Easy Pesto Pasta (Instant Pot|Stove)

February 7, 2020 (Updated: February 13, 2020) By Aneesha |

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This delicious Basil Pesto Pasta cooks in just a few minutes in the Instant Pot or on the Stovetop. It’s a versatile weeknight meal even my kids can put together on a school night! Whether it is tortellini, penne, rigatoni, or spaghetti, toss your favorite pasta with this easy homemade pesto.

basil pesto pasta in black bowl with fork on blue kitchen towel with grape tomatoes in a bowl

Basil Pesto Pasta – A Creamy Pesto Pasta Recipe under 30 minutes

This Basil Pesto Pasta recipe (also known as pasta al pesto) is a two-ingredient meal that can be prepared in a matter of minutes with this easy homemade pesto, or your favorite store-bought pesto. The time it takes to make this dish comes down to the type of pasta you decide to use.

It’s creamy, dreamy and with a few tips and tricks, you will have this vibrant pesto pasta on the table in less than 30 minutes.

My hubby and I simply adore this when it’s just the two of us. And, I love to serve it to my girls as a delicious and nutritious way to get in more greens.

So, whether you serve it as a quick and easy weeknight meal or a simple dinner for two, this basil pesto pasta recipe is pleasing to the eye and palate.

What Kind Of Pasta Is Best For Pesto Pasta

The kind of pasta you use to soak up all that pesto sauce is up to your personal preference. Some of my favorites include:

  • Long Noodles: Any type of long noodle pasta will do, such as spaghetti, bucatini, linguine or fettuccine – note that you must break the long pasta in half and lay it in a criss cross pattern. Simply spread half of it width-wise in the sauce, then layer the remaining half vertically on top.
  • Shaped Pasta: For even more flair, try any shaped, short-grain pasta such as penne, rigatoni, farfalle or fusilli
  • Filled Pasta: Filled or stuffed pasta add another level of flavor, such as tortellini or ravioli (large or mini)

How To Make Homemade Pesto

Homemade pesto sauce can be made in under 10 minutes and only requires a few ingredients – extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, pine nuts, grated Parmesan cheese, salt, black pepper and fresh basil.

It’s a great way to use up the abundance of basil during the summer months, too. Here’s a detailed recipe and video for Pesto. In a nutshell, this is how I make it:

  • Simply add olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and pine nuts to your blender (steps 1-4).
olive oil pouring in blender, hand holding small bowl of lemon juice, hand holding small bowl of garlic, hand holding measuring cup with pine nuts
  • Continue by adding cheese, salt, pepper and basil (steps 5-7).
  • Blend for about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the blender halfway through (step 8).
hand holding measuring cup of cheese, hand holding small bowl of black pepper, blender with basil leaves, two hands closing blender with lid

If you don’t have time to make pesto sauce from scratch, your favorite store-bought pesto will do. It’s still a delicious weeknight meal and certainly better for you (and cheaper!) than ordering a take-out meal.

How Much Pesto Do You Need For A Pound Of Pasta

I typically use 3/4 cup pesto for every 12 ounces of pasta (or 1 cup for every 1 pound), along with a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water (more on this later!). This helps take the guesswork out of trying to figure out the proper pasta to pesto sauce ratio.

Can I Just Put Pesto On Pasta – Should Pesto Be Heated?

I do not recommend heating the pesto sauce on the stovetop prior to tossing. Pesto is meant to be a raw sauce and the residual heat from the pasta will naturally heat it through. If you heat the pesto, it will alter the flavor, color and texture.

Is Pesto Sauce Healthy

Yes, in my opinion, I believe pesto sauce is healthy. Although it can be high in fat, the nutrient benefits from fresh basil, olive oil and pine nuts far outweigh the calorie count.

Ingredients For Basil Pesto Pasta Recipe

basil pesto pasta in black bowl with fork on blue kitchen towel with grape tomatoes in a bowl

Two ingredients are all you need to reach pesto pasta bliss. You will need:

  • Tortellini, Penne or Any Pasta Shape: The choice is up to you! We will get in more detail about pasta cooking times for both the Instant Pot and stovetop method below.
  • Pesto: A classic homemade pesto sauce is far more superior than any jarred or store-bought variety. You’ll be amazed by its vibrant green color and luxurious flavor. You can make this 2-3 ays ahead of time, top it off with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, and store it in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.

Why Cook Pasta In The Instant Pot

I love cooking pasta in my Instant Pot because it allows me to set-it and forget-it. A few more reasons include:

  • No more babysitting the large pot of boiling water on my stovetop.
  • No more starchy water foaming over on my stovetop.
  • With the one general rule of thumb, I get perfectly cooked pasta every time!

How To Cook Pasta In the Instant Pot: Rule of Thumb

Since different pasta shapes require different cook times, here is what works for me:

half the lower number in the suggested cook time on the box, and subtract 1 minute from that. So, if a box suggests the cooking time as 10-11 minutes, I cook it for 4 minutes in the Instant Pot (10/2=5; 5-1=4).

