Pea Pesto Penne Pasta
Creamy Pea Pesto Penne Pasta is a light plant-based dinner filled with the bright, fresh flavors of basil, lemon, garlic, and peas. This post has been sponsored by Barilla America, Inc. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Pasta night happens at least once a week in our house, and it’s always a favorite. I’ve shared some red sauce recipes in the past, like How to Make Marinara with Fresh Tomatoes, Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce, and Lentil Bolognese. Lately, we’ve been craving light and fresh pasta dishes and have been having so much fun making fresh pesto. Homemade pea pesto sauce with Barilla Collezione Penne pasta and wilted spinach makes a delicious family pasta night.
My girls have always loved peas in pasta, and there’s even a pasta with pesto, peas, and roasted butternut squash in our cookbook. To make our pesto pasta extra creamy, and give it a boost of plant-based protein, we added a cup of peas right into the pesto.
Pea Pesto Ingredients
Pesto ingredients typically include lots of fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil as the base. I personally prefer the flavor of walnuts in pesto, so that’s what I used in this recipe. Fresh lemon juice brightens up the flavors while helping preserve this pesto’s bright green color for longer. I use frozen peas that have been thawed in this recipe, which makes things very easy as there’s almost always a bag of peas in our freezer. Peas taste great in this pesto but are also a good source of plant-based protein at about 8 grams per cup. With a good sauce, though, you must have the right pasta to take this dish to the next level. Read on for our family’s favorite pasta brand.
Best Pasta for Pesto
I always like to use a high quality Italian pasta for our pasta night feasts. Barilla® Collezione pasta is a Bronze Cut, which creates a texture that perfectly holds sauces. Our pea pesto fills up those wonderful little pasta ridges rather than slipping right off. I found the Barilla Collezione line at our local SoCal Albertsons, right in the pasta section. It was even on sale—score! You can save $1.50 off two Barilla Collezione with the coupon.
How to Make Pea Pesto Sauce
Making homemade pesto is so easy and takes about 5 minutes. I pulse the garlic, walnuts, basil, peas, salt, and pepper until smooth, adding a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil through the feed tube.
The result is a flavorful, creamy, bright green pea pesto sauce. Taste it and add more salt or pepper if you’d like. If you have any left over, it’s also very tasty on crostini.
Cook the Collezione Penne until al dente in salted water. When the penne is about 1 minute away from being finished, add the remaining 1/2 cup of peas to the boiling water. Important tip: before draining the pasta, carefully reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. This starchy water will help loosen up the pesto to create a thinner sauce.
How to Serve Pea Pesto Pasta
Once the Collezione Penne is cooked and tossed with the pea pesto and pasta water, I like to wilt in a few handfuls of baby spinach or arugula. This simple Pea Pesto Penne Pasta doesn’t need anything else, but sometimes I’ll add some sautéed garlic mushrooms or halved cherry tomatoes. It’s also great with dairy-free Parmesan or a dollop of my Vegan Ricotta. Find additional Collezione recipes here.
- 3 large cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed (divided)
- 1 lb. Barilla® Collezione Penne
- Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.
- Meanwhile, make the pesto. Pulse the garlic in a food processor to chop. Add the walnuts, basil, lemon juice, salt, pepper an one cup of the peas. Process until all the ingredients are very finely ground. With the processor running, drizzle the olive oil down the feed tube and process until smooth. Turn off the machine and season the pea pesto to taste.
- Cook the penne until al dente, about 12 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of peas during the last minute of cooking. Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Stir in the pesto and spinach. Slowly stir in the pasta water until the desired consistency has been reached.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 318Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 119mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 4gSugar: 3gProtein: 8g