Simple two-ingredient gluten free Pesto Pasta can be on the table in 20 minutes. It’s delicious with or without extra add-ins and makes a perfect mid-week meal. Optional dairy free and vegan.
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Gluten Free Pesto Pasta – fast food inspiration for a busy home kitchen
We eat Gluten Free Pesto Pasta probably more than any other meal in our house. Why? Because when we have no time and even less energy, it’s the quickest, tastiest meal ever. If it’s not something you make (regularly!) then it’s time to plant it right there in the forefront of your ‘speedy meals’ ideas list.
But wait. When I say ‘ Gluten Free Pesto Pasta’, I detect a few raised eyebrows. I know some of you are already worried about gluten free pasta disintegrating in the pan… Or pasta + Pesto being potentially ‘boring’. Thus, in this post, I share all my secrets for making it a regular in your kitchen… With the ability to be different almost every week by little switches in ingredients (yet still be ready in 20 minutes)… And to avoid gluten free pasta becoming mush…
Or you can raise the bar with easy homemade 10-minute Pesto, homemade gluten free pasta, or both!
Are you ready to dive in?
What is Pesto Pasta?
Pesto Pasta at its ‘purest’ is exactly what it says! Pasta that has been cooked and mixed with Italian Pesto sauce. A classic Pesto is characteristically made with a combination of fresh basil, Italian Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and a little garlic and olive oil. But nowadays, there are many alternatives to choose from. And it is as perfect for pasta from a jar, as it is homemade.
Whatever Pesto you use and whatever pasta you pair it with, the richness and depth of flavour is as delicious as it is simple… So let’s start with the easiest version there is…
Speedy store cupboard Gluten Free Pasta Pesto
Your basic Gluten Free Pasta Pesto is made with just TWO store cupboard ingredients:
- Gluten Free Pasta that has been cooked to ‘al dente’.
- Classic Green Pesto from a jar, stirred through and warmed.
Yes. Really! A simple ‘cheats’ Pesto Pasta that is full of tangy basil, cheesy Parmesan and earthy pine nuts… And that will fill you up double-quick.
So what advice can I give you to make the BEST two-ingredient Pasta Pesto? These two gems are (I think) the most important…
- Don’t overcook gluten free pasta. (See my advice below for ensuring it remains ‘al dente’ delicious)
- Don’t skimp on the Pesto… If you want your meal to be packed with flavour, be generous with the sauce. If you’re not sure you’ve added enough… Add more!
Variations on 2-Ingredient store cupboard Pesto Pasta
Even with just two ingredients, you still have many options to vary the dish. Whether you change the type of pasta or the variant of sauce, these two simple choices can alter the meal entirely…
Switch the Pesto
When it comes to Pesto, there are any number of variations:
- Classic Green Parmesan Basil Pesto – From supermarket labels or branded jars, each gives a different flavour profile, so choose the one you love. I like the Sacla Classic Basil for the depth of flavour it offers. Sacla also make a Reduced Fat version, Vegan version, free from option and an Organic Vegetarian option as well. But the choice is yours… Choose a brand within your budget that packs a flavour punch!
- Go ‘red’ with Tomato Pesto! This comes made with standard tomatoes or sundried tomatoes and with the option of added herbs, chilli, peppers, etc… And like its green sister, it can also be bought in vegetarian, vegan or ‘free from’ versions.
- Choose Pesto made with different herbs… Coriander Pesto for example (with or without chilli), is also delicious.
- Pesto with different nuts and seeds… From almond to cashews, walnuts and even sunflower seeds… There are many alternatives to pine nuts (although they may be less easy to find in the supermarket).
- Artisan Pesto… comes in so many variations, the choice seems endless (if a little more expensive). Seggiano offer a Wild Fennel Tomato Pesto; Sacla sell a Black Summer Truffle version; And Belazu go all out with Truffle and Artichoke, Aubergine and Parmesan, and even Wild Mushroom.
Other jar Pesto tips…
- ALWAYS check the labels for any hidden gluten/allergens or ‘may contain’ warnings (see my post on Coeliac Disease + Food for advice on label-reading if you’re unsure).
