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What Goes With Pesto Pasta: Delicious Pairing Options

What Goes With Pesto Pasta?

Pesto pasta pairs well with a variety of dishes, such as mushroom risotto, beef and broccoli, steamed vegetables, sauteed vegetables, tempeh, teriyaki salmon, eggplant parmesan, shrimp scampi, fried shrimp, cheese curds, arugula salad, bread rolls, white beans and bacon, butternut squash pizza, fried calamari, caprese salad, burrata cheese, roasted onions and potatoes, Russian salad, and grilled chicken with herbs.

Quick Tips and Facts:

1. Pesto, a traditional Italian sauce made from basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil, was originally invented in the city of Genoa, during the Renaissance.
2. Although traditionally served with pasta, pesto sauce can also be used as a delicious topping for pizza, spread on sandwiches, or even mixed into soups.
3. Pesto pasta is often paired with ingredients such as cherry tomatoes, sliced olives, or grilled vegetables to add contrasting textures and flavors to the dish.
4. In the Liguria region of Italy, where pesto originated, some locals still follow a strict tradition of using a mortar and pestle to prepare their pesto sauce, claiming that it enhances the flavors and yields a superior texture.
5. While the term “pesto” is now associated primarily with the classic basil variation, the word actually stems from the Italian verb “pestare,” meaning “to pound or crush,” reflecting the original method of preparation using a mortar and pestle.

Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom risotto is a rich and creamy dish that pairs perfectly with pesto pasta. The earthy flavors of the mushrooms blend beautifully with the vibrant taste of the pesto. The risotto’s creamy texture complements the al dente pasta, creating a harmonious combination of flavors and textures.

To enhance the meal, serve some freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top to add a salty and savory note. Additionally, a sprinkle of chopped fresh herbs like parsley or thyme will bring freshness to the dish, balancing the richness of the pesto and risotto.

If you’re looking to add some protein to the meal, grilled chicken or shrimp are excellent choices. The smoky flavor of grilled chicken pairs wonderfully with the earthiness of the mushrooms, while the sweetness of grilled shrimp provides a pleasant contrast to the savory notes. For vegetarians or vegans, roasted tofu or tempeh also works well, adding a hearty and satisfying element to the dish.

Beef And Broccoli

For a hearty and satisfying pairing with pesto pasta, look no further than beef and broccoli. This classic combination delivers a perfect balance of flavors and textures. The tender beef, marinated in a flavorful sauce, complements the vibrant and fresh taste of the broccoli. The aromatic pesto sauce adds another layer of complexity, tying the whole dish together.

Sauteed mushrooms can be a fantastic addition to this dish, bringing an earthy and meaty flavor that enhances the overall experience. To elevate the flavors, consider adding a handful of toasted pine nuts for a pleasant crunch and a nutty undertone. Sprinkling some grated Parmesan cheese over the top will add richness and depth to the meal.

Steamed Vegetables

For a lighter and healthier option, steamed vegetables are an excellent choice to pair with pesto pasta. A medley of vibrant vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and zucchini, retains their natural crispness and sweetness when steamed. The pesto sauce complements the vegetables perfectly, adding a burst of herbaceous flavor.

To enhance the dish, consider adding a handful of toasted almonds or pine nuts for a delightful crunch and a touch of nuttiness. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice can also brighten the flavors and add a refreshing zing. Serve the pasta and vegetables with a side of crusty bread rolls to complete the meal.

  • Steamed vegetables are a healthier option for pairing with pesto pasta.
  • Use a medley of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and zucchini for added flavors.
  • Consider adding toasted almonds or pine nuts for crunch and nuttiness.
  • Brighten the dish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
  • Serve with crusty bread rolls to complete the meal.

Sauteed Vegetables

Sauteed vegetables provide a delicious and flavorful accompaniment to pesto pasta. The caramelization process adds depth and complexity to the vegetables, enhancing their natural sweetness. A combination of bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and asparagus creates a colorful and appealing plate, making it a feast for both the eyes and the taste buds.

To further elevate the dish, consider adding some crumbled feta or goat cheese on top. The tangy and creamy cheese brings a delightful contrast to the savory flavors of the sautéed vegetables. A sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes can also provide a touch of heat for those who enjoy a little spice. Serve the dish with a side of warm bread rolls to complete the meal.


When seeking a protein-rich option to go with pesto pasta, tempeh is a fantastic choice. Made from fermented soybeans, tempeh has a firm and hearty texture that holds up well in any dish. When pan-fried and marinated in a flavorful sauce, tempeh absorbs the flavors beautifully, creating a delicious and satisfying addition to the pasta.

Serving the tempeh on top of the pesto pasta adds a wonderful contrast in textures. The smooth and creamy pasta pairs exceptionally well with the slightly chewy and nutty tempeh. To elevate the flavors, consider adding some roasted cherry tomatoes on top, providing a burst of sweetness and acidity. A sprinkle of fresh basil leaves will add a touch of herbaceousness and bring the dish to life.

Teriyaki Salmon

Looking for a seafood option? Look no further than teriyaki salmon. The sweet and savory flavors of the teriyaki sauce pair perfectly with the vibrant taste of pesto pasta. The tender and flaky salmon provides a delightful contrast in texture to the pasta, making each bite a mouthwatering experience.

To add more depth to the dish, you can top the salmon with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of sesame seeds, adding a bright citrusy note and a nutty undertone. Serve the dish with a side of arugula salad dressed with a light lemon vinaigrette, creating a refreshing and well-rounded meal.

  • Teriyaki salmon with pesto pasta
  • Topped with fresh lemon juice and sesame seeds
  • Serve with arugula salad dressed with lemon vinaigrette.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do Italians eat with pesto pasta?

In Italy, pesto pasta is often accompanied by a side of fresh bruschetta. The combination of the rich pesto flavor with the tanginess of tomatoes and the crunchiness of the bread creates a delightful contrast that Italians love. Another popular accompaniment to pesto pasta is a simple Caprese salad, made with fresh mozzarella, ripe tomatoes, and fragrant basil leaves. The refreshing flavors of the salad enhance the herbiness of the pesto, creating a harmonious and delicious meal.

What protein goes good with pesto pasta?

For a protein that complements pesto pasta, consider trying grilled shrimp. The light and delicate flavors of shrimp balance well with the bold flavors of the pesto sauce, creating a harmonious combination. The slightly smoky char from grilling adds an extra layer of depth to the dish, making it a tasty and satisfying choice. Alternatively, if you prefer a meat option, grilled chicken breast can also be a great choice. The tender and lean chicken pairs well with the vibrant flavors of the pesto, enhancing the overall taste of the pasta dish.

What flavors go well with pesto?

In addition to grilled vegetables, pesto also pairs wonderfully with tangy and creamy flavors. For a unique twist, try incorporating crumbled feta or goat cheese into the pesto sauce. The combination of the rich, savory cheese with the vibrant pesto creates a delightful contrast of flavors. Another interesting addition to pesto is roasted pine nuts or walnuts, which lend a pleasant crunch and nutty undertones to the dish.

What can you serve with pasta?

One delicious option to serve with pasta is a refreshing kale salad. The crispness and bitterness of the kale leaves complement the richness of the pasta, creating a well-balanced meal. Another option is balsamic bruschetta, which adds a burst of tangy flavors to the pasta dish. The combination of ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, and balsamic vinegar provides a vibrant and zesty accompaniment to the pasta.

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