Shells with pesto

Shells with Pesto: A Fresh and Flavorful Pasta Delight

Craving a quick and delicious pasta dish bursting with flavor? Look no further than shells with pesto! This delightful recipe combines tender pasta shells with vibrant homemade pesto sauce, creating a dish that’s both satisfying and packed with fresh ingredients. Whether you’re cooking for a weeknight dinner or hosting a dinner party, shells with pesto is sure to become a family favorite. Let’s dive into the recipe and discover how to make this mouthwatering dish!


For the Pesto:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Pasta:

  • 12 oz shell pasta
  • Salt for boiling water

Optional Garnishes:

  • Additional grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Pine nuts or walnuts, toasted


  1. Prepare the Pesto:
    • In a food processor, combine the basil leaves, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts or walnuts, and minced garlic.
    • Pulse until the ingredients are finely chopped.
    • With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the pesto reaches a smooth consistency.
    • Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  2. Cook the Pasta:
    • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
    • Add the shell pasta and cook according to the package instructions until al dente.
    • Once cooked, drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
  3. Combine Pasta and Pesto:
    • Add the prepared pesto sauce to the cooked pasta shells.
    • Toss gently until the pasta is evenly coated with the pesto sauce.
  4. Serve:
    • Transfer the shells with pesto to serving plates or a large platter.
    • Garnish with additional grated Parmesan cheese, fresh basil leaves, cherry tomatoes, and toasted pine nuts or walnuts if desired.
    • Serve immediately and enjoy!

Cook Notes and Variations:

  • Add Protein: For a heartier meal, add grilled chicken, shrimp, or tofu to the pasta.
  • Vegetarian Option: Omit the cheese or use a vegan-friendly alternative for a dairy-free and vegan version of the pesto sauce.
  • Extra Veggies: Feel free to add sautéed vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, zucchini, or spinach to the pasta for added flavor and nutrition.
  • Creamy Pesto: Stir in a splash of heavy cream or Greek yogurt to the pesto sauce for a creamier texture.

Keto and Low-Carb Version:

For a keto and low-carb version of shells with pesto, you can use zucchini noodles or shirataki noodles instead of traditional pasta. The homemade pesto sauce is already low in carbs, but you can reduce the amount of nuts or omit them altogether to further decrease the carb content. Use a dairy-free Parmesan alternative or nutritional yeast for a keto-friendly and dairy-free option.

In conclusion, shells with pesto is a simple yet satisfying pasta dish that’s perfect for any occasion. With its vibrant homemade pesto sauce and tender pasta shells, it’s a dish that’s sure to please both kids and adults alike. Whether you’re looking for a quick and easy weeknight dinner or a crowd-pleasing dish to serve at your next gathering, shells with pesto is a fantastic choice. Give this recipe a try and enjoy the delicious flavors of fresh basil, garlic, and Parmesan cheese in every bite

Cooking Tips:

  1. Pesto Perfection: When making the pesto sauce, ensure that your basil leaves are fresh and vibrant green for the best flavor. You can also experiment with different herbs like parsley or cilantro for a unique twist on traditional pesto.
  2. Al Dente Pasta: Cook the pasta just until it reaches al dente, meaning it’s cooked through but still firm to the bite. This will prevent the pasta from becoming mushy when combined with the pesto sauce.
  3. Seasoning: Taste the pesto sauce before tossing it with the pasta and adjust the seasoning as needed. You can add more salt, pepper, or garlic to suit your taste preferences.
  4. Garnish Galore: Get creative with your garnishes! Freshly grated Parmesan cheese adds a salty kick, while toasted pine nuts or walnuts provide a delightful crunch. Cherry tomatoes and basil leaves add a pop of color and freshness to the dish.
  5. Make Ahead: You can prepare the pesto sauce ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. This makes it easy to whip up a batch of shells with pesto whenever you’re craving it.


  1. Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto: Replace some or all of the basil leaves with sun-dried tomatoes for a rich and tangy pesto sauce. Sun-dried tomato pesto pairs wonderfully with the earthy flavors of the pasta shells.
  2. Spinach Pesto: Swap out the basil for fresh spinach leaves to create a vibrant green spinach pesto. This variation adds an extra dose of nutrients to the dish while still delivering on flavor.
  3. Roasted Vegetable Pasta: Toss roasted vegetables such as bell peppers, eggplant, and cherry tomatoes with the pasta and pesto for a hearty and satisfying meal. Roasting the vegetables adds depth of flavor and a touch of sweetness to the dish.
  4. Protein Power: Add cooked shrimp, grilled chicken, or crispy bacon to the pasta for a protein-packed meal. The savory protein pairs beautifully with the fresh and herbaceous pesto sauce.

In conclusion, shells with pesto is a versatile and delicious dish that’s perfect for any occasion. Whether you’re cooking for a cozy family dinner or entertaining guests, this recipe is sure to impress. With its vibrant colors, bold flavors, and simple preparation, shells with pesto is a go-to meal that you’ll want to make again and again. So grab your ingredients, get cooking, and enjoy this flavorful pasta dish with your loved ones!

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