- Check the Pesto shelf in the normal aisle, as many standard brands are naturally gluten free and safe (and cheaper than you’ll find on the ‘free from’ shelves).
- To get the best value Pesto, buy a larger jar, if available… Any leftovers can be stored in the jar in the fridge for another meal. Just make sure you use a clean spoon to transfer the Pesto from the jar to the pasta pan to ensure the jar stays clean.
Use a different gluten free pasta shape
Another option for variation is to use different types of pasta. Even gluten free pasta comes in a myriad of shapes and made with a variety of ingredients… The pasta flavour and shape will completely alter the experience of eating the dish.
From smaller twisty shapes like fusilli and penne… to long ribbons of tagliatelle, linguini, spaghetti and fettuccini… Pesto (as an oil-based sauce) will coat each and every variant perfectly.
Or… for a more unusual plate, try switching standard rice, corn or pale-grain pasta for something altogether darker or more strongly flavoured… Buckwheat pasta is a favourite here (and can be found in good supermarkets). Or try pasta made with lentils or peas.
How to cook gluten free dried pasta
Whatever shape, make or flavour of gluten free commercial pasta you choose, we all know that it’s a pig to cook. While results vary from brand to brand, for the most part, a few seconds too long results in a disintegrated bowl of mush… And even cooked for the right amount of time, it often sticks together either in the pan or when it’s drained. So, what do you need to know to help you get a bowl of gluten free Pesto Pasta that is cooked ‘just right’ (regardless of the make)? This is my best advice…
- Don’t cook the pasta until you’re ready to eat it.
- Use a pan that is large enough for the pasta to expand as it cooks and still move around freely.
- Read the cooking times recommended on the packaging… The ingredients used to make gluten free pasta are so varied that cooking times are not ‘standard’.
- Bring the water to boiling point BEFORE adding the pasta to the pan. Then bring it back to a simmer as quickly as possible once the pasta is in.
- Add a TINY splash of oil to the water before adding the pasta. This lightly coats the pasta to help prevent sticking.
- Stir the pasta as soon as it is added to the water. This helps separate the pieces, enabling the oil to coat them and keep them from sticking. Unlike wheat pasta, it’s also worth stirring once or twice during cooking too!
- When making Pesto Pasta, UNDERCOOK gluten free pasta as it will continue to cook when the sauce is added. Taste the pasta as it nears the pack-suggested cooking time and drain while it’s still slightly under-done.
- Drain into a (ready and waiting) colander to prevent further cooking and IMMEDIATELY rinse away any excess starch with freshly boiled water. This also discourages the pasta from sticking together.
- Return the pasta to the pan and add the Pesto Sauce (plus a tablespoon or two of water). Stir to coat and continue to cook until the pasta tastes ‘al dente’ (with a bite) as you want it.
Pesto Pasta with easy homemade Pesto
Now we’ve explored the many options for making basic, 2-ingredient store cupboard Pasta Pesto, let’s switch things up a gear… Although buying a jar of Pesto is always going to be the quickest option, if you have an extra 10 minutes on hand, why not make your own sauce? It can be made ahead! Once made, you can keep it in the fridge ready for that speedy mid-week meal (and still in under half an hour).
It’s super-easy and can be whipped up in a blender in double-quick time. The extra effort is SO worth it and gives complete control over the flavour balance and freshness of ingredients. Check out my Basil Pesto Recipe for how to make an incredible jar of Pesto yumminess and for all the tips to perfection.
Made from scratch with homemade gluten free pasta
Then… If you really want a gluten free Pesto Pasta that hits the top rung of perfection, the way to go is by making your own pasta. I mean… Let’s be honest. Even cooked well, most gluten free dried commercial pasta is nothing like the real deal. It lacks the flavour and texture of ‘proper’ pasta and never quite hits the mark.
I appreciate that making gluten free pasta from scratch may sound daunting… But it’s honestly really easy (with the right gluten free flours and ingredients). And once you’ve tried it, you may never look back! I’ve done ALL the hard work for you in developing my Gluten Free Pasta recipe which behaves and tastes just like it came out of my grandmother’s Italian kitchen. Plus you can make it ahead and still have Pesto Pasta on the table in under 30 minutes 😘.
