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Deconstructed Pesto Pasta

Scott Phillips

Servings: four to six as a main course.

This is a great recipe for experimenting with basil. A riff on the classic Italian purée of basil, garlic, nuts, cheese and olive oil, this version lets you enjoy the flavor of pesto without actually having to make the sauce. Simply toss the ingredients together with the hot pasta. It couldn’t be easier or more satisfying, and it makes a perfect late-night summer supper.


  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1 lb. dried fusilli or radiatore pasta
  • 6 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 oz. coarsely grated Pecorino Romano
  • 2 cups (about 2-1/2 oz.) packed sweet basil leaves or your favorite basil variety, cut into  1/2-inch-wide chiffonade (to yield about 1-1/2 cups)

Nutritional Information

  • Nutritional Sample Size bsed on six servings
  • Calories (kcal) : 560
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 250
  • Fat (g): 28
  • Saturated Fat (g): 6
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 6
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 12
  • Cholesterol (mg): 20
  • Sodium (mg): 610
  • Carbohydrates (g): 60
  • Fiber (g): 3
  • Protein (g): 16


  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a 10-inch skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until golden in places, about 5 minutes. Pour onto a plate and set aside to cool. When the water boils, add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente.
  • While the pasta is cooking, gently heat the olive oil and sliced garlic over low heat in the same skillet used for the nuts, stirring frequently, until the garlic starts to turn golden, 4 to 8 min. Remove from the heat and stir in 3/4 tsp. kosher salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper.
  • When the pasta is done, scoop out 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and reserve. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Pour the garlic and olive oil over the hot pasta and toss. Pour the reserved pasta water into the skillet, swirl it around, and pour it over the pasta. Toss well. Add the pine nuts and cheese and toss again until thoroughly mixed.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and let cool for 5 min. Then, just before serving, toss in the basil. Pass extra cheese around with a grater for those who want more.

Start the meal off with Bruschetta with Tomato, Garlic, and Basil.


Rate or Review


  • Chamigwyn | 08/05/2013

    This was so good. I used fresh sweet basil from my garden. The dish was light and easy to make.

  • smokeyandashes | 06/27/2013

    This is ok but nothing special.

  • cookykamp | 07/14/2011

    Just made this last night. While I like pesto, it can be a little heavy. This, on the other hand, was an unexpected pleasure! The flavors were fresh, vibrant and clean! I used farfalle pasta, as that is what I had on hand. I have an abundance of fresh basil in my herb garden, so will be making this often! Delicious!

  • maryvill | 07/14/2011

    Enjoyed this very much. I love pesto, but it often is so very rich. This take on the favorite is very delicious. I did 1/3 the recipe for two and we have leftovers.

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