Pasta with Pesto Sauce Recipe. All Variations



The great classic wears many exciting hats. It is traditionally based on most often based on basil, olive oil, and toasted walnuts.

But we have seen it recast with a different herb or nut, and tasting just as delicious and interesting. Use it not only as a pasta sauce but as topping for cooked chicken or fish, or a dip. I find that toasting the nuts intensifies the pesto’s flavor, so don’t skip that step!

Gluten-Free Pesto?

Gluten free pastaYou bet! This is my favorite gluten-free pasta brand. And not even because I keep gluten-free (I don’t) but because it is simply amazing: delicious, that’s a given. But in addition to that, it is a nutritional powerhouse: a whopping 24 grams protein per 2 oz serving, and very high in fiber. A win-win. It makes wheat pasta and even rice pasta sound like a total waste of calories and carbs, sorry guys, devitalized and devitalizing. I used to hardly ever eat pasta until I found this one!


Pesto keeps a good few weeks in the refrigerator

Pesto sauce

Boy you’ll be happy to take out that jar when you want pasta in a hurry. The olive oil preserves all other ingredients in the sauce, and keeps it fresh and vibrant. And if you make a double  batch like I do, it will freeze beautifully.

Many of us can’t have nuts.

Does this mean we will never enjoy Pesto? Heaven Forbid, no it doesn’t. And this is always your chance to show off your resourcefulness: use seeds, play with all the variations in the recipe and get a different and exciting dish every time. Even no nuts or seeds altogether. You will love my sun-dried tomato pesto.

No cheese either?

For that matter, many of us can’t have cheese. And here again, just as the nut-free variation, a no-cheese, or 100% vegan cheese variation works beautifully. Even no cheese at all will work great. Cheese need not be integral part of the pesto dish.

Scroll down for all exciting variations!


  • 2 cups basil leaves, packed
  • ½ cup good olive oil
  • 1∕3 cup toasted walnuts (about 15 minutes in a preheated 300 °F oven)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • I pound of your favorite pasta, including Gluten-Free Pasta, or Low-Carb Pasta, cooked according to the manufacturer's instructions, 1/2 cup of the cooking water reserved.
  • 1/2 cup- 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan, optional


Process all pesto ingredients in a food processor until smooth but still a little chunky, not a complete paste. Toss with the pasta and reserved cooking water, and add the parmesan, if desired
Makes about 2 cups pesto sauce. If using later, store refrigerated in a glass jar.


In the same proportions:

  •  Substitute parsley, cilantro, mint, spinach, arugala, and watercress for the basil (I love the watercress-arugala combo)
  •  Substitute pecans, pine nuts, hazelnuts, and pistachios for the walnuts.
  • Can't have nuts? USe toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds
  • Add some freshly grated Parmesan. In this case, omit the salt.
  • No nuts: Try my unbelievable Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
1 reply
  1. Seyma
    Seyma says:

    Seriously addictive pesto–you will not want to buy the jarred stuff after making this at home. It will leave your kitchen wonderfully fragrant!


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