Creamy, cheesy, delicious red pesto pasta with spinach. A quick and easy pasta dish, great for a tasty weeknight dinner.
This red pesto pasta is great for a quick and easy weeknight dinner, it’s creamy, cheesy, tasty and really comforting. Perfect for when you get home after a long day at work or school. The whole family will love this. And the kids won’t even notice all that spinach in there! That creamy, cheesy sauce is silky smooth and honestly, I could probably just eat that on its own! The toasted pine nuts add a delicious earthy warmth to the finished dish which we love but can be left out if you wish.
How to make Red Pesto Pasta:
- To get this done in super quick time, put the well-salted water on to boil for the pasta, don’t forget to reserve a 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Toast the pine nuts then start on the sauce. Add oil to a large saute pan or skillet. Cook the onion until it is translucent and a little spongy. Add the garlic and cook for a minute, then add the red pesto and stir that in and let that cook for a minute too.
- Next, add the mascarpone. Slowly stir that until it melts and you have a creamy sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
- The spinach needs to go in next. I do this in two batches, add half the spinach to the sauce, carefully stir it until it has wilted then repeat with the remaining spinach.
- You now should have a lovely rich creamy sauce.
- Add the finely grated hard Italian cheese. Stir everything together until the cheese has melted then pour in the pasta water and stir well.
- Finally, add the pasta to the sauce and gently mix everything together until all the pasta is coated in the sauce. Top the pasta with the toasted pine nuts and add a couple of leaves of basil. Serve with extra grated vegetarian parmesan and some freshly cracked black pepper.
Tips for making the best, creamy, cheesy red pesto pasta:
- Pasta I use rigatoni pasta for this recipe, it’s the perfect shape for the creamy red pesto sauce. I particularly like when the sauce falls into the hollow of the pasta! I have made this with penne and fusilli too and both work really well. Whole wheat pasta also works well in this recipe.
- Red Pesto to keep this recipe quick and easy I use store-bought red pesto. Try and use a good quality red pesto if you can. If you fancy making your own red pesto then this recipe is great and easy to make too.
- Mascarpone I use full-fat mascarpone for this, it really will give you the best results. I have tried it with reduced-fat mascarpone which does work but not as well as the full-fat version. If you can’t get your hands on mascarpone, ricotta will work too but the sauce will be a bit grainy.
- Pasta Water If you have read any of my pasta recipes that include a sauce you will notice that I always reserve some of the water the pasta is cooked in. I add this to the sauce as the salty starchy water will help thicken the sauce and help it to stick to the pasta.
This red pesto pasta is on weekly rotation in my house, especially as we are back to school and a normal routine. We love this on its own but if you are really hungry you could serve it with some good garlic bread. I always top it with extra grated cheese and some fresh basil leaves. I don’t recommend freezing this dish because of the mascarpone but any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for a day or two and reheated on the hob until it is piping hot.
More Quick and Easy Weeknight Dinners you May Like:
Red Pesto Pasta
- 1/3 cup pine nuts (35g)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium white onion (150g) finely chopped
- 4 cups of rigatoni pasta (320g) dry weight
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
- 4 heaped tbsp red pesto
- 1 heaped cup mascarpone (250g)
- 4 cups spinach (6oz/175g)
- 1/3 cup hard Italian Cheese vegetarian parmesan, grated. Plus more for serving.
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- A small handful fresh basil leaves
- Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, about 8 minutes. Stir occasionally. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water then drain the pasta. Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat. Toss the pine nuts often then turn off the heat once the pine nuts are golden. Remove them from the pan and set aside until you are ready to use them.
- Using the same skillet, add one tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Heat the oil over medium heat then add the chopped onion. Cook the onion for about 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent and are a pale yellow colour.Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute, then add about 4 heaped tablespoons of red pesto the pan and stir well.
- Next, add 1 heaped cup or 250g of mascarpone to the onions. Gently stir in the mascarpone until it has melted down.Add the salt and pepper.
- Once the mascarpone has melted start adding the spinach. You will need to do this in batches. Add about 2 cups of spinach to the skillet. Carefully stir it in until it is wilted. Once the spinach has wilted add the remaining spinach and stir until that is wilted too.Stir in the reserved pasta water.
- Next, add the grated hard Italian cheese to the sauce stir until that has melted. Then carefully pour the cooked pasta into the sauce and stir gently until all the pasta is coated in the sauce.
- Finally, scatter the toasted pine nuts over the pasta.Serve straight away with some extra grated cheese, freshly cracked black pepper and a couple of basil leaves.
- Nutritional Information is approximate and is calculated using an online nutrition tool. It is based on a serving on four.
- Pasta I use Rigatoni for this recipe, it's perfect for this creamy sauce and when the sauce collects in the hollow tubes, that's just perfect. Fusilli or penne are also great pasta for this recipe, as is whole wheat pasta.
- Red Pesto To keep this dinner quick and easy I use a store-bought pesto for this recipe. Try and get the best pesto you can, it really does make a difference. We use a vegetarian pesto, if you are vegetarian you will need to check the label to ensure it is suitable for vegetarians. If you are looking to make a slightly healthier version of this then I can tell you that low fat red pesto works well too.
- Mascarpone I use full fat mascarpone but again if you are watching the calories a low fat version will work well too. If you can't get your hands on mascarpone then ricotta works well too but it does result in a slightly grainy sauce.
- Pasta Water I add a 1/4 cup of the water the pasta has cooked in to the sauce. The salty starchy water will help thicken the sauce and helps the pasta stick to the sauce.