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Pea Pesto Pasta

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Looking for a light and healthy meal? This pea pesto pasta is the perfect solution! The recipe uses rotini or corkscrew pasta and works well with a creamy pesto sauce, so it’s super simple to make. You can add in grilled veggies or chicken for a complete dinner. Or, served cold and veggie pesto pasta salad is the perfect light meal for any day.

pea pesto pasta on a white salad plate on top of a wooden board with a hand holding a silver fork
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Healthy Pesto Pasta with Peas

Why I love this pea pesto pasta recipe is because it’s light and healthy, but still filling. And this quick and easy pasta works well with the basil pesto sauce.

The pesto sauce is so creamy and delicious, made with fresh basil, parsley, parmesan cheese, and olive oil. Plus, pesto is an ultimate sauce because it has many uses.

It’s also great for meal prep because it can be made ahead of time and refrigerated until you’re ready to eat.

This veggie pesto pasta salad is also perfect for a summer potluck or backyard barbecue. Just serve it chilled to make it a summer pesto pasta salad with vegetables.

Or serve the pesto pasta peas warm as the ultimate side pasta dish.

pesto rotini and silverwares on a white bowl on top of a wooden board

Also, you can add in whatever veggies or protein you like. I like to add grilled chicken or shrimp. But really, the options are endless.

So if you’re looking for a light and healthy meal, this pesto bowtie pasta salad is the perfect option!

Ingredients for Pea Pesto Pasta

For the Pesto

  • Toasted pine nutsbase of our pesto and adds crunch to the finished pasta
  • Garlicadds a delicious flavor to the pesto
  • Lemonadds bright zingy freshness to the pesto
  • Basilbase of our pesto
  • Parmesanadds a salty nuttiness to the pesto
  • Olive oilhelps thin the pesto
ingredients for veggie pesto pasta salad sauce which contains basil, parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts, garlic, and lemon juice

For the Pasta

  • Rotini pasta use any pasta, like bowtie pasta (see notes for variations
  • Frozen Peasadds a fresh and vibrant flavor
  • Toasted pine nutsmore crunchy goodness
ingredients for cooking the summer pesto pasta salad which contains rotini pasta, green peas, toasted pine nuts, and pesto sauce.

Ingredient notes

  • If you can’t find toasted pine nuts in the grocery store, you can toast raw nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, or just until fragrant.  
  • Don’t skip the garlic because it gives the pesto pea salad a delicious flavor.
  • Using freshly squeezed lemon juice is important. I don’t recommend using bottled juice because it is reconstituted and won’t taste as good.
  • Make sure the basil is fresh, not wilted or brown.
  • I recommend a high-quality olive oil to enhance the flavor of the basil and parmesan.
  • We used rotini or twist pasta, but you could use any shape you like. Bow tie pasta and cellentani noodles make a great presentation. I recommend using dried pasta over fresh pasta.
  • Frozen peas are a great way to get the flavor of fresh peas when they’re not in season. But, if you have access to fresh peas, use those instead!

Equipment for cooking pesto rotini Pasta

veggie pesto pasta salad on a salad plate on top of a wood board with another salad on plate on the background and a white cloth

Cooking the Veggie Pesto Pasta Salad

FOR THE PESTO

To make the pesto sauce, put the pine nuts, garlic, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor. Then pulse until the garlic and nuts are chopped up into small pieces.

pine nuts garlic and lemon juice blended in a food processor

Add the basil and parmesan to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the basil is chopped into small pieces.

toasted pine nuts, basil, and parmesan mixed in a food processor

With the food processor on low, slowly add the olive oil. Continue to pulse until the pesto is smooth and free of any lumps. Then season with salt and pepper to taste.

all mixed up ingredients for pesto sauce with olive oil in a food processor

Set aside until ready to use.

FOR THE PASTA

To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook it for 1 minute less than the time recommended on the box. This will make sure that the pasta is cooked al dente.

Add the peas and cook for a minute more, or until they are done to your liking.

bowtie pasta and green peas on a stock pot

Then remove 1 cup of pasta water and drain the pasta and peas.

