This 3-ingredient pesto pasta is an easy side or main dish that’s perfect for warm weather. It’s made with pasta, basil pesto, and lemon juice.

pesto pasta

3-Ingredient Pasta!

You’ll love this crazy easy Italian-inspired pesto pasta made with just three ingredients! Just like our pasta with spinach and tomatoes, it can be eaten warm or cold, making it perfect for hot summer days. 

Add red pepper flakes to make this dish spicy or cream to make it creamy. Any way you make it, this pasta will be your new favorite meal!    

Pesto Tip! I like using my homemade pesto in this recipe but you can certainly use store-bought pesto as well. Just make sure it’s fresh and good-quality.

What Kind of Pasta Goes with Pesto? 

There are lots of different kinds of pasta that work well with pesto. You can choose your favorite and go from there! Some amazing options include tortellini, bowtie, penne, rigatoni, orecchiette, or farfalle.  

Ultimately this is up to you and what you have in your pantry or can find at the grocery store. This recipe is easily adaptable to fit exactly what you want. 


  • Dry Pasta – Any pasta of choice works here. My personal favorites are spaghetti and penne.
  • Basil Pesto – This recipe tastes the best with Homemade Basil Pesto. But you can certainly use store-bought pesto. Make sure to buy refrigerated pesto. It’s going to be fresh tasting than the jarred pesto.
  • Lemon Juice – Lemon juice will brighten up the taste of this pasta dish. Use fresh lemon juice for best flavor.

Also, freshly grated Parmesan is optional for serving.

ingredients for pesto pasta

A Few Tips & Notes

  • Remember to toss the cooked pasta with the pesto off the heat, so the basil doesn’t oxidize and turn black. 
  • Also, don’t throw out the pasta water. It’s the key to making an excellent saucy consistency for your pasta.       

How to Make Pesto Pasta 

Cook the pasta in salted water, keep some pasta water on the side and drain the rest.

cooked pasta with basil pesto

Off heat, toss the cooked pasta with pesto and some reserved pasta water to create saucy consistency. Add lemon juice. Taste, add more salt, black pepper, or pasta water.

Serve immediately topped with fresh Parmesan cheese.

What to Add to Pesto Pasta?

You can add veggies, seafood, or meat to this delicious pasta. Here are some tasty options:

  • Vegetables: broccoli, cherry tomatoes, spinach, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, arugula, garlic, artichokes

How Do You Make Creamy Pesto Pasta?  

This green basil pesto can be made creamy simply by adding half and half, heavy cream, or garlic cream sauce to the dish, which makes the dish richer and adds dairy. 

How Can I Make Vegan Pesto Pasta?  

If you follow a vegan diet, this pasta recipe is easily altered to fit your needs.  

Simply make sure to use vegan-friendly pesto, either from the store or homemade. Also, use pasta without eggs or create your own at home. 

pasta with pesto

Serving Suggestions

This pasta is delicious as a main course or side dish. Some other dishes you can serve on side are:

Storing Leftovers

Refrigerate: After this pesto pasta has been prepared, you can keep it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days in an airtight container. To serve, simply bring it to room temperature and enjoy. You can reheat it, however, the basil will turn black.

Freeze: This dish isn’t well suited for freezing. Cooked pasta is best eaten fresh. You can freeze pesto, though! After making your pesto, pour it into an ice cube tray, set it in the freezer, transfer it to a large zip-top bag, and store it in the freezer for up to three months.  


How much pesto should I use for 8 ounces of pasta? 

You’ll need anywhere from 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of pesto. This is enough to make the pasta flavorful but not so much that it’s overwhelming.  Simply start off with 1/2 cup pesto, taste, and add more if needed.

What cheese goes well with pesto pasta? 

Besides Parmesan cheese, there are some delicious cheeses that go well with pesto pasta. These options include feta cheese, shredded mozzarella, Havarti, ricotta, gruyere cheese, or Pecorino Romano.

How to eat pesto without pasta?  

If you want to eat pesto but don’t want to eat pasta, you can use this tasty sauce on top of spiralized zucchini noodles, balsamic salmon recipe, roasted vegetables, or eggs.  

More Pesto Recipes

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pesto pasta recipe

Pesto Pasta

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 1 review
  • Author: Katya
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 10 min
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Simmer
  • Cuisine: Italian


This 3-ingredient pesto pasta is an easy side or main dish that’s perfect for warm weather. It’s made with pasta, basil pesto, and lemon juice. 


Units Scale
  • 8 oz. dry pasta of choice
  • 1/23/4 cup basil pesto
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese, for serving, optional


  1. Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. Reserve about 1 cup of pasta water and drain the rest.
  2. Immediately, off heat, toss the cooked pasta with 1/2 cup pesto and some of the reserved pasta water to create saucy consistency. Add lemon juice. Taste, add more pesto as needed.
  3. Serve immediately, garnished with freshly shredded Parmesan cheese.


  • Pesto: If using store-bought pesto, look for fresh refrigerated pesto. It’s better tasting than pesto found in the pasta sauce aisle.
  • Leftovers: Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days. 


  • Serving Size: 1/4 pasta tossed with pesto
  • Calories: 360
  • Sugar: 2 g
  • Sodium: 272.5 mg
  • Fat: 15.8 g
  • Carbohydrates: 44.1 g
  • Protein: 9.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg