Shrimp Pesto Pasta is a great choice for a simple weeknight dinner. This easy recipe uses basic everyday ingredients found in most pantries yet it tastes like a dish from a fine dining restaurant! The shrimp are seared with garlic and chili powder and then tossed with pasta, creamy basil pesto sauce, roasted cherry tomatoes, and toasted pine nuts! You can use homemade basil pesto or buy it in the store.
Shrimp pesto pasta - quick and easy dinner
This Mediterranean-style recipe is a restaurant-quality pasta dish just like my other favorite shrimp dinner: Shrimp Tomato Spinach Pasta in Garlic Butter Sauce.
- The shrimp is deliciously smothered with basil pesto sauce and served along with delicious vegetables and pasta.
- It's a well-balanced meal that features vegetables (cherry tomatoes), protein (chicken), and carbs (pasta).
- Make this simple and quick dinner on a busy weeknight for your family, kids, and friends! This dish is so comforting, creamy, and flavorful - it will become your new favorite comfort food! It also looks fancy enough to prepare for entertaining guests.
Simple pasta dish to make any time of the week
This pasta has been inspired by my creamy chicken pesto pasta and is one of those recipes that you can easily adapt to what you have on hand.
- The main ingredients include basil pesto, beautifully seared shrimp, and pasta.
- Basil pesto always goes well with tomatoes, so I highly recommend that you incorporate oven-roasted tomatoes in this recipe. I used cherry tomatoes that I roasted in olive oil and garlic at the same time I prepared the pasta - they were a wonderful addition! You can also add sliced fresh tomatoes without roasting them, use sun-dried tomatoes, or skip them altogether.
- If you love simple weeknight meals and looking for more dinner inspiration don't miss my creamy spinach chicken and chicken Margherita skillet.
How to make basil pesto from scratch
Here is a simple recipe for my favorite version of homemade basil pesto. This amount of ingredients makes about 1 cup or 1.5 cups of basil pesto.
The ingredients for basil pesto
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
- ½ cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, freshly shredded
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup pine nuts toasted
- 4 garlic cloves
- salt and pepper to taste
The directions for making basil pesto
- Place all ingredients (except salt and pepper) in the food processor and blend for about 5 minutes or 10 minutes until you get the pesto-like sauce.
- You might have to work in batches.
- If low on basil, you can add spinach or parsley.
- Add salt to taste.
How to make the best shrimp pesto pasta
- Shrimp. I used large raw shrimp (peeled and deveined) - it works best in this recipe. Make sure to space out the shrimp in the skillet when searing. This will ensure that shrimp actually gets seared and not steamed. Also, watch the cooking times closely not to overcook the shrimp.
- Pasta. You can use any type of pasta you like: spaghetti, fettuccine, angel hair, or bucatini. You can also use short pasta, such as fusilli, farfalle (bow-tie pasta), or penne. This recipe uses an Italian pasta, called fusilli col buco. It's a long spiral pasta. Cook the pasta al dente for the best texture.
- Basil Pesto. You can make your own or use your favorite brand. When buying pesto at the grocery store, I usually buy the refrigerated pesto, Buitoni brand. I also love the refrigerated basil pesto sold at Whole Foods.
- The cream is added to the basil pesto sauce to create a luscious and delicious pesto cream sauce texture. Use heavy cream or half-and-half.
- Cherry tomatoes. Make sure to add veggies to this pasta dish. Cherry or grape tomatoes roasted with olive oil and garlic work great. Use 2 colors (red and yellow) for presentation purposes.
- Prepare the shrimp by seasoning it with chili powder, salt, and pepper. This recipe uses 1 lb raw shrimp (peeled and deveined) which usually equates to 16 or 20 count.
- Sear the shrimp with olive oil and minced garlic on medium-high heat for 2 or 3 minutes on each side. Make sure the shrimp are not overcrowded to avoid steaming. You might have to work in batches. When the shrimp is done, remove it to a plate.
- Cook the pasta in boiling water according to package instructions. That usually means 8 or 15 minutes. Drain.
- Make the sauce by adding basil pesto and cream, to the same pan you used to sear shrimp. Add cooked and drained pasta. Toss and reheat gently.
- Roast cherry tomatoes tossed in olive oil and minced garlic in the oven while you prepare the shrimp pesto pasta.
- Assemble the pasta by adding cooked shrimp and roasted cherry tomatoes on top of the cooked pasta with pesto sauce.
Variations and substitutions
- Use different proteins. You can easily follow this recipe and use other seafood, such as scallops. You can also use skinless and boneless chicken breast, leftover cooked chicken, or rotisserie chicken. Just throw it together with the pasta, heat it through, and serve!
- Use more veggies. Cherry or grape tomatoes roasted in olive oil and garlic add amazing flavor to basil pesto shrimp pasta. You can also use fresh tomatoes (without cooking or roasting them), sun-dried tomatoes, or mushrooms.
- The cream is optional. The heavy cream adds creaminess to the sauce and also balances out the basil pesto flavor which can be quite strong. However, you can reduce the amount of cream or omit the cream altogether. Either version of the pasta will be delicious!
