Pesto Fusilli

August 24, 2020


PESTO + PASTA = a match made in HEAVEN

I don’t grow many things well, but one thing I seem to have the hang of is basil – especially during the summertime. Anytime my basil plants start to get a little out of control…that’s my cue to make pesto. I like doing a basil/arugula combo with walnuts as the base of my pesto and including some of those other classic ingredients like Parmesan and lemon. I usually make a big batch and freeze what I’m not planning to use for dinner that night. I like freezing extra pesto in ice cube trays and storing them in a freezer bag – I call them Pesto Poppers!  


My favorite kind of pasta to toss fresh pesto with is fusilli – I can easily find it at my grocery store here, but obviously, you can use any type of pasta. For the final touch, I like adding some crisped pancetta and a little more Parmesan…because why not?! One of the best things about pesto is the fact that the flavors are dynamic enough that you really don’t need much else. In my opinion, this makes it an ideal weeknight meal. Seriously, let’s think about this. It’s 5:30 pm on a Tuesday and all I have to do is boil some pasta, pull out a pesto popper or two from my freezer, toss that in a skillet with the cooked pasta and a ½ cup or so of the pasta water, toss and top with crisped pancetta or bacon. Extra cheese on top tends to make everyone at my dinner table happy, but that’s just a bonus.


Pasta isn’t the only thing I use my homemade pesto for. Sometimes I’ll stir one of my frozen pesto poppers into a tomato based soup for an extra burst of flavor or I’ll use the pest to spread over crispy crostini. Lately, we’ve even been using these pesto poppers on top of roasted chicken topped with a little mozzarella, tomato, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

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Pesto Fusilli

  • Author: Kelsey Nixon
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x


My favorite kind of pasta to toss fresh pesto with is fusilli – I can easily find it at my grocery store here, but obviously, you can use any type of pasta.



Walnut Pesto:

  • 1 ½ cups packed arugula leaves
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan
  • ½ cup shelled walnuts
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil


  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound long fusilli pasta* (or your favorite pasta)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • 4 ounces pancetta, diced and crisped (optional)


For the walnut pesto: In a food processor, combine the arugula, basil, Parmesan, walnuts, garlic, lemon zest and juice, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper and pulse to blend. With the machine running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream and process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if needed. Set aside.

For the pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Add the pasta and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 11 minutes or according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Add the drained pasta to the pan, along with the walnut pesto, Parmesan, lemon juice and zest, and reserved cooking liquid. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with extra Parmesan and crisped pancetta, if using.

*if you can’t find fusilli, you can use any other pasta

  • Category: dinner
  • Cuisine: italian

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