Creamy Pesto Pasta

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Creamy Pesto Pasta with fettuccine noodles, broccoli, and sun-dried tomatoes is tossed in a flavorful pesto Alfredo sauce. This pasta dish is easy to make and can be ready in 30 minutes or less!

Pair Creamy Pesto Pasta with a light side dish such as this cucumber salad, panzanella salad, or roasted asparagus.

Overhead image of Creamy Pesto Pasta in the pot with serving spoons in it ready to be served and eaten.

Creamy Pesto Pasta

Creamy Pesto Pasta is my new favorite dinner. It’s easy to make, loaded with flavor, and has one of my favorite ingredients: pesto! It’s also a meal that’s easily done in 30 minutes and is sure to be a hit with the whole family.

Overhead image of the pasta being cooked; the broccoli being added to the pasta; broccoli being boiled; then it all being drained

Creamy Pesto Pasta sauce ingredients

  • Butter and garlic: The sauce starts with melting butter to saute minced garlic.
  • Heavy cream: While I’d love to say you can use half and half or a lighter creamy base, this pasta just won’t turn out the same and the sauce won’t end up as thick and creamy. I recommend a good quality heavy cream, where cream is the only ingredient listed on the package.
  • Prepared basil pesto: Arguably the most important ingredient in Creamy Pesto Pasta! You’ll want to get freshly made basil pesto (or make your own), not the preserved/jarred type. Freshly made pesto is typically near fresh (not dried) pasta or in the produce section of the store. My very favorite store-bought pesto is Rana’s® Basil pesto (not sponsored). I also like Buitoni’s® pesto with basil (again, not sponsored).
  • Chicken stock: This ingredient adds flavor and dimension to the sauce; reserved pasta water works in place of the chicken stock in a pinch.
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese: Good cheese makes all the difference! I like grating the cheese with a microplane for a light texture. I do recommend freshly grated Parmesan cheese as it melts better into the sauce.
  • Salt and pepper: You may need to add more or less seasoning to the sauce, depending on the actual products you use, since pesto, chicken stock, and Parmesan cheese are all quite salty. The pasta is also cooked in salt, so will have a saltiness to it. 
  • Sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil: These are my favorite tomatoes for this dish (not sponsored). I like to get the tomatoes packed in oil and herbs because they add lots of flavor with no extra effort. I recommend getting the julienne-cut tomatoes to save you the step of chopping.

The sauce doesn’t use a whole lot of pesto, so use up leftovers in another pesto-filled recipe!

Use leftover pesto in one of these recipes

Overhead image of Creamy Pesto Pasta sauce being made and then the noodles, broccoli, and sun-dried tomatoes being added.

How to make Creamy Pesto Pasta

  1. While the pasta and broccoli are cooking, start the sauce. Sauté minced garlic in butter until fragrant.
  2. Add in heavy cream and chicken stock.
  3. Add in prepared basil pesto and Parmesan cheese.
  4. Stir until smooth, and then season sauce with salt and pepper.
  5. Add sun-dried julienne-cut tomatoes and simmer a few minutes to thicken sauce and tenderize tomatoes.
  6. Pour the drained broccoli and pasta right into the sauce.
  7. Toss the pasta and broccoli into the sauce until well coated.
  8. Serve garnished with fresh basil, more grated Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and some red pepper flakes or pepper for some heat.

Overhead image of Creamy Pesto Pasta showing all the components in it, ready to be served.

Add chicken

If you want to add in some protein to Creamy Pesto Pasta, we recommend adding chicken. I typically add in some shredded or sliced rotisserie chicken (it’s quick and easy, already seasoned, and you can often find a day-old one in the grocery store for 2 or 3 dollars). Grilled chicken would also be delicious; try this grilled chicken marinade!

Quick tips

  • Salt the pasta water: Make sure the pasta is well salted as it cooks, since salting the water is the only chance you have to season the actual pasta. I add 1 tablespoon fine sea salt when the water comes to a boil. Then wait until the water returns to a full boil before adding in the pasta. (Read more on how to properly salt your pasta water here.)
  • Increase the sauce as desired: I like to keep the heavy cream, pesto, and chicken stock by the pot and will occasionally add an extra splash of cream and/or stock and an extra spoonful of pesto after tossing everything together. Sometimes the pasta absorbs more sauce or you just want an extra saucy meal.
  • Grate Parmesan on a microplane: A microplane gives the Parmesan an amazing, super-light texture. It melts beautifully into the sauce and tastes delicious on top of Creamy Pesto Pasta.
  • Toast pine nuts: This step only takes a couple extra minutes and really amps up the flavor. To toast pine nuts, add them to a dry skillet and heat over low heat. Stir until fragrant and every-so-slightly browned, about 2-4 minutes.