- Add cheese. You can sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese on top of the pasta.
- Add pine nuts as a topping. Since basil pesto is usually made with pine nuts, it's only logical to use whole pine nuts as topping for the pesto pasta! They will add a nutty flavor and a nice crunch!
- Make it spicy. Add red pepper flakes if you would like to make your pasta spicy.
Storage and reheating tips
Because the sauce is made only with basil pesto and cream, without any cheese, this recipe is very easy to store and reheat. You can also easily make this ahead.
- Fridge. Store pesto shrimp pasta in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Freezer. Freeze it in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
- Reheat in the microwave oven. Reheat the refrigerated pesto shrimp pasta in a microwave oven for about 1 minute. Taste and reheat for 30 seconds more, if needed.
- Reheat on the stovetop. Reheat this dish in a large, high-sided skillet on the stovetop on low-medium heat. When using this method, add a small amount of heavy cream, half-and-half, or milk to thin out the sauce when reheating.
What to serve with shrimp pesto pasta
- Bread. Serve this easy recipe with something equally simple, such as a slice of store-bought, warm Italian bread, garlic bread, or olive bread loaf. Breadsticks are great, too!
- Simple salad. Because the pesto shrimp pasta dish is made with a rich and luscious basil pesto sauce, a fresh salad is a great choice. I would suggest a basic spinach or arugula salad, sprinkled with toasted nuts (pecans or pine nuts), a small amount of shredded Parmesan or crumbled goat cheese, and dressed with your favorite salad dressing!
- Recommended salad recipes. Here are my personal salad favorites that I would serve with pesto shrimp: Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Avocado, Mozzarella, and Basil Pesto and Strawberry Spinach Salad with Balsamic Glaze.
Other dinner recipes with basil pesto
Basil pesto works well with protein, such as shrimp or chicken, and is a great ingredient to use for easy-to-make weeknight dinners. Here are some of my favorites:
- Sautéed Shrimp with Mushrooms and Pesto
- Basil Pesto Shrimp Mushroom Pasta
- Chicken Ravioli Skillet with Basil Pesto and Veggies
- Basil Pesto Tomato Mozzarella Chicken Bake
- One-Pan Pesto Chicken and Veggies (Cherry Tomatoes and Asparagus)
Shrimp Pesto Pasta
- 10 oz cherry tomatoes (sliced in half)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 lb raw shrimp (peeled and deveined) large (16 or 20 count per 1 pound of shrimp)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic minced
Basil Pasta Sauce
- 8 oz pasta (fettuccine, spaghetti, penne, or fusilli)
- ¼ cup basil pesto
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup pine nuts toasted (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- Toss cherry tomatoes, sliced in half, with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and minced garlic.
- Spread in a single layer in a casserole dish or on a large baking sheet. Be sure to space out the cherry tomatoes without overcrowding so that they roast nicely.
- Roast for about 20 minutes while you prepare the pasta.
Cook the shrimp
- This recipe uses 1 lb of large raw shrimp (peeled and deveined) which usually means 16 or 20 count. Season the shrimp with salt, pepper, and chili powder.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat in a large skillet until hot. Add shrimp and minced garlic and cook for about 3 minutes per each side until it's cooked through.
- Make sure the shrimp are not overcrowded to avoid steaming. You might have to work in batches. Remove from heat. Remove shrimp to a plate.
- Bring a pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Remove from heat. Drain.
- Add cooked and drained pasta, basil pesto, and cream to the same skillet that you used to sear shrimp. Stir gently and bring to simmer for a couple of minutes to coat pasta with sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add roasted tomatoes.
- Add seared shrimp. Sprinkle a small amount of chili powder over cooked shrimp for presentation purposes, if you like.
- Top with pine nuts (optional).
- Season with extra salt and pepper or add crushed red pepper flakes, if desired.
- Store-bought basil pesto. When buying pesto at the grocery store, I usually buy the refrigerated pesto, Buitoni brand. I also love the refrigerated basil pesto sold at Whole Foods.
- Make basil pesto from scratch. Even though the store-bought pesto works really well in pasta recipes, I have an easy and delicious recipe for the best homemade basil pesto made from scratch. Just scroll up above the recipe card and you will find it!
- Adjust the amount of basil pesto. This recipe uses ¼ cup of pesto. Feel free to add extra tablespoons of pesto to your taste.
- Add extra toppings. Lightly toasted pine nuts and freshly grated Parmesan cheese add extra flavor and texture.
- Use toasted pine nuts. Toast them lightly in the preheated oven at 350 F for about 5 minutes or just a couple of minutes more. Watch carefully as these expensive nuts burn quickly!
- Use extra veggies. If you want to add more vegetables, add sliced fresh tomatoes, sliced cooked asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, or mushrooms.
- Add spiciness. Add red pepper flakes if you would like to make your pasta spicy.
- Adjust seasonings. Even though the basil pesto tends to be salty, do taste the final dish before serving and season it with extra salt and pepper, if needed.
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed. It should not be used as a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.