Adjust seasoning if needed.
Add pesto to cooked pasta - the pasta should still be hot from being cooked so it warms the pesto.
Toss well with tongs to combine. Serve with additional basil leaves, or cherry tomatoes if desired.
Check out my story showing you how to make this basil pesto pasta.
The most important tip: Be generous with salt and basil! These form the main pesto flavour so you don't want to scrimp on them - it will lead to a bland taste.
If your pesto looks too dry, add more oil. You can also add more lemon juice if you want a stronger kick.
Add protein. To make your pasta al pesto heartier, try adding chickpeas, marinated tofu or tempeh.
You can also use a bean-based pasta (chickpea, lentil etc.). You'll be fuller for longer.
What goes with pesto pasta
How to store
If not eating immediately, store pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Can be eaten cold.
If storing pesto on its own, store in a glass jar with a lid. Add a small layer of olive oil to the top of the pesto to prevent browning.
This pesto can also be frozen in a sealed container for up to a month. Thaw fully before using.
You can serve any pasta shape with pesto, but it's best to use a thin pasta that won't overwhelm the flavour of the sauce. Linguine, fettuccini and spaghetti are all great options.
You do not need to cook pesto, as its flavours are best enjoyed raw. Instead, allow the residual heat from your freshly cooked pasta to gently warm it as you stir it in.
It's likely because you need to add more basil or salt. You want your pesto to taste slightly too salty - that way when it's mixed with pasta the dish won't be bland.
More vegan pasta recipes
Easy Pasta Al Pesto (Linguine with Pesto)
- Blender or food processor
- 4 servings uncooked pasta (I've used linguine) (around 12oz/340g)
- ¾ cup cashews or pine nuts (see note below for substitution) (90g)
- 2 packed cups fresh basil leaves, plus more to serve (about 50g)
- 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 8 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1½-2 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Bring a large pot of water (salted) to a boil. Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package instructions (usually 7-10 minutes). Drain when al dente and return to pot to keep warm.
- While pasta is cooking, add cashews to a food processor or blender and process until fine.
- Add basil, crushed garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and process until combined but still slightly chunky. (If using a blender, the texture will be more of a smooth paste.) Adjust seasoning if needed.
- Add pesto to warm pasta and toss to combine. Serve with additional basil leaves, or cherry tomatoes if desired.
Nutrition per serving
If you’ve tried this recipe, please leave a comment or tip for others below.
I'd love to know how you’ve made it your own!