Creamy Pesto Pasta with Parmesan Garlic Breadcrumbs

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Jump to RecipeA bowl of creamy pesto pasta with breadcrumbs and parmesan on top.

When you are looking for a quick dinner on busy weeknights, this pesto pasta is an easy meal choice. The creamy pesto sauce comes together really quickly and you can make the breadcrumbs and sauce all in the same pan. It is a creamy and filling pasta that the whole family will love any night of the week.

This recipe is made with simple ingredients and has the ability to easily adapt to use what you have on hand. I have made it with store bought pesto and homemade and they both turned out delicious!

What type of pasta to use?

You can really use any type of pasta shape with this sauce but I think medium shapes work the best. I love cavatappi, penne pasta, or rigatoni. You could even use farfalle, gemelli, or fusilli.

I think this recipe tastes best with regular pasta but brown rice or whole wheat pasta will work here as well. I would avoid using chickpea or lentil pasta because it will breakdown a little too much in the sauce.

What type of pesto to use?

A classic basil pesto works best in the recipe. You can use store-bought pesto, like this Seggiano pesto. Using store bought will take less time and is a great way to make this recipe that much quicker.

You can also make a homemade basil pesto with fresh basil and pine nuts. There is a full recipe in the notes below if you want to try that. If you don't have pine nuts you can also make pesto with pumpkin seeds, walnuts, or cashews.

I think homemade pesto makes this recipe a little bit better and you really get a vibrant green color, but with that said, I have made it with store bought and it turned out delicious!

A wooden spoon in a pan with creamy pesto pasta.

Tips and Variations

  • Add some protein. If you want to add more to the pasta you can add in some shrimp or chicken. You could even add some roasted chickpeas to keep it vegetarian.
  • Add in extra veggies. If you want this pasta to be a little more hearty you can add in some roasted veggies like broccoli or cauliflower. You could also toss in a handful of sliced cherry tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes for a bright pop of color and flavor. If you want even more greens, mix in some fresh spinach into the sauce until wilted.
  • Save some pasta water. When you are cooking your pasta make sure to save about 1/2-1 cup of the pasta cooking water. When you are making the sauce you can use this water to thin out the sauce as needed. This water is extra starchy so it helps emulsify into the sauce really well. Depending on your pesto you might use a little or a lot of the pasta water.
  • Make it extra creamy. The pasta to sauce ratio for this recipe gives you a nice light creamy sauce. If you want more sauce I would make it with only 8oz of pasta but keep the sauce amount the same. You could also double the sauce recipe to really add in that extra creaminess.
  • Add some heat. If you like a little bit of spice try adding some red pepper flakes to the sauce. Add a pinch while making the sauce and then top with more if you desire.

How to Store for Later

This is a great pasta recipe to store for leftovers. Store your leftover pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. When you reheat it, add a splash of water to help thin out the sauce and microwave it until warm.

Feel free to add in a little extra pesto or parmesan at this point if needed.

What does pesto pasta go with?

You can serve pesto pasta as a lunch or dinner meal. If you want a little something extra with it add a side of crusty bread, a nice salad, or you can top it with some additional protein.

Other Pesto Recipes

If you like this creamy pesto pasta recipe you might like some of these other pesto recipes.

Creamy Pesto Pasta with Parmesan Garlic Breadcrumbs

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  • 12oz dried pasta (any shape will do but I love cavatappi or penne)
  • 1 cup basil pesto (homemade recipe in notes or use store bought)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Garlic Breadcrumbs

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese


  1. Start by boiling a large pot of water and cooking your pasta according to package instructions. When the pasta is almost done, scoop out about 1/2 cup of pasta water. (You can use this to thin out the sauce later).
  2. While that cooks, start your garlic breadcrumb. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add in the breadcrumbs, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Mix everything so it is nicely coated in the olive oil. Cook this for about 3 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Turn off the heat and add in your parmesan. Toss together until everything is nice and golden brown, about 1 more minute. Place the breadcrumbs in a separate bowl and set aside.
  3. Now make the sauce. You can use the same skillet, just wipe out any excess breadcrumbs. Place the skillet over medium-low heat and add the pesto. Once it is warm mix in the heavy cream and half of the parmesan.
  4. Add your drained pasta to the pesto cream sauce and toss together. To thin out the sauce add in a little bit of that reserved pasta water as needed. Taste and add salt and pepper, I usually add a pinch of salt and a few good cracks of pepper at this point (remember the breadcrumbs will also bring some salty flavor).
  5. Serve and top with the garlic parmesan breadcrumbs and the rest of the parmesan cheese.


Simple fresh basil pesto recipe:

Add everything to a food processor and blend until smooth.

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