This produces pasta that is al dente, or firm to the tooth. For a softer and more tender pasta, simply divide the lower number in half.

Pasta Cooking Times in Instant Pot

By following the above rule of thumb, here are a few of my favorite shapes and their respective cooking times in the Instant Pot:

  • Tortellini: Tortellini pasta has a cook time of 4-9 minutes. Take the lowest time (4 minutes), divide in half (2 minutes) and subtract 1 minute = 1 minute
  • Penne: Penne pasta has a cook time of 10-13 minutes. Take the lowest time (10 minutes), divide in half (5 minutes) and subtract 1 minute = 4 minutes
  • Rigatoni: Rigatoni pasta has a cook time of 10-15 minutes. Take the lowest time (10 minutes), divide in half (5 minutes) and subtract 1 minute = 4 minutes
  • Spaghetti: Spaghetti pasta has a cook time of 8-12 minutes. Take the lowest time (8 minutes), divide in half (4 minutes) and subtract 1 minute = 3 minutes. Make sure to break the spaghetti in half and lay it in a criss-cross pattern, just like I do in this recipe.

How To Make Pesto Pasta In Instant Pot

  • Add pasta to the pressure cooker pot.
  • Add 2 cups water for every 10-12 oz of pasta, along with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and seal (steps 1-2).
  • Cook the pasta for half the lowest package time minus one (see above). When pressure cooking is complete, do an Intermittent Quick Release (see below).
  • Reserve about 1/2 cup starchy cooking water, then drain the pasta.
water pouring into instant pot bowl with tortellini, hand sealing instant pot
  • Toss the pasta in a large bowl with the pesto, adding a few tablespoons of the starchy cooking water until your desired consistency is reached. For best results and a creamy sauce, stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes (steps 3-4).
hand stirring pesto sauce into tortellini in white bowl, pesto tortellini pasta in white bowl

How To Release Pressure When Cooking Pasta – Intermittent Quick Release

Because of the starchy cooking water in pasta, it creates a big mess after a quick release when it sprays out of the pressure knob.

To avoid this, I release the pressure in bursts. Which means, I press down (Ultra), or rotate the pressure knob (Duo) gently to release pressure 1-2 seconds at a time, then stop. I repeat this until most of the pressure has released and its intensity has gone down.

After that, when I do a full release of pressure, nothing squirts out of the knob.

How To Make Pesto Pasta On Stovetop

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and liberally season with salt.
  • Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions until al dente, or with a slight bite in the center. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
  • Drain and toss in a large bowl with the pesto, adding a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water until your desired consistency is reached. For best results and a creamy sauce, stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes.

Can I Eat Pesto Pasta Cold?

Yes, this basil pesto pasta makes a great make-ahead dish to enjoy right from the fridge throughout the week.

It’s also wonderful to bring to summer parties and picnics when fresh basil is in peak season. Serve it as a cold pasta salad side dish with family and friends.

What Goes With Pesto Pasta – Serving/Garnish Suggestions

basil pesto pasta in black bowl with fork on blue kitchen towel with grape tomatoes in a bowl

Once the pesto is tossed with the warm pasta, all the work is done! To make this weeknight meal a bit more interesting, you can top it with:

  • Toasted pine nuts
  • Fresh chopped basil
  • Freshly grated Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese
  • Halved grape or cherry tomatoes – a classic pairing in Italy!
  • Grilled chicken, salmon, tuna, shrimp or roasted vegetables

Recipe Tips For Basil Pesto Pasta

  • Do not heat the pesto. This will ruin the flavor, color and texture of your finished sauce. The residual heat from the pasta will be enough to heat the pesto through.
  • Reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. This is the secret many Italian chefs use when cooking any pasta entree. A few tablespoons of the starchy cooking water not only helps thin out the pesto sauce, but if stirred vigorously for 1-2 minutes, the starch naturally emulsifies with the sauce, creating a luxurious, creamy consistency.
  • Wash the lid and clean the pressure valve of the Instant Pot after cooking the pasta. Since the pasta starch and scum may have caused a blockage in the Instant Pot, this could affect the next cooking cycle. Make sure to wash it out with warm, soapy water.

