The Secret Ingredient for the Best-Ever Pesto Pasta

Pesto pasta

When it comes to pasta, there are hundreds of varieties to choose from including angel hair, ravioli, gnocchi, linguine and rigatoni. As delicious as pasta is dressed with just Parmesan cheese and olive oil, a sauce just brings everything together. Whether you use jarred pasta sauce or spend hours making “Sunday gravy,” the right sauce is pasta's BFF.

If you’re looking for a healthier and lighter alternative to buttery, dairy-forward pasta sauces, basil pesto pasta offers a punch of freshness. Pesto is a vibrant green sauce that’s traditionally a combination of fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and extra-virgin olive oil. To take this classic pasta to new heights, try adding avocado to deliver an extra creamy richness (without the cream).

Related: The Secret Ingredient for Making Jarred Pasta Sauce Taste Like It Came From an Italian Restaurant

Why Should You Use Avocado for Pesto Pasta?

Avocados have a fairly neutral flavor (hello, avocado toast with Everything Bagel seasoning), so they’re a versatile addition that pairs well with the pesto ingredients without overpowering them. Plus, avocados have natural fats that add a creaminess to anything they're added to. In addition to enhancing the texture of pesto sauce, avocados also add a boost of heart-healthy fat and vitamins.

Related: The Italian Home Cook Trick for Making Creamy Pasta Sauce Without the Cream

How Do You Make Avocado Pesto Pasta?

There are many variations of this recipe online, but you can start with a basic version and then tweak it to make it your own. Start by scooping the inside of a ripe, large, pitted avocado into a blender or food processor with 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves, 1/3 cup pine nuts (preferably toasted), a couple of fresh garlic cloves (or more) and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese. With the motor running, drizzle in a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and if it seems like it needs more, drizzle in another tablespoon. Process until smooth, then stir in salt and pepper to taste.

Cook your desired pasta according to package directions, drain, then toss the avocado pesto sauce with your favorite noodles. Before you drain the pasta, scoop out some pasta water (1/2 cup should do it). If your pesto is thicker than you like mix in some pasta water a little bit at a time until you reach your perfect sauce consistency.

Depending on what you like (and what you have in your pantry), you can mix this recipe up to make it your own. Swap in pepitas, walnuts, almonds or cashews for the pine nuts. Sub in Romano cheese or nutritional yeast for the Parmesan. And classic pesto recipe calls for basil, but you can use kale, spinach, parsley or arugula. Fresh lemon juice is also a popular addition.

This yummy avocado pesto sauce is great on pasta, but your relationship doesn’t need to end there. Spread it on bread and top with fresh mozzarella and sliced tomatoes for a caprese sandwich, dip vegetables in it or use it as a sourdough toast topper and add a poached egg drizzled with chili crisp. BRB, I’m going to make a batch.

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