This truffle pesto pasta packs big flavors, but without any fuss. It's pasta smothered in a simple creamy pesto sauce elevated by some truffle oil and parmesan.
Simple ingredients, outstanding taste – all ready in just 25 minutes.
Why you'll love this recipe
- Elevated comfort food – who doesn't love some good pesto pasta? But with truffle oil, cream and cheese, it's a whole new level of yum.
- Quick and easy – you can make it in about 25 minutes and so it's perfect for busy weeknight dinners.
- You can build on it – feel free to toss in some grilled chicken or veggies. But don't forget to increase the sauce quantity.
Here are some helpful notes on ingredients you'll need. See the recipe card for exact quantities.
- Pasta – use any shape of your choice. I prefer rigatoni or penne because of how the sauce latches onto the shape. Plus that hollow center lets that sauce flow inside.
- Cooking oil – to prevent the cooked pasta from sticking together. Also required for preparing sauce. I prefer olive oil but any neutral smelling option will do.
- Garlic – has to be finely minced or grated. I use a garlic press. Fresh is better.
- Broth/stock – choose between chicken or vegetable broth/stock, both choices complement the flavors. I use unsalted or low-sodium options so I can manage the overall saltiness.
- Cream – for the luxurious, creamy texture. But read the ingredients to make sure you are not getting the sweetened kind (yep, some regions sell those).
- Salt – if using regular broth (not the low sodium type), reduce the quantity of added salt.
- Red pepper flakes – used in a small quantity for very subtle heat.
- Dried oregano – to add some complexity to the herby taste from basil pesto.
- Parmesan cheese – freshly grated cheese melts in the sauce way better than the pre-grated store bought stuff. Also, if using a fine grater (e.g. microplane), remember that it will yield more volume. So check the weight of the cheese to be precise or pack your measuring cup tightly.
- Basil pesto – it's available year-round in the stores and is a very convenient option. But if you'd like to make your own, Allrecipes has a high rated pesto recipe you can use.
- Truffle oil – both black and white varieties are suitable. Black has a more potent flavor, which I prefer in this recipe. When trying a new product, be sure to use sparingly. Some oils can be more potent in flavor than others. Start with half the quantity of oil mentioned in recipe, taste and then add more if you feel the need. An overwhelming truffle flavor will be a taste disaster.
- Parsley (optional for garnish) – some chopped leaves for that pop of fresh green color.
How to make truffle pesto pasta
Follow these simple, photo-assisted instructions to prepare this creamy pesto truffle pasta. Check out recipe card below for a printable version that has quantities, instructions and notes in one place.
Step 1: Cook your pasta al dente (see the notes in recipe card below for cooking tips). While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Then add garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Add the broth and cook 1 minute.
Step 2: Reduce heat to low, stir in heavy cream, salt, red pepper flakes and dried oregano. Cook 2 minutes while stirring. Then add grated parmesan (reserve some for garnish), stir/whisk until it's melted.
Step 3: Bring this sauce to a gentle simmer and cook 3 to 4 minutes or until it slightly thickens. Stir frequently. Next, add pesto and truffle oil and stir 2 minutes.
Step 4: Add the drained pasta and mix. Transfer to plates. Sprinkle on that reserved parmesan, plus some fresh chopped parsley and enjoy!
- Mushy pasta: To prevent overcooking, never leave your pasta boiling unattended. I always set a timer and cook it al dente per package instructions.
- Sauce too thick or thin: Add broth/stock for thinning or simmer a little longer if you like it thicker. Don't forget, when you toss in cooked pasta, the sauce will get thicker – so don't make it too thick.
- Too much truffle flavor: Truffle-flavored oils can have widely different flavor potencies. Always, always start with less – add more after tasting.
- Burnt garlic: Don't sauté it for more than 30 seconds and don't crank up the heat too high. If it's already burnt, start over, or your sauce may taste bitter.
- Sauce separating: It's important to lower the heat before you add cream. Keep stirring as you pour it in and then maintain a gentle simmer afterward. Don't let the sauce boil. If the splitting has already happened, add a little cream or milk and stir.
- Salt imbalance: Use low sodium broth. Your pesto will also have salt. If not sure how salty your dish can get, start with less salt and then adjust later.
- Cheese not melting properly: Use a parmesan block and grate it yourself. Store-bought options have anti caking agents.
Substitutions and variations
- Pasta options – while I like rigatoni and penne for this dish, other shapes like fusilli, spaghetti or farfalle will also work.