Add the basil pesto and ¼ cup of pasta water to a large bowl. Whisk to combine. Then add the pasta and peas to the bowl and toss to combine.

processed pesto sauce on a large bowl

If the pasta is too dry, add an additional ¼ cup of starchy pasta water. Then add kosher salt and black pepper to taste.

rotini pasta mixed with pesto sauce on a large bowl

Enjoy your pesto rotini dish by garnishing toasted pine nuts on top.

pea pesto pasta salad on a white salad plate with silverware on the side on top of a wooden board

This pesto rotini pasta can be eaten warm, at room temperature, or cold.

You can store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. This will help keep the pea pesto pasta fresh.

Recipe Variations

  • Summer Pesto Pasta Salad – serve it chilled as the perfect summer pesto pasta salad with vegetables. You can add some cherry tomatoes and mozzarella cheese for even more flavor.
  • Pea Pesto Pasta – served warm as a side dish for dinner.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you wash basil before making pesto?

It is important to wash your basil leaves before making pesto. Do not immerse the leaves in water, just rinse them and dry them immediately. You should rinse basil leaves to ensure that any gritty dirt is washed off.

Can you eat the pesto raw?

Pesto is typically made with raw ingredients, which means that it is safe to eat without cooking.

Why can’t you heat up the pesto sauce?

If you heat up pesto, it will cause the ingredients to change the color and texture. Excess heat causes the oils in the pesto to separate and break down.

What can you substitute for parmesan cheese in pesto?

You can use grated pecorino cheese.

What can I use instead of lemon juice in pesto?

You can use lime juice or white wine vinegar. They will both add a zing and brightness to the pesto.

pea pesto pasta on a salad plate on top of a wooden board

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a salad plate with pea pesto pasta and silverwares beside the plate on top of a wooden board
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5 from 1 vote

Pesto Pea Pasta

Restaurant quality pesto pasta can be made at home with this easy recipe, This tasty pea pesto pasta is the perfect side dish (served warm) or pasta salad (served cold). Everyone will love this fresh, tasty macaroni with the crunchiness of peas.
Course Main Course, Side Dish, Salad
Cuisine Italian, American
Keyword Pasta, pasta sauce, pasta dinner, vegetarian, pasta salad, pesto, pesto recipe, pasta recipes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 540kcal

Equipment

  • food processor (for pesto sauce)
  • large sauce pan or stock pot (for pasta)
  • colander
  • large serving bowl

Ingredients

For the Pesto

  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ lemon juiced
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves tightly packed
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese grated or shredded
  • cup extra virgin olive oil

For the Pasta

  • 16 ounces rotini pasta (or rigatoni, bowtie, or other pasta)
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts

Instructions

For the Pesto

  • Combine the pine nuts, garlic, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the garlic and nuts are broken up into small pieces.
  • Add the basil and parmesan and pulse until the basil is broken up into small pieces as well.
  • With the food processor on low, slowly add the olive oil. Continue to pulse until the pesto is smooth and lump-free. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Set aside until ready to use.

For the Pasta

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 1 minute less than al dente (check the time on the box as different brands will have different cook times).
  • Add the peas and cook for an additional minute, or just until al dente.
  • Remove 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta and peas.
  • Add the pesto and ¼ cup of pasta water to a large bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the pasta and peas to the bowl and toss to combine. If the pasta is too dry, add an additional ¼ cup of starchy pasta water. Season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste.
  • Garnish with toasted pine nuts and enjoy. This pasta can be enjoyed warm, at room temperature, or chilled.
  • Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.

Notes

  • Pine nuts are the base of our pesto but they also add crunch to the finished pasta. If you can’t find toasted pine nuts in the grocery store, you can toast raw nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, or just until fragrant.
  • Garlic adds a delicious flavor to the pesto. Don’t skip it!
  • Lemon adds bright freshness to the pesto. Freshly squeezed lemon juice is key– I don’t recommend using bottled juice here.
  • Basil is the base of our pesto– make sure it’s fresh, not wilted or brown. ● Parmesan adds a salty nuttiness to the pesto.
  • Olive oil helps thin the pesto– I recommend a robust, good-quality olive oil that can stand up to the flavor of the basil and parmesan.
  • We are using rotini pasta but you could use any shape you like bowtie or cellentani – we recommend dried pasta, not fresh pasta.
  • Frozen peas are a great shortcut for when fresh peas aren’t in season– if you have access to fresh peas, use those instead!

Nutrition

Calories: 540kcal | Carbohydrates: 67g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 6mg | Sodium: 142mg | Potassium: 401mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 862IU | Vitamin C: 26mg | Calcium: 147mg | Iron: 3mg

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