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Ready in less than 30 minutes, this vegetarian pesto pasta is full of flavor, featuring green beans, basil pesto and potatoes.

vegetarian pesto pasta | pesto and potatoes

Pasta and potatoes may sound like an unusual combination, but it’s actually a traditional way of serving pesto in northern Italy. In Genoa, pesto’s birthplace, Italians boil green beans, potatoes, and pasta (sometimes all in the same pot) and serve it with a pesto sauce. While it’s usually eaten with long noodles like linguine or fettuccine, we decided to mix it up with some cavatappi instead. This vegetarian pesto pasta recipe certainly did not disappoint. I loved the alternative cavatappi shape–it helped us enjoy each bite instead of inhaling our meal like we normally do with linguine. And the potatoes made it substantial in a way that seemed more satisfying than a normal pasta dish.

Related: 14 Red Potato Recipes | Italian Pizza with Pesto

vegetarian pesto pasta | pesto and potatoes

How to make vegetarian pesto pasta

If you have an overactive basil plant like we do, I highly recommend making your own pesto. It takes less than 10 minutes to make and is super flavorful. Our pesto recipe uses walnuts instead of pine nuts (they’re a fraction of the price and you can’t taste much of a difference). However, you can use almost any nut you have on hand—macadamia nuts and pecans would work, for example. Just make sure to avoid peanuts and any other nut with a strong, distinct flavor.

When making this vegetarian pesto pasta recipe, we recommend using the same water you boiled the green beans in to boil the pasta. This will reduce the number of dishes you have to wash, and will infuse your pasta with extra flavor. Reserve some of the starchy cooking water before draining the pasta as well, because it can be used to thin out the pesto as you’re tossing all the ingredients together. The combination of basil pesto and potatoes is just perfect!

If you’re making this recipe ahead of time, store everything separately until you’re ready to eat. The pasta can be reheated on the stove with a little olive oil and water (the olive oil helps prevent the pasta from turning into one big glob). The potatoes and green beans reheat well and can be thrown into the same pot you use to reheat the pasta. Fresh pesto will stay good for about a week in the fridge, or it can be frozen in an ice cube tray and reheated in a pan.

Serve this vegetarian pesto pasta with a crisp green salad (might I suggest this radish and pea salad?) or some steamed veggies, and enjoy!

Related: Simple Garlic Scape Pesto

vegetarian pesto pasta | pesto and potatoes

Looking for more vegetarian pasta recipes?

Outside of this vegetarian pesto pasta, here are a few of our favorite vegetarian pasta recipes:

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This vegetarian pesto pasta with potatoes is vegetarian.

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Vegetarian Pesto Pasta with Potatoes

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  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4 to 6 1x


Ready in less than 30 minutes, this vegetarian pesto pasta is full of flavor, featuring green beans, basil pesto and potatoes.


  • 1 pound cavatappi pasta
  • 1/2 pound green beans
  • 3 medium large red potatoes
  • ¾ cup basil pesto (purchased, homemade or  vegan pesto)
  • Fresh Parmesan cheese, to serve (optional)


  1. Wash the green beans, remove the ends, and chop them into 2-inch pieces. Wash the potatoes and cut them into 1-inch chunks.
  2. Place the potatoes in a pot and cover them with water. Bring the potatoes to a boil and cook them until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and place in a large bowl.
  3. Meanwhile, place water in another pot and bring to a boil. When it is boiling, add the green beans and cook until tender, around 6 minutes. Remove the beans with a slotted spoon and place in the bowl with the potatoes.
  4. Reserve the hot water from the green beans to use for the pasta, adding more to be able to cover the pasta when it is added. Bring the water to a boil and add a pinch of salt. Add the cavatappi and boil until tender according to the package instructions, around 8 minutes. Drain and place in the bowl with the potatoes, reserving a bit of cooking water in the pot.
  5. Add ¾ cup pesto to the large bowl and mix everything to combine. You can add a bit of cooking water to help the mixing process, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve immediately, topped with freshly grated Parmesan if desired.


If making ahead, reserve the pesto and mix everything together immediately prior to serving. Make sure to add a bit of olive oil to the plain pasta while you keep it warm to keep it from sticking to the pot.

  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Jen says:

    This dish is excellent! The addition of the potatoes to a traditional pesto pasta meal is so good. My family love it. I made the pesto with basil from my garden.

  2. Davis says:

    I enjoy what you guys are up too. Such clever work and reporting!
    Keep up the great works guys I’ve included you guys to blogroll.

  3. gatewood insurance says:

    Possibly the BEST blog I read all year!?!

  4. Rachel (Two Healthy Plates) says:

    This recipe looks great – pesto is my favorite pasta sauce! My husband would really love this pasta too, mostly because it’s pasta with potatoes!

  5. kateiscooking says:

    You’re right, that’s a combo I’d not have thought of. It looks good though since I love all the ingredients. Kate@kateiscooking