what pasta goes with pesto

What pasta goes with pesto? Pesto sauce is a beloved Italian pesto sauce that differs significantly from heavy cream sauces or robust red sauces.

But because the texture is so different and unique it can be hard to decide what pasta goes with pesto the best.

Most people don’t think about what pasta they serve with what sauce, but it can make a massive difference in the final dish.

Read on to learn what pasta goes with pesto sauce (and why) along with the importance of the shapes and sizes.

Pasta shapes with small nooks and crannies or lots of surface area are the best choice for the light pesto sauce; avoid cupped pasta or tubular shapes.

What Is Pesto Sauce Made Of?

pesto sauce

Pesto sauce does not contain any cream but instead is an oil-based sauce, meaning it works best with certain types of pasta.

Oil-based pasta sauces are lighter and more slippery than tomato-based, like a Ragu, or cream-based sauces, like Alfredo.

The main ingredients include pine nuts, crushed garlic, basil leaves, and hard cheese – usually Pecorino Sardo or Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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These ingredients are then all blended together with olive oil.

What Pasta Goes With Pesto Sauce?

As an easy tip, remember that most long kinds of pasta go well with pesto sauce, but there are also short kinds of pasta that carry the sauce perfectly.

what pasta goes with pesto

Below are the best kinds of pasta for pesto to make the sauce stand out, so every bite is delicious.


While there are several options, paradelle may be the best answer. Pappardelle is a super-wide and flat noodle with tons of surface area and a smooth texture.

It looks like thick ribbons on a plate and carries oil-based sauces well.

Pappardelle isn’t the most common kind of pasta, but it’s worth finding a box if you want to serve the perfect pesto dish.


Linguini is a long pasta with a lot of surface area.

The noodle is wider and thinner than many other long kinds of pasta, so there’s more surface area for the sauce to land on!

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the linguini

Linguine has a chewy texture. It offers an excellent ratio of pasta to pesto. Every bite is well balanced and flavorful for the best pesto experience.

Most long kinds of pasta will work with pesto sauce, such as angel hair and spaghetti, but pappardelle and linguini are the best because they have more surface area to carry sauce.

Note: Linguini is a dish that was traditionally associated with sauces like pesto.


Conchiglie is a short pasta type that appears in the form of seashells.

Due to its shape, the pasta has its own ‘pockets’ that are perfect for scooping up sauce.

This pasta works especially well with pesto sauce when extra cream is added, topped off with some nuts.


the trofie

Trofie is a short, thin twisted pasta featuring textured ridges that can hold pesto well.

But it also has plenty of surface area due to the elongated shape.

While this is technically a short pasta, it combines the nooks and crannies with the extra surface area, making it one of the best varieties of pasta for pesto.

Note: Using trofie often increases the pesto to pasta ratio, so you get more sauce with every piece, but still not too much.

If you’re a pesto fanatic, this may be your new favorite pasta for pesto.

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Fusilli is the corkscrew kind of pasta with lots of tiny grooves and shelves for the pesto sauce to sit, but not pool.

The shape of fusilli allows the excess sauce to fall off the pasta while still trapping enough pesto to make for a yummy bite and enjoyable dish.

the fusilli

This is a great option if you have other vegetables mixed with the pesto, like mushrooms or spinach.

The fusilli is easy to grab with a fork, along with the other veggies, so you get all the flavors in a single bite.

Note: Use different herbs like oregano or basil to add extra flavor.


Gnocchi is another effective pasta for pesto because it has a decent surface area and a complimentary texture.

Many gnocchi styles also have small crimps or gutters that can help hold more of the pesto for a flavorful bite.

Many people don’t know this, but the potatoes and pesto are a match made in heaven—one that makes a harmonious combination of textures and flavors.

the gnocchi

When deciding what pasta to serve with pesto sauce, these little potato dumplings can make for a delicious and satisfying meal.

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The light and airy texture is wonderful, and the flavor of the potato is subtle enough that the basil flavor of the pesto comes through perfectly.

Note: Gnocchi is one of the most filling varieties of pasta.


Farfalle is excellent if you’re deciding which pasta to add to mix with your pesto.

It has a decent surface area thanks to the flat-ish bowtie shape.

And where the bowtie crimps in the center offer little nooks and crannies where the sauce can get stuck.

These little spots hold the sauce in just the right amount, giving you a bite that is flavorful but not overwhelming.

the farfalle

Most people wouldn’t eat a spoonful of straight pesto as the sauce tastes better in smaller quantities, so why would you want pasta that offers a scoopful of pesto?

Farfalle is the perfect short pasta if you want to drench your pasta with pesto but don’t want the ratio to be off.

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Plus, farfalle is such a cute pasta that most people love using it to create a beautiful meal.

In general, large or regular-sized farfalle, as opposed to mini-farfalle, is the best option for pesto.


When you’re looking for surface area, there is no better kind of pasta than lasagna!

These wide and flat noodles help evenly distribute the pesto sauce in each bite, so you get the right amount.

the lasagna

Many people think of lasagna as just a red sauce meal, but ricotta and pesto go beautifully together, and you can impress guests with a surprising green lasagna!

Just make sure you make plenty of pasta for the whole lasagna and distribute it evenly in every layer.

Note: Sauce is the heart of a good lasagna, no matter how much cheese it might have


If you have more questions about using and making pesto sauce and what pasta goes with pesto sauce, refer to the questions and answers below.

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questions about pasta

Can You Make Pesto without Oil?

You can make pesto without oil! It will be thicker, but it will still pair well with the kinds of pasta mentioned above. A common substitute for olive oil is lemon juice, adding some zest to the flavor.

Can You Make Pesto with Cream?

You can make a creamy pesto that features more dairy than is typical. If you do this, consider using kinds of pasta that work well with cream-based sauces like penne or shells.

Can I Make Pasta without Basil?

While basil is the main ingredient in pesto, you can swap it out for different kinds of green herbs such as parsley, cilantro, mint, or sage.

Or you can use leafy greens like kale and spinach, but the flavor won’t be as aromatic and earthy.


So.now you know what pasta goes with pasta so next time you break out that little green jar and wonder what pasta to serve with pasta, remember, the surface area is your friend!

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While pesto has an amazing flavor, too much can have an awkward texture and an overwhelming flavor.

What pasta you serve the sauce with will determine how much pesto you get on each bite. 

It’s important to know what pasta goes with pesto so you can balance every bite and have the best pasta experience possible!

Whether you make fresh pesto at home or use the jarred pesto for a quick and easy meal, choosing the right pasta can make all the difference!