Cheesy Basil Pesto Pasta
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Deliciously flavorful basil pesto, ricotta cheese & cream cheese are combined to make a creamy, cheesy sauce. The sauce is tossed with pasta shells in this easy 20 minute pesto pasta recipe!
To say that I’m a big fan of pesto would be the understatement of the century!
I make half a dozen different types of homemade pesto and use them in tons of different recipes! Basil Pesto is delicious on Baked Salmon. And Sun Dried Tomato Pesto is perfect in this One Pot Vegetarian Tortellini dish!
Pesto can be used on everything from sandwiches to pizza to grilled chicken. But its most popular use is tossed with pasta!
Instead of simply tossing pasta with pesto, in this recipe I made a creamy, cheesy pesto sauce. It’s rich, creamy and decadent! It can be served as a side dish with an entree like Italian Meatloaf or Bruschetta Chicken Parmesan.
It can also be served as a main dish. If you want a more complete meal, add a protein like grilled chicken or steak to this delicious Pesto Pasta!
Table of contents
Step by step instructions
- Boil water. Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove. Add medium pasta shells and cook until al dente, 8-9 minutes. Drain the pasta and set aside.
- Make the cheesy pesto sauce. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. Add cream cheese, ricotta cheese, basil pesto and vegetable broth to a large sauce pot on the stove over medium heat. Once the cheeses have melted together into a smooth sauce, add garlic powder, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Toss it together. Add the cooked pasta shells to the cheesy pesto sauce and toss everything together.
Ways to serve it
- As a side dish.
- This cheesy pasta dish is like Italian mac and cheese. It’s the perfect side dish to go with your favorite Italian entree. In America, we like to serve mac and cheese with fried chicken. For a similar concept, serve this Cheesy Pesto Pasta with crispy Chicken Parmesan!
- As an entree.
- This pasta dish is rich and hearty! It’s perfect if you’re in the mood for an extra creamy, cheesy bowl of comfort food. Just go ahead, grab a fork & dig right into this bowl of goodness!
- If you’d like to complete the meal with a protein, I highly recommend chicken or steak. Toss the chicken or steak with basil pesto, then grill it, slice it and place it on top of the pasta.
- For a healthy addition to this dish, add fresh cherry tomatoes or sautéed spinach. You can also add steamed broccoli, bell peppers or zucchini.
Which pasta is best with pesto?
I love making this pasta dish with medium shells. All of the creamy pesto sauce gets caught up in the shells for maximum creamy, cheesy pesto goodness in every bite! Orecchiette, macaroni or cavatappi pasta would also work well in this recipe.
How to reheat it
Add a splash of vegetable broth to the pasta before reheating it. This helps it maintain it’s creaminess without drying out. Reheat the dish, covered in the microwave, for 2 minutes.
Can it be eaten cold?
This dish is best served warm. While it can be eaten cold, the creamy texture of the sauce is not the same. I recommend serving the dish hot.
More cheesy pasta recipes to try
For more cheesy pasta goodness, check out these popular recipes!
- Buffalo Chicken Cheesy Penne
- One Pot Italian Sausage Shells & Cheese
- Four Cheese Baked Rigatoni with Spinach Alfredo Sauce
- One Pot Buffalo Chicken Cheesy Tortellini
- BBQ Chicken Mac & Cheese
Cheesy Basil Pesto Pasta
- 12 oz uncooked medium shell pasta
- 8 oz cream cheese
- ½ cup ricotta cheese
- ½ cup basil pesto
- ½ cup vegetable broth
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- Boil a large pot of water on the stove, add the pasta shells and cook until al dente, 8-9 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, prepare the cheesy pesto sauce.
- In a large sauce pot, melt the cream cheese, ricotta cheese, basil pesto and vegetable broth together over medium heat.
- Add the garlic powder, black pepper and salt.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer 5-10 minutes.
- Add the cooked pasta shells to the sauce.
- Toss together and serve.
- To reheat the pasta, add 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable broth to the dish. Microwave covered for 2 minutes.
- If you want to add a protein to the dish, I recommend tossing chicken or steak with basil pesto and grilling the meat. Slice the meat then add it on top of the cheesy pesto pasta.
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4 Comments on “Cheesy Basil Pesto Pasta”
Have you ever made this topped with cheese and baked?
I have not, but it sounds delicious! Maybe also some breadcrumbs on top for a little crunch?
Can this be made without ricotta? What would you need to add if you left out the ricotta. Thanks!
Hi Melanie, yes, you could substitute cottage cheese or goat cheese for the ricotta cheese or just leave it out altogether if you’d like. The cream cheese is really the base of the creamy, cheesy sauce, so it would still work even if you left out the ricotta cheese.