The vegetarian pesto pasta is the most popular pasta recipe with the iconic Italian sauce – Basil pesto! This is pasta at its best!
This vegetarian pesto pasta is the best pasta I have made till date. Being an Indian, or to be specific, being a non-Italian, I am no pro in making pasta dishes. I am still on my learning curve to make pasta in its most authentic Italian form. I was making my pasta dishes in the way which you may not call the most authentic Italian way! And then a magic happened in the name of basil pesto. I was so mad at myself for not discovering this magical ingredient earlier; if I had, I could have savored this best ever vegetarian pesto pasta a few more times and be thankful to life!
This vegetarian pesto pasta with cheesy pesto is just mind-blowing! So, during my self-training sessions of pasta making, I realized that cheese and pasta cannot be separated whatsoever. You have to have those bubbling gooey-ness over your plate of vegetarian pesto pasta which just takes everything to a whole new level – I would say it elevates its flavor quotient to a new paradigm!
My husband likes spaghetti but my personal preference is short pasta. I especially like Rigatoni, without any specific reason though. I like its shape and textured body which makes the pasta dish look beautiful. But of course, you are welcome to use any pasta of your choice for making this vegetarian pesto pasta – short or long. Pesto works equally well with long pastas like spaghetti, tagliatelle, Fettuccine, Linguine etc.
I used yellow cheddar cheese in my vegetarian pesto pasta recipe because I like the sharpness of cheddar. Parmigiano Reggiano, which is the most popular Italian cheese, will also be great in this vegetarian pesto pasta recipe. This rigatoni pesto pasta will be perfect for a weeknight dinner when you are pressed for time but still don’t want to compromise on your source of energy which is of course food! Good food that is!
- Rigatoni pasta – 250 gms
- Basil leaves – 2 cups, packed
- Garlic – 4 + 2 cloves
- Pine nuts – 1 cup
- Extra virgin olive oil – ¾ th cup
- Lemon juice – 1 tsp
- Cheddar cheese – 100 gms
- Chicken breast - 2
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a food processor or chopper, add the basil leaves, pine nuts, 4 garlic cloves, salt and lemon juice. Process it for half a minute.
- Now with the processor on, drizzle olive oil through the feed tube. The pesto will turn thick and emulsified. Process until all the nuts and basil leaves have turned into a thick paste. Set aside.
- Boil the rigatoni pasta in generously seasoned boiling water as per the packer instruction. Retain some of the pasta boiling water and drain out the rest. Drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil over the boiled pasta to prevent them from drying.
- Cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. Season with salt and pepper.
- Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or saute pan with high sides. Crush and add the remaining 2 cloves of garlic and stir so that garlic doesn't burn.
- Add the chicken pieces and fry on medium heat until brown and cooked through.
- Add in the boiled rigatoni and couple of spoons of reserved pasta water to loosen things.
- Add the basil pesto and stir well to coat everything with the bright green pesto.
- When the pasta has turned dry, transfer it to a baking/microwavable dish or and spread evenly.
- Grate all the cheddar cheese over the pasta covering the top fully. Now either you can bake this in a pre-heated oven at 180 degree C for 15 to 20 minutes or microwave on high for 3 to 4 minutes until the cheese melts.
- Garnish with fresh basil and serve hot.