Prawn Pesto Pasta is a quick and easy dinner recipe perfect any night of the week! With succulent, juicy prawns, fresh homemade pesto and chewy al dente pasta we whip together a flavor packed dish. This prawn and pesto pasta will take about 20 minutes of your time and tick the taste, texture and flavor boxes along the way!
🤍 Recipe Highlights
I have summarised everything that you will come to know and love (LOVE ❤) about the pesto pasta with prawns recipe in the points below:
- Simple ingredients: each of the ingredients needed to make the recipe are easily able to be sought from your local grocery store. They are year round available products that will be easy to get your hands on.
- Homemade pesto sauce: there is a delight that comes from making one's own fresh basil pesto. It doesn't take too long and the flavour is the reward. Fresh, vibrant and textured.
- Fast to cook: it won't be long after you have started to bring all of the steps together that you realise the dish is 'almost done'. This is a quick to prepare, fast to cook recipe with the most time consuming (worth it) step being the preparation of the prawns.
- Alternative protein: easy dinners are about Chicken, Beef, Pork, Lamb and Tofu. Adding seafood to the mix allows us to get creative with an alternative protein ensuring we have options to switch it up a little 😁👌.
- Taste and texture: from the chewy pesto covered spiral pasta to the juicy prawns and fresh drizzle of lemon juice we are ticking a lot of boxes. It is a simple combination that works remarkably well together.
The photo below is to show you everything you need to make the prawn and pesto pasta 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:
- Peanut oil: we use this light aromatic oil to gently fry the prawns in a pan on the stove top.
- Olive oil: the olive oil gets added to the pesto as the key ingredient to bind the other pesto ingredients together to form a paste.
- Pistachios: pistachios are an excellent nut to use when making pesto. Their vibrant green and purple colour combined with their robust form gives the pesto a little bit of additional texture.
- Salt and pepper: we use salt and a little bit of black pepper to season the prawns as we cook them. We also use black pepper to garnish the dish for serving.
- Lemon juice: bright and fresh, the lemon juice gives the pesto a little lift. Store bought bottled lemon juice or freshly juiced from a lemon will work.
- Garlic: fresh garlic cloves are best for pesto! Use 2-3 and cut the little end bit off before popping them into the food processor.
- Parmesan cheese: freshly grated using a micro plane zester will give the best results. We use some of this to make the pesto and some to garnish the pasta when serving.
- Basil: this is an excellent herb to use in a wide variety of recipes! We only need the basil leaves, so you can use kitchen scissors and trim the leaves and then discard the stems.
🍝 Prawns And Pasta
- Pasta: fusilli is the pasta of choice used for the recipe. The pesto literally clings to the spirals of the pasta. You can also see the plain pairing of this pasta and pesto in the Fusilli Pesto recipe.
- Prawns: also known as shrimp for my American friends (shrimp pesto pasta). We do want to use fresh prawns which we peel and devein ourselves. The results prove that doing so is deliciously worth our time and efforts.
Tasty Tip: I like to provide you with a number of substitutions and variations giving you an array of options when making my recipes. 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 making the homemade basil pesto. You will need a food processor to kick things off.
- Add the basil (Photo 1)
- Then add the pistachios (Photo 2)
- Add the garlic (Photo 3)
- Add the parmesan cheese (Photo 4)
👩🍳 How to Make Prawn Pesto Pasta
To make the prawn pesto pasta we start by making the basil pesto. To do so add the basil leaves, pistachios, garlic and parmesan cheese to the bowl of the food processor and give them a blitz to combine.
Once done, remove the lid and use a spatula to scrape down the insides of the bowl, keeping the pesto low in the bowl. Next drizzle in the olive oil and give it another blitz, then remove the lid and scrape down the insides of the bowl again. Next add the lemon juice and pulse to combine. You can see me doing this in the photos below 😉👍.
- Add the olive oil (Photo 5)
- Then add the lemon juice (Photo 6)
- Peel and devein the prawns (Photo 7)
- Add the oil, prawns, salt and pepper to a pan (Photo 8)
Then use a spatula to help transfer the combined pesto to a small bowl.
Next start to prepare the prawns. Using clean hands and a cutting board twist the heads off the prawns. Then pull the tails off and peel the shell away. Once done, use a knife and cut along the back of the pasta. Then remove the digestive tract and discard.
Once the prawns are ready to go want to cook them. To do so place a large sauté pan (or frying pan) on the stove top and turn the heat to high.