More Pasta Recipes From My Kitchen

More Italian Recipes From My Kitchen

★ Did you make this recipe? Please give it a star rating below! For more quick & easy recipes, FOLLOW ME on Facebook, Instagram,  Pinterest and Youtube.

basil pesto pasta in black bowl with fork on blue kitchen towel with grape tomatoes in a bowl

Basil Pesto Pasta

A two-ingredient Basil Pesto Pasta recipe cooks in just a few minutes in the Instant Pot or on the Stovetop for a versatile weeknight meal!
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Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Pressure Build: 5 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 444kcal
Author: Aneesha

Ingredients

Pesto

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice adjust to taste
  • 1 clove garlic (small clove)
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese Fresh
  • 1/4 tsp salt adjust to taste
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper preferably freshly ground
  • 2 cups basil leaves (packed) gently washed and dried

Pesto Pasta

  • 10-12 oz Tortellini or Penne, or any pasta shape
  • 2 cups water or more for stovetop method
  • kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup pesto homemade or store-bought

Equipment

Instructions

Pesto

  • Add the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and pine nuts to your blender. Lemon juice is optional, but adds a subtle acidity to the pesto and brightens it up.
  • Add the cheese, salt, pepper and basil leaves.
  • Tightly seal the lid and blend until smooth, about 30 seconds. If necessary, stop the blender and scrape down the sides with a silicone spatula halfway through.

Pesto Pasta in Instant Pot

  • Add pasta to the pressure cooker pot.
  • Add 2 cups water for every 10-12 oz of pasta, along with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and seal.
  • Cook the pasta for half the lowest package time minus one (see recipe notes). When pressure cooking is complete, do an Intermittent Quick Release (see recipe notes).
  • Reserve about 1/2 cup starchy cooking water, then drain the pasta.
  • Toss the pasta in a large bowl with the pesto, adding a few tablespoons of the starchy cooking water until your desired consistency is reached. For best results and a creamy sauce, stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes.

Pesto Pasta on Stovetop

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and liberally season with salt.
  • Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions until al dente, or with a slight bite in the center. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
  • Drain and toss in a large bowl with the pesto, adding a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water until your desired consistency is reached. For best results and a creamy sauce, stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes.

Video

Notes

How To Cook Pasta In Instant Pot/Pasta Cooking Times:
Since different pasta shapes require different cook times, here is what works for me:
half the lower number in the suggested cook time on the box, and subtract 1 minute from that. So, if a box suggests the cooking time as 10-11 minutes, I cook it for 4 minutes in the Instant Pot (10/2=5; 5-1=4).
This produces pasta that is al dente, or firm to the tooth. For a softer and more tender pasta, simply divide the lower number in half.
By following the above rule of thumb, here are a few of my favorite shapes and their respective cooking times in the Instant Pot:
  • Tortellini: Tortellini pasta has a cook time of 4-9 minutes. Take the lowest time (4 minutes), divide in half (2 minutes) and subtract 1 minute = 1 minute
  • Penne: Penne pasta has a cook time of 10-13 minutes. Take the lowest time (10 minutes), divide in half (5 minutes) and subtract 1 minute = 4 minutes
  • Rigatoni: Rigatoni pasta has a cook time of 10-15 minutes. Take the lowest time (10 minutes), divide in half (5 minutes) and subtract 1 minute = 4 minutes
  • Spaghetti: Spaghetti pasta has a cook time of 8-12 minutes. Take the lowest time (8 minutes), divide in half (4 minutes) and subtract 1 minute = 3 minutes. Make sure to break the spaghetti in half and lay it in a criss-cross pattern.
How To Release Pressure When Cooking Pasta – Intermittent Quick Release:
Because of the starchy cooking water in pasta, it creates a big mess after a quick release when it sprays out of the pressure knob.
To avoid this, I release the pressure in bursts. Which means, I press down or rotate the pressure knob gently to release pressure 1-2 seconds at a time, then stop. I repeat this until most of the pressure has released and its intensity has gone down.
After that, when I do a full release of pressure, nothing squirts out of the knob.
Recipe Tips for Basil Pesto Pasta:
  • Do not heat the pesto. This will ruin the flavor, color and texture of your finished sauce. The residual heat from the pasta will be enough to heat the pesto through.
  • Reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. This is the secret many Italian chefs use when cooking any pasta entree. A few tablespoons of the starchy cooking water not only helps thin out the pesto sauce, but if stirred vigorously for 1-2 minutes, the starch naturally emulsifies with the sauce, creating a luxurious, creamy consistency.
  • Wash the lid and clean the pressure valve of the Instant Pot after cooking the pasta. Since the pasta starch and scum may have caused a blockage in the Instant Pot, this could affect the next cooking cycle. Make sure to wash it out with warm, soapy water.
 
Note: The nutrition facts below are my estimates for 12 ounces of tortellini.  If you are following any diet plan, I recommend cross-checking with your preferred nutrition calculator.

Nutrition

Calories: 444kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 36mg | Sodium: 810mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 937IU | Calcium: 199mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Italian
Keyword: basil pesto pasta, creamy pesto pasta recipe, pesto pasta sauce, recipes with pesto sauce
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HEY! NICE TO MEET YOU!

Aneesha holding a glass of white wine Hi, I'm Aneesha, a foodie by birth and the mind, body and soul behind Spice Cravings. Here I share quick, easy & healthy Indian & global recipes that are low in effort and big on taste! A recipe doesn't make it on the blog unless it is tested multiple times and gets a thumbs-up from my taster-in-chief, my husband, and my teen-chefs, my twin girls!

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