Easy Pesto Pasta

This quick and Easy Pesto Pasta recipe is a delicious, light Italian meal or side dish. The sauce is rich in bold flavors over tender pasta. Add tomatoes as the fifth ingredient and it’s time to eat.

Tomatoes on the vine next to bowl of penne in pesto sauce.

A light meal, such as pasta in a pesto sauce, is the perfect meal on a hot summer day, or busy week night.

There’s little preparation and you only need five ingredients, which is to say, I count salt and pepper as one ingredient in case you’re counting.

In all fairness, if you want to use homemade pesto, instead of store-bought, it will take an additional 15 minutes, and about four additional ingredients. So worth it, though! Read further, I listed the recipe for you.

A light and easy Italian meal made with only 5 ingredients.

Making Easy Pesto Pasta

Start by choosing and cooking your pasta. As seen in these photos, I used penne pasta, but use your favorite.

Cook the pasta until al dente according to package directions.

What does “al dente” mean?

It literally means “to the tooth” in Italian. Ha! Love that. They say “al dente” to describe the perfect consistency of cooked rice or pasta. It should be firm and have a nice pasta taste.

Under cooked pasta is hard and chewy vs. over cooked, which is limp and soggy.

Cooked pasta with pesto, Parmesan, and fresh basil.

Before you drain your pasta, make sure to scoop out some of the pasta water. I have to set the cup in the colander before draining or I’ll forget every time. You’ll only need about 1/4 – 1/3 cup, but scoop out a little more just in case.

Once drained, transfer the pasta to a separate bowl large enough so that you can toss everything together without it plopping over the side. I hate that.

Pre-mixed meal of pasta with Parmesan, pesto, and cherry tomatoes.

Add 1/4 cup reserved pasta water and the pesto to the pasta. Toss and evenly coat. Wait, hold everything. If you want some homemade pesto sauce, I’ve got your recipe right here: Classic Basil Pesto.

Add more of the pasta water if you want a thinner consistency.

Next, toss in the Parmesan cheese, tomatoes, and some salt and pepper, then taste. Add more salt and/or pepper as needed.

Lastly, take a few fresh basil leaves and roll them into a cigar. Thinly slice the cigar, then sprinkle the basil over the top of the pasta.

For those of you out there keeping count, that takes our tally up to six ingredients, but garnish is optional. Ok, then, time to eat!

Bowl of light Italian meal made with penne and pesto.

More Side Dish and Pasta Recipes:

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5 from 1 vote

Easy Pesto Pasta

Tender pasta smothered in a rich, bold pesto sauce with Parmesan cheese and cherry tomatoes. Make this quick and easy meal in about 20 minutes with only five ingredients.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Course: Lunch, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Italian
Keyword: parmesan cheese, quick and easy, summertime favorite
Servings: 4
Calories: 362kcal
Author: Sweet Ordeal


  • 8 oz. uncooked pasta (such as rigatoni, ziti, penne, or fettuccine)
  • 1/2 cup basil pesto, homemade or store-bought
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • Optional: 4-5 fresh basil leaves for garnish.


  • Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over medium-high heat. Add pasta and cook until al dente according to package directions.
  • Retain about 1/2 cup of pasta water before draining pasta. Once the pasta has been drained, place pasta in a separate large bowl.
  • Add about 1/4 cup of the pasta water and the pesto sauce to the pasta and toss. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, then taste.
  • Add more salt and/or pepper if desired. Also, add more pasta water if you want a thinner consistency.
  • Optional: Take 5 fresh basil leaves and roll them into a cigar. Thinly slice the cigar and sprinkle the basil over the top of the pasta. Enjoy!


For protein lovers, add in some cooked chicken or grilled shrimp.


Calories: 362kcal | Carbohydrates: 47g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 7mg | Sodium: 397mg | Potassium: 213mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 856IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 140mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @sweetordeal or tag #sweetordeal!

Easy Pesto Pasta

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Halved tomatoes with penne in sauce topped with basil.

My Collected Recipes:

A quick mention of this wonderful blank recipe book that I helped to create with a very dear friend. Write in one or more recipes before giving it to that special person, then they can fill the remaining pages with their favorites, and/or have other special people write out recipes for them. It’s personal, and yes, it takes time and effort — something we’ve gotten away from with all this technology. Check it out HERE where you can order a hard or soft cover. Once there, click on READ SAMPLE to see the pages within. I especially like the “measurements and conversions” page. Also, I make no money from any sales, I just love the idea of this book. Missing my mom as I do, seeing her handwriting always makes me feel closer to her. Give that gift to someone else by writing out a favorite recipe.

5 from 1 vote

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