Overhead image of the bowl of pasta showing fresh rotisserie chicken on top.

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Creamy Pesto Pasta

5 from 6 votes
Creamy Pesto Pasta with fettuccine noodles, broccoli, and sun-dried tomatoes is tossed in a flavorful pesto Alfredo sauce. This pasta dish is simple to make and can be ready in 30 minutes or less!
Print Recipe

Creamy Pesto Pasta

5 from 6 votes
Creamy Pesto Pasta with fettuccine noodles, broccoli, and sun-dried tomatoes is tossed in a flavorful pesto Alfredo sauce. This pasta dish is simple to make and can be ready in 30 minutes or less!
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword creamy pesto pasta
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 497kcal
Cost $6.87

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces fettuccine noodles (not an entire box)
  • Fine sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup prepared pesto (Note 1)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 3/4 cup sun-dried julienne-cut tomatoes packed in oil drained (Note 2)
  • Optional: 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (See Note 3), fresh basil, ribboned, additional Parmesan cheese for topping, red pepper flakes for heat.

Instructions

  • PASTA AND BROCCOLI: Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Generously salt the boiling water; I add a heaping tablespoon of salt. Add in the 10 ounces pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. 2-3 minutes before the pasta will be done, add the 2 cups chopped broccoli to the boiling water, stir, and continue cooking until pasta is ready. Drain both and set aside for a minute.
  • PESTO SAUCE: Meanwhile, in a large skillet (big enough to hold all the pasta), add the 2 tablespoons butter. Heat over medium heat until melted and then add in the 1 and 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic. Stir for 1 minute or until fragrant. Lower the heat if it's sizzling or browning. Add in the 3/4 cup heavy cream and 1/4 cup chicken stock. Stir to warm through and then add in the 1/4 cup prepared pesto and 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Season the sauce to taste; I add in 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Lower the heat to low and add in the sun-dried tomatoes.
  • TOSS IN PASTA: Add the hot drained pasta and broccoli to the sauce and toss with tongs to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings; you may need an extra splash of heavy cream and/or chicken stock and an extra spoonful of pesto depending on how much sauce the pasta is absorbing. Remove from heat and divide onto plates.
  • FINISHING: If desired, top individual plates with additional freshly grated Parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts (See Note 3), fresh basil, and an extra sprinkle of freshly cracked pepper (or red pepper flakes if you'd like some heat).

Recipe Notes

Note 1: The pesto is the most important ingredient in the cream sauce! Look for freshly made basil pesto (or make your own), not the preserved/jarred pesto. Freshly made pesto is typically near fresh (not dried) pasta or in the produce section of the store. My two favorites are Buitoni's® pesto with basil or Rana's® Basil pesto. I typically use Rana's basil pesto in this dish.
Note 2: I like to get the sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil and herbs because they add lots of flavor with no extra effort! I recommend getting the julienne-cut tomatoes to save you the step of chopping. 
Note 3: To toast pine nuts, place in a small saucepan over low heat. Lightly toast them until fragrant by stirring them over the low heat for about 2-4 minutes.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 4servings | Calories: 497kcal | Carbohydrates: 59.3g | Protein: 16.2g | Fat: 21.8g | Cholesterol: 39.9mg | Sodium: 368.7mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 4.5g

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14 Comments

  1. This is a perfect quick weeknight meal! We are definitely in need of those around here, now that school’s back in session! 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    I made this tonight and it was delicious! Not necessarily a big fan of pesto but both my husband and I enjoyed this pasta dish very much. And thank you for including the salt and pepper amount you use. (opposed to recipes that say salt/pepper to taste 🙁 Most appreciated!

    1. So happy you enjoyed this! Thanks for trying so many of my recipes and leaving comments on them, it means so much to me 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    During COVID-19 lockdown, I got an insane craving for pesto pasta with sun dried tomatoes and came across this recipe and BOY was it a hit at this household!!!! I can’t even cook and it turned out SO good. Roommate even said it tasted like it was restaurant worthy!!! I found several recipes, but when I saw that this one used heavy cream I knew it was “the one”. We used some local herb and oil infused sun dried tomatoes which gave it that extra zing and also some locally made pesto from our local farmers market type grocery store. I can’t say enough good things! It was perfect. Thank you!!!!!

    1. I am so happy to hear this! Pesto and sun dried tomatoes are just the best combination! Thanks for your comment! 🙂

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