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Pesto Caprese Penne Pasta

5 from 12 votes

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A bright and flavorful vegetarian pasta packed with protein. Add chicken or sausage for the meat lovers.
Closer look at Pesto Caprese Penne Pasta in a white dish

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Pasta is a weakness of mine and I love trying out new pasta dishes that are hearty and nutritious.  This Pesto Caprese Penne Pasta is packed full of protein, fiber, and delicious mix ins for a fast and easy dinner!

Top view of Pesto Caprese Penne Pasta in a white dish

Penne Pesto Pasta

One of my favorite things about pesto pasta is the amount of flavor that you get out of a few fresh ingredients. 

I love to amp my pesto up with some extra garlic and lemon juice for a bold flavor.  These flavors remind me of living in Italy where they make so many meals with simple, fresh ingredients.

It is appropriate that so many Italian foods have the same colors as the Italian flag: red, white, and green.  Some say it is because of the food, and others say the colors represent various aspects and geographic areas of the country. 

Regardless, the colors are so pretty together in a dish!  I did not want to mix the pasta at first because I was admiring the colors all next to each other 🙂

Less than 25 minutes to make this fresh basil pesto pasta with cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese. A quick and simple Italian pasta recipe highlighting fresh caprese flavors. Vegetarian recipe but add chicken or sausage for the meat lovers. Featuring Barilla ProteinPLUS pasta, this dinner recipe is nutritious and hearty, packed with protein, fiber, and Omega-3. Pesto Caprese Penne Pasta | Three Olives Branch | www.threeolivesbranch.com

What is penne al pesto?

This is a simple and fresh Italian pasta recipe. Penne pasta is tossed with a fresh basil pesto sauce.

What pasta goes with pesto?

Anything with ridges and curves is great to help the sauce stick to the noodles. Penne is a perfect option and easy to find!

Other shapes with ridges and curves like cavatappi, rotini, or gemelli are also great options.

Less than 25 minutes to make this fresh basil pesto pasta with cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese. A quick and simple Italian pasta recipe highlighting fresh caprese flavors. Vegetarian recipe but add chicken or sausage for the meat lovers. Featuring Barilla ProteinPLUS pasta, this dinner recipe is nutritious and hearty, packed with protein, fiber, and Omega-3. Pesto Caprese Penne Pasta | Three Olives Branch | www.threeolivesbranch.com

Ingredients Needed for Penne Pesto

Here is what you need to make this pasta, including the homemade basil pesto:

  • Fresh Basil
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Pine Nuts (although walnuts will work too!)
  • Lemon
  • Garlic
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Penne Pasta
  • Cherry or Grape Tomatoes
  • Fresh Mozzarella
Less than 25 minutes to make this fresh basil pesto pasta with cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese. A quick and simple Italian pasta recipe highlighting fresh caprese flavors. Vegetarian recipe but add chicken or sausage for the meat lovers. Featuring Barilla ProteinPLUS pasta, this dinner recipe is nutritious and hearty, packed with protein, fiber, and Omega-3. Pesto Caprese Penne Pasta | Three Olives Branch | www.threeolivesbranch.com

How to Make Penne Pesto

This Pesto Caprese Penne Pasta is incredibly simple and fast to make, making it perfect for busy nights when you still want a hearty and nutritious meal. 

First, get your pasta boiling. 

Then make the pesto in a food processor and prepare the mix ins of cherry tomatoes, mozzarella perline, and sliced fresh basil. 

When the pasta is ready, toss everything to combine and dinner is served!

Closer look at Pesto Caprese Penne Pasta in a white dish

Do you serve pesto pasta hot or cold?

You can serve this either way!

I prefer hot but it also tastes just as great cold and would make a fun pasta salad.

Can I put pesto pasta in the fridge?

Yes! I have found that if made in advance or if eating as leftovers that the sauce gets absorbed a little into the pasta and it becomes a little dry.

So spruce it up with just a little water or a little more oil before heating (if serving hot) or if serving cold.

How do you pronounce penne?

It is pronounced peh-neh.

Pin of Pesto Caprese Penne Pasta from the top with lemons in a white dish and title at bottom
Closer look at Pesto Caprese Penne Pasta in a white dish

Pesto Caprese Penne Pasta Recipe

A bright and flavorful vegetarian pasta packed with protein. Add chicken or sausage for the meat lovers.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: 30 Min or Less, Pasta, Vegetarian
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 807kcal

Ingredients

Caprese Pasta

  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes (or grape tomatoes) (halved)
  • 8 ounces mozzarella perline
  • 1 1/4 cup basil pesto (recipe below, or your favorite pesto)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves thinly sliced, for tossing with the pasta

Pesto

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When boiling, add the pasta and cook as per package directions to al dente, approximately 11 minutes. When the pasta is done, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain and set aside.
  • While the pasta is cooking, prepare the pesto. Toast the pine nuts over medium low heat until just starting to turn a golden brown.
  • In a food processor, combine all of the pesto ingredients together. Process until you reach your desired consistency. Season to taste with additional salt, lemon, garlic, or red pepper flakes.
  • Slice the tomatoes in half into bite sized pieces. Slice the 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves from the pasta ingredient list into thin slices.
  • Return the cooked pasta, pesto sauce, tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh basil to the large cooking pot (or in a large bowl). Toss to combine. Add a little of the reserved pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce for even coating. Serve immediately.

Notes

I love the mozzarella perline (pearl sized) cheese because it is the perfect bite sized shape for this pasta.  You can also use larger chunks of mozzarella, cut to preference.  Shredded mozzarella will also work but will likely melt and make a stringy pasta.
You can use any favorite, jarred pesto as an alternative.  You will need approximately 1 1/4 cups of pesto for moderate coverage as in the pictures.  Find my pesto recipe here!  One batch is the perfect amount.
This pesto recipe is best with freshly grated cheese.  Using canned cheese will greatly affect the flavor, texture, and final result of the pesto sauce.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 807kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 74g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Cholesterol: 58mg | Sodium: 1808mg | Potassium: 400mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 4250IU | Vitamin C: 46mg | Calcium: 566mg | Iron: 4mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @threeolivesbranch or tag #threeolivesbranch!
By on October 9th, 2017

About Kim

Kim has grown up with a passion for cooking good food! You can find her in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes, making dog treats, and eating Italian food!

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12 thoughts on “Pesto Caprese Penne Pasta”

  1. 5 stars
    Made this last night and after your mention about adding meat if you wanted, I added chicken. It was absolutely beautiful looking and the flavors were wonderful. Thank you! This recipe is a keeper.

    Reply
  2. Is it 1 pound of uncooked or cooked pasta? The recipe says it makes 4 servings, which is a lot if it’s 1 pound of dry pasta. Can someone clarify? I’m a novice cook and rely heavily on recipes so this detail is not obvious to me lol. Thank you in advance. This looks like a tasty recipe!

    Reply
    • Hi Hannah,
      It is one pound uncooked. If you are using protein pasta, it is much more filling. I also find the recipe, regardless of pasta type, is very filling when you add the cheese and tomatoes to it. Feel free to make more if you want to make sure you have enough!

      Reply

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