Pesto rigatoni is a quick and easy creamy pasta with a homemade basil pesto sauce. Full of herby fresh citrus flavour, this pasta is perfect any night of the week. Rigatoni pesto pasta allows for dinner being on the table in less than 15 minutes!
The Rigatoni Gorgonzola is all about dreamy, creamy gorgonzola and pasta.
🤍 Recipe Highlights
I have summarised everything that you will come to know and love (LOVE ❤) about the recipe in the points below:
- Versatile: you can make the recipe as is and dinner is done. Or you can add some grilled chicken, fish or sliced tomatoes and bocconcini.
- Minimal effort: whilst using store bought pesto would take even less elbow grease than making your own, this recipe still has a lot less involved than simmering a hearty bolognese sauce.
- Everyday ingredients: the ingredients needed for the dish are simple and easy to find at your local supermarket, or garden if you grow basil 😉👍
- Fast cook time: we cook the pasta yet combine the pesto and pasta with no heat, making it for a super fast to cook pesto rigatoni recipe.
- Vegetarian: opt for a Meatless Monday idea and make the pasta on a night when you want to eat a vegetarian meat free dinner.
The photo below is to show you everything you need to make the recipe. Please refer to the printable recipe card for specific ingredient measurements as well as detailed instructions.
As you can see the recipe calls for:
- Rigatoni: this is a tubular pasta that is bigger than macaroni yet smaller than cannelloni. More often sold as a dried pasta only not in the fresh pasta section of the supermarket.
- Pistachio nuts: a fantastic nut to use when making pesto as they form a crumb which adds a lovely chunky texture to the pesto.
- Garlic: fresh cloves if you have them or minced garlic if that is your only option.
- Pecorino romano cheese: a great alternative made from sheep's milk, whereas parmesan cheese is made from cow's milk. Either of these are perfect and can be used to the specified amount.
- Olive oil: acts as the glue or binding agent to bring all of the rest of the ingredients together to form a paste.
- Lemon juice: lifts and elevates the basil pesto with its citrus tang. Bottled or juiced fresh from a lemon are both fine options.
- Garnish (optional): cracked black pepper, pecorino romano cheese and basil leaves: this trio is a great way to finish the dish off for serving.
Tasty Tip: I like to provide you with a number of substitutions and variations giving you an array of options when making the recipe. If in doubt of any of the above ingredients, or wanting alternatives, read this section (further below) before jumping into the instructions on how to make the recipe which are coming next 😉👌.
Here are the step by step instructions to make the recipe. We start by using the food processor to make the pesto.
- Add basil leaves (Photo 1)
- Then add pistachio nuts (Photo 2)
- Next add garlic (Photo 3)
- Then add pecorino romano cheese (Photo 4)
👩🍳 How to Make Pesto Rigatoni
Start to make the recipe by placing the basil leaves into the food processor bowl. Add the pistachio nuts, followed by the garlic cloves and cheese.
Blitz this combination for around 10 seconds to combine.
Then remove the lid, scrape the insides of the food processor bowl down with a spatula, drizzle in the olive oil and blitz again.
- Add olive oil (Photo 5)
- Then add lemon juice (Photo 6)
- Transfer combined pesto to bowl (Photo 7)
- Reserve pasta water (Photo 8)
Use a teaspoon to taste the pesto, then add the lemon juice and blitz to combine.
Use a spatula to scrape down the insides of the food processor bowl and then transfer the combined pesto to a small bowl.
Read and follow the instructions on the packet to cook the rigatoni, in a medium size sauce pan of boiling salted water.
Once the rigatoni is al dente (a little bit chewy still) use a heatproof measuring jug to scoop out and reserve some of the pasta water.
- Add cooked rigatoni (Photo 9)
- Then add pesto (Photo 10)
- Pour in reserved pasta water (Photo 11)
- Toss and garnish the pesto pasta (Photo 12)
You will only need to add ½ cup of this starchy pasta water to the dish when combining the rigatoni and pesto, however a little extra is handy in the fridge to juice up any leftovers.
Use a wooden spoon to stir and toss the pasta, pesto and pasta water.
Then you are ready to garnish the dish.
A trio that works exceptionally well is a liberal smattering of freshly cracked black pepper, grated pecorino romano cheese and basil leaves to offer bright pops of colour.
🍽 Serving Suggestions
You are unlimited in the manner in which you want to serve this dish. As is with garnish is perfect.
The Italian Herb Chicken Thighs can be grilled and added to the dish for extra protein.
If you are keeping it simple with the dish as is and garnishes as suggested, you will end up with a delicious looking pasta ready to be dived into as seen in the photo below.
👍 How to Guide
How to Store
Store leftovers of the rigatoni in sealed, air tight containers in the fridge. They can be refrigerated for 3 days and can be consumed hot or cold.
How to Freeze
Allow the dish to fully cool. Then portion into air tight containers or zip lock bags, squeeze the air out then seal. Frozen portions of the dish can be kept in the freezer for 3 months.
How to Reheat
Allow frozen portions to fully thaw in the fridge overnight or on the bench during the day before reheating. Reheat in the microwave (fastest) covered for 3 to 4 minutes. Or you can add the cooked pesto rigatoni back to a pan on the stove with additional reserved pasta water, turn to medium heat and stir till the pasta is heated through.