- Stock/broth alternative – mix bouillon powder, concentrate or cubes in water and use that. Follow the package instructions for the correct proportions. Oh and avoid any added salt until you have tasted the final dish.
- Parmesan substitutes – grana padano, pecorino romano and asiago are good options.
- Different dried herbs – to switch things up, replace oregano with Italian seasoning, dried thyme or dried marjoram. Herbes de Provence is also a good option.
- Heat levels – omit the red pepper flakes entirely for a milder version or double the amount if you like more heat.
- Truffle oil alternatives – you'll find so many truffle products out there – like truffle butter, carpaccio/slices, paste, mince, zest etc. Some of these can be used as substitutes. But that depends on what else they contain – always read the ingredient label. Avoid truffle salt as it would make the dish too salty. And if you have fresh truffle shavings, use as a topping.
- Mushrooms – sauté some sliced button or cremini mushrooms in butter (separate pan) and throw them in with the cooked pasta.
- Protein additions – add cooked chicken, shrimp or sliced Italian sausage. Season and cook these separately, then put in the pesto truffle sauce along with the cooked pasta. You may have to increase the sauce quantity.
What to serve it with
- Warm crusty bread – ideal for mopping up any extra pesto truffle sauce left on your plate.
- Veggies – steamed, grilled or roasted ones like green beans, broccolini or brussels sprouts will balance out the richness.
- White meat or seafood – pairing the pasta with grilled chicken breast, pan-seared scallops or some baked fish will make it a complete meal.
- Simple salad – some mixed greens with cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices and a basic olive oil-lemon dressing will be great for a light and crisp contrast.
Storage and reheating
- Storage: Ensure that the pasta has cooled down, then transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate for 3 days at most. It's best not to freeze as the texture of the pasta and sauce will change when it thaws.
- Reheating: Transfer to a skillet / pan and warm it up on low heat 7 to 10 minutes (lid on). Stir occasionally and add some broth/stock if your sauce looks too thick. To reheat a small portion, add a splash of broth/stock and microwave in 30-second intervals until heated through. Stir between intervals to ensure even heating. Know that microwaving may turn some of that creamy sauce into oil, so the stovetop method with low heat is better.
Just so you know
- Traditional pesto is said to have originated in Genoe (Italy) and is made from basil, pine nuts, parmesan, garlic and olive oil. The name comes from the Italian word 'pestare' which means 'to crush/grind'.
- Truffle oil can make dishes taste great but know that many might not even contain actual truffles – these are infused with synthetic flavorings. More expensive may not always mean better quality.
- Creamy sauces thicken further as they cool, so serve immediately after mixing the pasta.
- 8 ounces (227 g) pasta - uncooked. I prefer rigatoni or penne
- 1 teaspoon olive oil - or any cooking oil, to prevent pasta from clumping
For truffle pesto sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic - finely minced or grated
- ½ cup (118 ml) chicken or vegetable broth/stock - low sodium (Note A)
- ¾ cup (177 ml) heavy whipping cream
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ cup (25 g) parmesan cheese - freshly grated. Press down tightly into the cup to measure
- ½ cup (118 ml) basil pesto - store-bought (Note B)
- 1 teaspoon black truffle oil - or white (Note C)
- some finely chopped parsley
- In a large pot, bring salted water to boil. Cook your pasta in it until al dente, following the package instructions (see Note D). Once cooked, drain in a colander. To prevent pasta from sticking together, drizzle olive oil on it and then gently and carefully mix.
- While the pasta is cooking, in a large skillet/pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Then add minced/grated garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds – don't let it turn brown.
- Add the broth and after 1 minute reduce heat to low. Then stir in the heavy cream, salt, crushed red pepper flakes and dried oregano. Cook 2 minutes while stirring.
- Now add grated parmesan (reserve a small portion for garnish), stir/whisk until it gets melted. Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until it slightly thickens. Stir frequently and do not increase the heat or the sauce will separate.
- Next, mix in the pesto and truffle oil. Stir and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the drained pasta and gently fold to combine. If the sauce looks too thick, add a splash of cream or broth.
- Transfer to serving plates. Sprinkle on that parmesan you saved earlier, plus some fresh chopped parsley and enjoy!
- Step-by-step photo instructions
- Recipe troubleshooting
- Substitutions and variations (full list)
- Serving ideas
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