Can I make gluten free Pesto Pasta that’s also dairy free?
Yes. Gluten free pasta (even when homemade) is naturally dairy free… Although it remains important to check ingredient labels in case there is a rogue brand out there. And vegan/dairy free Pesto (which is also gluten free) is now very easy to find in supermarkets either as own-label or ‘branded’.
If needing fully vegan-gluten free Pasta Pesto, be sure to choose pasta which is also egg free. Although most commercially dried brands are made that way, traditional Italian pasta is made with egg, so double-check to be sure.
Add-ins that make Pesto Pasta more interesting
Much as the simplest 2-ingredient Pasta Pesto is delicious, I love to make it more interesting with versatile add-ins. These can be meat, fish or veg based and offer extra protein or flavour and texture to an otherwise ‘soft’ pasta dish.
Fry up add-ins separately and before the pasta goes into the pan with the pesto, so that everything can then just be mixed together and served.
- Chunks of lightly fried chicken breast (or alternative white meat such as pork)
- A handful of sautéed or pre-cooked prawns (king or small)
- Some flakes of white fish.
- Chopped cooked bacon or a little pancetta
- Cubes of grilled halloumi
- Baby Button mushrooms (or mushroom slices) that have been flash fried and are still fat and juicy
- A handful of sweetcorn kernels or chunks of baby corn.
- Some pre-cooked broccoli florets
- And ALWAYS a sprinkle of grated Parmesan on top!
Ready to make Gluten Free Pesto Pasta?
That’s all you need to know about gluten free Pasta Pesto. The recipe is just below (scroll a little further). Enjoy!
Let me know how you get on and whether you discover any other amazing add-ins or have any extra tips and tricks. You can leave a comment at the bottom or message me on social media (Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest). And feel free to rate the recipe so that others get to find all my Pesto Pasta wisdom.
If you love pasta, we also have some other delicious recipes for you to try on the blog…
- Fresh Gluten Free Homemade Pasta (in case you missed it)
- Easy Creamy Tuna and Asparagus Pasta
- The BEST Mac and Cheese
- My Legendary Vegetable Lasagne
- Italian heritage recipe Cheese and Spinach Ravioli
- Fish Bolognese
- Buckwheat Pasta with Asian Spiced Prawns (Sirt diet friendly)
For everything else, head over to the Main Recipe Index and navigate our entire recipe collection (all in pictures) from there.
Always shared with my love
- large saucepan
- 240 g gluten free dried pasta (approx portion weight at 60g per serving)
- drop of olive oil and pinch of salt (to add to the boiling pasta water)
- 190 g Pesto sauce (or less/more to taste)
- optional add-ins (lightly fried chicken breast/prawns/mushrooms/sweet corn/etc) See NOTES
- grated Parmesan cheese to sprinkle
- Bring a large saucepan of water to a full boil. (Make sure the pan has more than enough room for the pasta to move around).
- Add a pinch of salt and a very small drop of olive oil to the boiling water (this will help to prevent the pasta sticking).
- Add the pasta to the pan and cook by the packet instructions until fractionally undercooked. The best way to check this is to taste a small piece of pasta as it nears full cooking time.
- While the pasta is cooking, boil a kettle of water and get ready a colander large enough to transfer the pasta when cooked.
- When the pasta is cooked, remove from the heat and IMMEDIATELY drain into the colander. Pour over the freshly boiled water to rinse off any excess starch.
- Return the pasta to the saucepan and add the Pesto and a tablespoon or two of water, before stirring through to coat well. Continue to cook at a low heat (stirring frequently) until the pasta is fully cooked and the sauce is hot. (Add an extra spoon of water if necessary). Also add any cooked add-ins at this time.
- Serve with a sprinkle of grated parmesan.
© 2019-2023 Kate Dowse All Rights Reserved – Do not copy or re-publish this recipe or any part of this recipe on any other blog, on social media or in a publication without the express permission of Gluten Free Alchemist