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.

A pot filled with bright green vegan pea pesto penne pasta topped with fresh basil leaves.

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

Ingredients for vegan pea and basil pesto on a wooden cutting board: whole lemon, bowl of walnuts, bowl of peas, fresh basil, garlic, salt, and olive oil.

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

Barilla Collezione penne pasta on a cutting board with basil. boxes of Barilla Collezione penne and bucatini in an Albertson's grocery store.

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

Ingredients for pea pesto in a food processor include walnuts, basil, and peas.

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. 

Beautiful bright green vegan pea pesto in a food processor.

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. 

A close-up image of steaming cooked penne pasta with peas in a pot.

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

Pea pesto penne pasta in a white bowl with mushrooms and fresh basil. This vegan pesto pasta is a delicious lunch or dinner recipe.

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

A bowl of vegan pea pesto pasta with mushrooms and spinach sit on a grey countertop with a bowl of vegan cheese.

This easy vegan pea pesto pasta is made with walnuts, peas, basil, and garlic. It's a flavorful and comforting vegetarian and vegan lunch or dinner that's kid-friendly.

Yield: Serves 6

Pea Pesto Pasta

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 22 minutes

Creamy pea pesto penne pasta is a light plant-based dinner filled with the bright fresh flavors of basil, lemon, garlic, and peas.

Pea Pesto Pasta

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.
  2. 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.
  3. 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: 318 Total Fat: 18g Saturated Fat: 2g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 15g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 119mg Carbohydrates: 32g Fiber: 4g Sugar: 3g Protein: 8g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Nutritionix. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your favorite calculator.