😉 Substitutions and Variations
Here are my sub ins and outs that you might be thinking about as you read the post and I will tell you if I think they will work or why they won't:
- Alternative nuts to use for the pesto are pine nuts, cashews or almonds.
- Parmesan cheese or pecorino romano can be used to the equivalent amount ie one or the other.
- You can use your favourite pasta be it spaghetti, fettucine, linguine, macaroni or other.
- Toast some of the nuts and crush them over the top of the dish if you want a little crumb like dry texture (walnuts, extra pistachios or pinenuts are good choices).
- Add some sliced cherry or grape tomatoes and or some sliced mini bocconini balls.
- For protein add some grilled or crumbed chicken or prawns or shrimp.
- If you want to make a baked rigatoni pasta, throw the combined rigatoni pesto pasta into a baking dish, sprinkle over some mozzarella and bake until the cheese melts.
💡 Tasty Tips
Here are my top tips and tricks that I want to share with you so that you master the recipe from the get go:
- Be a little gentle 🥰 when tossing the pesto with the pasta and water. The tubes can burst open if you are too heavy handed.
- You won't need for the sauté pan to be on the stove when combining the pesto and pasta as the heat from the pasta will help the pesto to melt and mix with the pasta water.
- When garnishing grate the cheese directly over the top of the dish. The pasta will still be warm and this will help the cheese melt deliciously.
- We need ½ cup of pasta water to combine the pesto pasta sauce. You can however pour leftovers into a jar and seal with a lid for juicing up leftovers if my 2nd trick below is not up your alley.
- When reheating leftovers if they are looking a little dry drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the top before heating.
🤓 Frequently Asked Questions
How do you amp up pesto pasta?
Amp up pesto pasta by adding crumbed or grilled chicken, freshly grilled shrimp, a squeeze or 2 of fresh lemon juice or by adding some toasted walnuts.
What is the ratio of pesto to pasta?
The ratio of pesto to pasta is 1 cup of pesto to 16 oz (500 grams) of cooked pasta. Plus add ½ cup of starchy pasta water for the perfect pesto pasta sauce.
Should pesto be thick or runny?
Pesto should have a thick paste like consistency. If it is runny this generally means that too much oil has been added. This can be fixed by adding additional basil and cheese to the recipe until the texture is consistent with no runny liquid on top.
😍 More Easy Dinner Recipes
Sometimes quick, sometimes slow roasted and sometimes minimal effort all goes into our favourite meal of the day, dinner. Here are some more recipes that I hope you love:
- Meatball Bolognese
- Tuna Pesto Pasta
- Greek Lamb Chops
- Penne Bolognese
- Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese
- Beef Pesto Pasta
- Tagliatelle Pesto
- Spaghetti Alla Bolognese
- Easy Spaghetti Gorgonzola
- Slow Cooker Pulled Lamb (Easy Recipe)
- 1 Food processor
- 1 Spatula
- 1 Teaspoon
- 1 Heat proof measuring jug
- 1 Medium sauce pan
- 1 Colander
- 1 Large saute pan
- 1 Wooden spoon
- 3 cups basil leaves loosely packed, leaves trimmed from stems
- ⅓ cup pistachio nuts
- 2-3 cloves garlic Note 1
- ½ cup pecorino romano cheese Note 2
- ⅓ cup/80 ml olive oil
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice Note 3
- ½ cup/125ml reserved pasta water Note 4
- 500 grams/16 oz rigatoni
- cracked black pepper
- pecorino romano cheese
- basil leaves
- Basil pesto: make the pesto by adding the basil leaves, pistachio nuts, garlic and cheese to the food processor bowl. Blitz to combine, scrape down the insides of the bowl with a spatula and then add the olive oil. Blitz again to combine. Use a teaspoon to taste the pesto then add half of the lemon juice. Taste the pesto then add the remaining lemon juice as needed. Followed by a blitz to combine. Use a spatula to again scrape down the insides of the bowl, then transfer the pesto to a small bowl.
- Rigatoni: read and follow the instructions on the packet of rigatoni to cook the pasta in a medium sauce pan of boiling salted water. Moments before draining use a heatproof jug to scoop out 1 to 2 cups of the pasta water. Then drain the pasta into a colander and discard the remaining water.
- Pasta and pesto: add the cooked rigatoni to a large sauté pan (not on heat). Dollop in the pesto and then pour in ½ cup of the reserved pasta water. Use a wooden spoon to gently toss and combine the pasta, pesto and water.
- Garnish: season the pasta with a sprinkling of cracked black pepper, freshly grated pecorino romano cheese and basil leaves. Provide forks and or forks and spoons for serving.
- Note 1 - Garlic: if using jarred minced garlic aim for ½ to 1 tablespoon. If using cloves, cut the little end bit off and they are good to go.
- Note 2- Cheese: your choice of either pecorino romano or parmesan cheese. Both work well.
- Note 3 - Lemon juice: if all you have is bottled lemon juice not a fresh lemon and the time to juice it, that will be totally fine and still taste ok!
- Note 4 - Reserved pasta water: scoop out more than you need as this can be kept in the fridge in a jar with lid and used to juice up any leftovers.