Creamy Pesto Pasta is a family favorite that’s also super easy – it’s done in just 10 minutes with only 5 ingredients!
Pasta with pesto is good. Pasta with creamy pesto sauce is great.
Back in the early 90’s in the first years of our marriage Brian and I went to an Italian restaurant and ordered pasta with pesto. I thought it was good. Brian thought it was like “eating chopped grass” with his pasta.
So when I started growing basil and making pesto to keep in our freezer all winter long, I had to figure out a way to have pasta with pesto that wasn’t quite so “pesto-y.” Well I suppose I didn’t have to, I just wanted to because it’s such an easy meal- on it’s own or mixed with chicken (and dried tomatoes-yum), or even alongside chicken or sausage. Plus by that time we had kids and they loved it.
My solution was to create a creamy white sauce and then mixing in pesto. I suppose you could just heat cream until it thickened and then add pesto, but I wanted a thicker sauce, kind of like an Alfredo.
And this creamy pasta has become one of our family’s favorite dishes. It’s one of those things I always have the ingredients for and is so fast (10 minutes!) that when we are tempted to buy something to eat on our way home from something, I always think “I could have creamy pesto pasta made in less time than it would take to get fast food.”
Having recipes like these in our collections makes it easier to stick to a budget and bypass those times we’re tempted to order out. How much savings? Combined with a salad this would come in around $3.50-$4 for the whole meal (serving a family of 4-5).
Making Creamy Pesto Pasta
NOTE: Start the water boiling first before starting the sauce and add the pasta to the water when it’s ready. In this dish, it’s the pasta that needs the most time to cook. See? Really just 10 minutes!
Making a white sauce is really very simple. I didn’t use to think so, back when I made everything with a can of cream-of-something soup. But once I learned there was no going back. Especially when I realized that a white sauce has four ingredients (butter, flour, milk, & salt) and the canned creamed soups have…well, a lot. Plus things I don’t recognize as food. It goes without saying that the taste is way better.
1. Melt 1/4 cup of butter in a medium saucepan. Add 1/4 cup of flour and mix well over medium heat (you can see it bubbling some in the top picture). You just want it combined and bubbly a bit, but not brown (that’s becoming a roux, then!).
2. Slowly add 2 cups of milk, stirring with a whisk. Cook and stir until the sauce thickens. Add a teaspoon of salt or to taste.
How easy is that- 1/4 cup each of butter and flour, two cups milk and some salt? I can’t believe I ever thought it was hard!
3. When the sauce has thickened, add the pesto. This can be to your taste. I usually add one of my small containers of frozen pesto which are between 1/2-3/4 cup.
4. Drain the pasta and reserve a little of the pasta water in a cup measure. Add the creamy pesto sauce to the pasta and toss until the noodles are coated, adding the reserved pasta water as needed if the sauce needs thinning.
There you have it. One more recipe in the arsenal against the last-minute “let’s just grab something to eat” scenario – and maybe your next family favorite recipe, too.