Next add the peanut oil, prawns, salt and pepper. Cook the prawns for 2-3 minutes using a wooden spoon to flip and rotate them as you go. Once the prawns are cooked (bright orange and no clear flesh) transfer them to a paper towel lined bowl.
🍤 Pesto Pasta With Prawns
Read and follow the package directions to cook the pasta in a medium size sauce pan of boiling salted water. Moments before it is al dente (a little bit chewy if you taste a piece) use a heatproof jug to scoop out 1 to 2 cups of the pasta water then use a colander over the sink to drain the pasta and discard the rest of the water.
Next without rinsing or cleaning the pan that the prawns were cooked in add the cooked pasta. Then dollop in the pesto as you see me doing in the photo below.
- Reserve the pasta water (Photo 9)
- Add the pesto (Photo 10)
- Then add the reserved pasta water (Photo 11)
- Toss to combine (Photo 12)
Next measure ½ cup (125ml) of the pasta water and add that to the hot pasta and pesto. Then take a wooden spoon to stir to toss and combine. Once the pasta and pesto are consistently mixed together with the pasta water add the cooked prawns back to the pan.
- Add the cooked prawns (Step 13)
Once you have added the prawns back to the pan you want to toss to gently combine them in the pasta and then let the dish heat through.
- Toss to combine (Photo 14)
Once combined and heated through, get your garnish on with some black pepper, parmesan cheese, lemon wedges and basil leaves. It is an easy combination and a great way to finish off the dish for serving!
🍽 Serving Suggestions
For a wine pairing a chilled glass of rose or for white wine a pinot gris will go down a treat. Or for red wine lovers a smooth pinot noir.
👍 How to Guide
How to Store
Store leftover pasta in a sealed, airtight container in the fridge. The leftovers can be kept for 2-3 days and need to be reheated before being consumed.
How to Freeze
Allow the dish to fully cool before transfer into airtight containers. They can be frozen for up to 1 month.
How to Reheat
Allow frozen portions of the dish to fully thaw before transferring them to a bowl and covering with cling wrap. Then reheat in the microwave on high for 2-3 minutes until warmed 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:
- You don't have to use the same type of pasta as me. You can use penne, rigatoni, angel hair pasta or ziti to give you a few alternatives.
- For the prawns, king prawns, banana prawns or tiger prawns will work.
- If you want to keep the tails intact for presentation, you can.
- You can use pint nuts in place of the pistachio nuts if you would like.
- For the cheese you can use pecorino romano in place of the parmesan cheese (equivalent amount) if you wish too.
- If you want to add a vegetable some sliced cherry tomatoes will work well as they don't need to be cooked, simply add when adding the cooked prawns to the pan. Or throw in a handful of baby spinach leaves when tossing the prawns in the sauce.
- You can garnish with parsley in place of the pesto if you wish too.
- For extra protein you can add some slice bocconcini balls. (Simply slice in halves and add with the prawns).
- Crush some additional pistachio nuts and sprinkle them over the top of the dish for serving if you wish too.
💡 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:
- We do scoop out a little more of the pasta water than we need. This is to make it easier. Once you have scooped it out using a heatproof jug, you can then use a measuring cup to portion the ½ cup needed to create the pesto sauce.
- Be a little vigorous when combining the pasta and pesto as you want these to be consistently mixed in with all of the pasta covered in the pesto.
- If your at a pinch with your time and energy you can use store-bought pesto for a weeknight dinner requiring minimal time and effort.
- If you love prawns, you might also like to try the Prawn And Chorizo Risotto. Prawn Chorizo Skewers, Prawn Chow Mein, Prawn Tagliatelle, Chorizo Prawn Linguine, Prawn Fettuccine, Prawn Noodles, Prawn Spaghetti or the Prawn Pizza 😁👌.
🤓 Frequently Asked Questions
Should you cook pesto sauce?
Pesto sauce is not cooked. Rather it is combined with the hot pasta and reserved pasta water to have it melt and mix in together.
Why is pesto so yummy?
Pesto is a flavor packed sauce with a distinct parmesan taste, bright notes from the lemon, a fresh herb vibe from the basil and with a slightly variegated appearance from the pistachio nuts. It is delicious when made fresh as the ingredients partner and compliment each other exceptionally well.
What cut of pasta is best for pesto?
😍 More Easy Dinner Recipes
Here are some more dinner recipes to give you inspiration so that when you get asked 'what's for dinner?' for the 5th time that day, you can have a few ideas to respond with 😉👍.
