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What Types of Pasta Pair Best With Pesto Sauce?
Longer noodles like spaghetti, bucatini, or tagliatelle are a traditional choice for pesto sauce. Penne, fusilli, or elbows are also great options, especially when used in a chilled or room temperature presentation like pasta salad. For a vegan, gluten-free meal, zucchini noodles are a natural complement to fresh pesto.
What to Serve With Pesto Pasta
Pair pesto pasta with garlic bread, a fresh green salad with a tart red wine vinaigrette, or a spread of antipasto, like cured meats, olives, and cheeses. Sautéed or roasted veggies—think glazed carrots, or a grilled summer squash salad—work well with pesto’s seasonality.
Broccoli Pesto Pasta Recipe
Prep Time15 min
Total Time25 min
Cook Time10 min
- 1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
- 4–5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped (you can also adjust this amount to preference)
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ cup toasted pine nuts, plus more for garnish
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest, from about 1 lemon
- 3–4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 box dried (or 3 cups fresh) pasta of choice
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Add broccoli to the boiling water, and cook until crowns are bright green and stalks are tender, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon or spider strainer, remove the broccoli florets (reserve the cooking water, as this will be used for the pasta) and transfer to a food processor. Let cool.
- Add garlic cloves, basil, Parmesan, red pepper flakes, pine nuts, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Blend until pesto is smooth and has a pourable consistency; if the mixture looks a little thick, add more olive oil. When the texture looks right, taste and adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper or lemon juice as needed.
- Add pasta noodles to the boiling water, and cook until al dente, 2–3 minutes if using fresh pasta, or 8–10 if using dried.
- Unlike other sauces, it’s best not to cook pesto; extended exposure to heat dulls its delicate, zingy flavors. Instead of draining the finished pasta from the pot, use tongs or a spider strainer to transfer the al dente noodles to a large bowl, then add the pesto sauce directly on top.
- Create that signature saucy texture by adding reserved pasta water to the bowl ¼ cup at a time, mixing vigorously with tongs, until desired consistency is achieved.
- Serve immediately, topped with toasted pine nuts.
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