This Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad is perfect as a side or as a main dish with the addition of some grilled chicken. It’s the perfect dish for summer!
I love basil. Every summer, I try and grow some and inevitably kill it. On account that basil seems to be the most simple plant to grow and maintain, it really says something about the strength of my black thumb. Last year I was doing pretty well, but then spiders decided that they wanted to live in my basil, so I was done. Nope. I don’t do spiders.
This year I will try again to master the basil – if only because I really love this creamy pesto and I can’t stomach the idea of spending ridiculous amounts of money on store bought basil. When you grow it yourself (successfully, that is) it grows so quickly that you almost need to make daily pesto – not that I’m complaining.
Creamy pesto pasta salad is one of the first dishes Alex made for me when we first started dating. To be honest, I didn’t like pesto until he introduced me to this cheese packed version, but now I crave it all the time. The ricotta in this makes the pesto so creamy and delicious, and cuts out the need for pine nuts or a ton of oil. You can always add some nuts if you’d like (we have, and it’s just as delicious!) and you can also increase the ricotta to cut down on or omit the oil. We use full-fat ricotta because, uh, delicious, but we’ve also used fat-free in the past. Use whichever you like! Just be sure to use good quality olive oil and parmesan. Since there are so few ingredients, it’s important to break out the good stuff!
Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad
1 lb pasta of choice (I used penne)
2 cups loosely packed basil
1 cup (or more!) freshly shredded parmesan cheese
1-3 crushed garlic cloves
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
Pepper, to taste
Optional: cherry tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, roasted pepper, fresh mozzarella
Cook pasta as per the directions, then drain, rinse, and toss with a little bit of olive oil to avoid sticking. Allow to cool.
Add all ingredients other than the optional add-ons to a blender or food processor and process until smooth. If needed, add salt and more pepper. It should be pretty thick, but if it seems too thick add in 1 TBS more oil and process.
Mix with toppings and pasta and serve immediately. The pesto will lose its vibrant green color the longer it sits and/or if it gets warm.
The pesto is also amazing on warm pasta, as a spread on sandwiches, and with shredded or chopped chicken as a chicken salad.
You can also sub in 1 cup of fresh spinach for 1 cup of basil to sneak in some extra veggies!
So tell me – can you keep a plant alive? What’s your favorite herb? Let me know in the comments!
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