- Thai Minced Pork
- Spinach and Feta Pizza
- Baked Ziti With Meatballs
- Chorizo Pasta Bake
- Black Olive Pizza
- Meatball Rigatoni
- Air Fryer Tortilla Pizza
- Mince Pasta Bake
- Pork Mince Noodles
- Garlic Chicken Parmesan Pasta
Prawn Pesto Pasta
- 3 cups basil leaves leaves trimmed from stems, stems discarded, firmly packed, Note 1
- ⅓ cup pistachio nuts Note 2
- 2-3 cloves garlic Note 3
- ½ cup parmesan cheese finely grated using a micro plane zester, Note 4
- ⅓ cup/80 ml olive oil Note 5
- 2 tbs/40 ml lemon juice Note 6
- 1 ½ tbs peanut oil Note 7
- 500 grams/1 pound prawns Note 8
- ¼ teaspoon salt Note 9
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 500 grams/1 pound fusilli pasta Note 10
- ½ cup/125 ml reserved pasta water Note 11
- black pepper
- parmesan cheese finely grated using a micro plane zester
- lemon wedges
- basil leaves
- Basil pesto: add the basil leaves, pistachio nuts, garlic and parmesan cheese to the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Then remove the lid of the food processor and scrape down the insides of the bowl, keeping the pesto low to the bottom. Then drizzle in the olive oil, give it another pulse, remove and scrape down again and then add the lemon juice and pulse to combine. Once combined, use a spatula to transfer the pesto to a small bowl.
- Pasta: read and follow the instructions on the pasta to cook it in a medium size bowl of boiling salted water. Moments before it is al dente (a little bit chewy) use a heatproof jug and scoop out 1-2 cups of the pasta water.
- Prawns: start by twisting the heads off the prawns then pull the tails off and remove the shells. Next use a knife to cut along the back of the prawn and remove the digestive tract. Then repeat this process for the rest of the prawns.
- Cook prawns: place a large sauté pan on the stove top, turn the heat to high and add the peanut oil. Pour in the peanut oil, add the raw prawns, salt and pepper. Cook the prawns for 3-4 minutes using a wooden spoon to move them around in the pan as you go. Once the prawns are cooked (bright orange colour with no white flesh) transfer them to a paper towel lined bowl.
- Combine: without rinsing or cleaning the pan that the prawns were cooked in add the hot drained pasta and dollop in the pesto. Then measure and add in ½ cup (125ml) of the pasta water. Next take a wooden spoon and toss and stir till consistently combined. Once it is add the cooked prawns back to the pan and gently fold them in, allowing them to get coated in the pesto sauce and heat through.
- To serve: garnish the pasta with black pepper, a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, some basil leaves and lemon wedges to serve. Portion into bowls and provide forks and spoons.
- Note 1 - Basil: this is an excellent herb to use in a wide variety of recipes! We only need the basil leaves, so you can use kitchen scissors and trim the leaves and then discard the stems.
- Note 2 - Pistachios: pistachios are an excellent nut to use when making pesto. Their vibrant green and purple colour combined with their robust form gives the pesto a little bit of additional texture.
- Note 3 - Garlic: fresh garlic cloves are best for pesto! Use 2-3 and cut the little end bit off before popping them into the food processor.
- Note 4- Parmesan cheese: freshly grated using a micro plane zester will give the best results. We use some of this to make the pesto and some to garnish the pasta when serving.
- Note 5- Olive oil: the olive oil gets added to the pesto as the key ingredient to bind the other pesto ingredients together to form a paste.
- Note 6- Lemon juice: bright and fresh, the lemon juice gives the pesto a little lift. Store bought bottled lemon juice or freshly juiced from a lemon will work.
- Note 7- Peanut oil: we use this light aromatic oil to gently fry the prawns in a pan on the stove top. You can use olive oil in its place if needed.
- Note 8 - Prawns: also known as shrimp for my American friends (shrimp pesto pasta). We do want to use fresh prawns which we peel and devein ourselves. The results prove that doing so is deliciously worth our time and efforts.
- Note 9 - Salt and pepper: we use salt and a little bit of black pepper to season the prawns as we cook them. We also use black pepper to garnish the dish for serving.
- Note 10 - Pasta: fusilli is the pasta of choice used for the recipe. The pesto literally clings to the spirals of the pasta. You can also see the plain pairing of this pasta and pesto in the Fusilli Pesto recipe.
- Note 11 - Reserved pasta water: the best approach is to scoop out more than you need using a heatproof jug. Then when you are going to add it to the hot pasta, use a measuring cup and measure the ½ cup and then add this to the pasta.