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Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce - A Family Feast

I’ve confessed to you my HUGE love for pesto before (see here) – so it will probably come as no surprise to you that this Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce is one of my all-time favorite dishes!  And – even better, it’s simple and quick to prepare!

The pesto cream sauce in this recipe essentially combines a basic béchamel sauce with prepared pesto in a two parts béchamel to one part pesto ratio.  Béchamel is a white sauce made from a roux of butter and flour which is cooked with milk to create a creamy smooth sauce.  We seasoned our béchamel with a touch of ground nutmeg, dry mustard and other seasonings giving the sauce a wonderful, lightly savory flavor!

Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce - A Family Feast

To keep this recipe super simple, we used some of our homemade pesto from last summer (which we’ve been storing in the freezer and using all winter) and added it to the white sauce – but if you have a favorite store-bought jarred pesto, that will work equally as well for this recipe!  And – the pesto and the cream sauce together…perfection!!

Simply cook your favorite pasta (we liked the corkscrew shape of cavatappi or cellentani pasta which holds the sauce very well!) and then toss with the pesto cream sauce!  Add some freshly grated parmesan cheese – and a quick and delicious dinner is served!

Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce - A Family Feast

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Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce - A Family Feast

Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce

  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings


The trick to mastering any pasta and sauce dish is timing them so they are ready at the same time. The pasta takes about 10 minutes or so and the sauce about the same. So time your cooking accordingly! As soon as you place the pasta in the water, you should be melting the butter in the pan to make the sauce.


  • ½ pound cavatappi or cellentani pasta
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 ounces butter (1/2 stick)
  • 2 ounces flour
  • Few grates of fresh nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon Coleman’s dry mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of white pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup pesto (see recipe here)
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, as garnish


  1. Place a medium to large pot of water on for the pasta. Cook pasta according to the package directions but make it still a little bit chewy so it can cook further in the sauce. Do not drain water.
  2. Heat milk in microwave until hot but not scalded.
  3. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt butter and add flour. Lower heat to medium low and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, for four or five minutes or until the raw flour smell is gone.
  4. Add hot milk one third at a time using a whisk to incorporate. Once all the milk is in, add nutmeg, dry mustard, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and all of the pesto. Heat the mixture to medium and using a strainer or spider, place pasta into sauce along with ½ cup of pasta water and heat. If mixture is too thick, add more pasta water. If too thin, cook until the pasta absorbs some liquid.
  5. Once the dish is the perfect consistency, serve with grated Parmesan cheese over each portion.


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  • Ken wrote:

    I made the pesto recipe as described. Two oz of flour is about 7 1/4 tablespoons. The result is a cream sauce, even when thinned with pasta water, did not result in the picture you showed. Would you use more than a cup of pasta water? If so then seems too much and too thick. I am dying to make this again but need some advice.

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Ken – From your question, I can’t tell if the sauce was too thick at the bechamel (cream sauce) stage or after you added the pesto but I’ll try to help! Our pesto recipes makes 2 cups and we only added 1 cup to this recipe – just wanted to note that in case you added all of the pesto recipe. And for the cream sauce, I don’t think we added that much pasta water ourselves but if – as you were making the sauce – your pan was very hot, it’s possible all of the milk cooked away and you would need that much additional water to make it creamier. (And if you add too much water, then just simmer it over low heat until it is the right creamy consistency.) Since we posted this recipe, we’ve also posted a tutorial on how to make a bechamel/cream sauce which you also might find helpful – here is the link: Hope this helps!

  • Donna wrote:

    What does two ounces Four mean right after the butter on the list?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Donna – That is a typographical error – should say flour not four. Thank you for letting us know – I will correct the recipe as soon as possible!

  • JC wrote:

    As an Italian and an adventurous chef, I have many recipes from my Grandmother who was the best cook in the world. I use her recipes as a base and then add to…..most of the time the food is wonderful…..I have never seen a recipe for creamy pesto and am looking forward to trying this very soon.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Joe! Those old family recipes are always the best! We hope you enjoy this pesto recipe!

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