If you want to enjoy a classic Italian regional dish, Fettuccine al Pesto must be near the top of the list.

This very simple dish uses just a few ingredients and produces a delicious dish from Genova, famous for being the home of pesto.

Pesto alla Genovese with Fettuccine pasta

Let’s look at how you make this easy pesto pasta recipe the whole family will love.

What is Fettuccine al Pesto?

A Genovese tradition. Genova, the land of pesto, and its origins can be traced all the way back to the 16th century. 

Pesto comes from the Italian “pestare, ” meaning “to pound.”

Originally, it was made in a marble mortar with a pestle.

Although the pesto has become familiar with identifying anything that is made by pounding, the Pesto all Genovese is and always will be the original.

Growing up, I remember listening to my grandmother talking to her friends and my aunts about pesto. It felt as if every woman was competing for the ultimate fresh pesto.

I enjoyed the benefits of that beautiful competition. This recipe has been passed down to me by my mother, and I have seen her make it all my life.

You can always make your fresh pasta, time permitting.

Enjoy my own recipe for Homemade Pasta, which was published a while back.

It is super fun and delicious, too, of course.

In this Article

What is the Best Basil for Pesto?

Italian basil, Lemon basil, Thai basil, and purple-growing basil is not daunting task and thrive even in my crazy hot climate.

So many basil plants to choose from.

For this recipe, I strongly recommend the Italian one or Genovese. Green medium size leaves and so aromatic.

If you are growing a home plant, once you see the small blooming flowers, cut them off to allow the plant to grow more.

fettuccine al pesto genovese

Cooking tips and step by step to make this creamy pesto sauce

  • To reduce the bitterness of the basil, make sure that you blanch it for less than a minute. No more than that.
  • Do not skip on the walnut. It gives it the right amount of intensity. Same on the pine nuts.
  • Crazy how this may sound, however, the best pasta to enjoy pesto is fettuccine.
  • Play with the fresh cloves of garlic amount to use. Too much can overpower the basil and the Parmigiano cheese, which is not the Italian way.
  • Add the cream at the last minute and do not forget to add some of the cooking water to the serving dish to bind it.
  • Fettuccine or any wider and longer pasta goes very well with the pesto. Make sure to bring the water to a boil.
  • Extra virgin olive oil is a must when making pesto.
  • Be very generous with your parmesan cheese.

Equipment Needed

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Large pot – to cook the pasta

Small pot – to blnache the basil

Blender or Food Processor – to prepare the pesto

Colander – for draining the pasta

Serving plate – to serve your delicious pesto at the table

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Step by Step

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for your pasta. Cook your pasta al dente according to the manufacturing package. As I mentioned earlier, you may add a cut-up potato here, but it is optional. Reserve ¼ cup of the cooking water.

Meanwhile, you may want to prepare the pesto:

  • In a small pot of boiling water, add the basil leaves and blanch for less than a minute when boiling.
  • Drain the basil and add it to the pine nuts, walnuts, garlic, Parmigiano, and olive oil in a blender or food processor. Blend on high.
  • When all the ingredients are well blended, add the heavy cream and give it a quick pulse. All the ingredinets should be forming a soft paste of a very bright green. Ensure that all the ingredients are finely chopped.

Assmble your dish

Place the drained pasta, the butter, pesto, and add the cooked pasta to a serving dish. Add some of the additional reserved pasta water as you mix.

The pesto should be of a nice light green color, and the pasta should be moist.

Generously grate Parmigiano cheese over the pesto fettuccine. Serve with ciabatta garlic bread.

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Do You Need to Add Potato to Pasta? 

My grandmother used to add a potato to the pasta during cooking. The potato’s natural starch adds an extra little bit of tastiness to the pesto, not to mention the perfect amount of starch to the pasta for the sauce. 

This step, however, is optional.

Substitutes and Additions

While this traditional Fettuccine al Pesto recipe is sublime in its simplicity, there are a few substitutions and additions you can make if desired:

  • Basil: If Genovese or Italian basil is unavailable, you can substitute it with other types of basil, like Thai or sweet basil. The flavour of the pesto will be slightly different, but the essence of the pesto will still be intact.
  • Cheese: Parmigiano cheese is a staple in this recipe, but if you want a creamier texture, try substituting half the quantity with fresh ricotta.
  • Additions: For a protein-rich meal, add grilled chicken or shrimp. If you’re a vegetarian, try adding sun-dried tomatoes or roasted bell peppers for an extra punch of flavor.
  • Pasta: Though fettuccine is recommended, you can use any type of pasta you have on hand. Spaghetti, penne, and tagliatelle pasta can work just as well. Gluten-free pasta can also be used for those with dietary restrictions.
  • Cream: If lactose intolerant or vegan, you can replace the cream with a non-dairy alternative like almond milk or coconut cream. Be sure to adjust the quantity to maintain the right consistency.


Creamy fettuccine al Pesto is best enjoyed fresh, but if you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The great thing is they will keep for up to 3 days.

To reheat, place in a pan over medium heat, adding a splash of water or olive oil to prevent sticking for an easy weeknight dinner.

If you wish to freeze the pesto, do so without adding the cream. Freeze in air-tight containers, ice cube trays, or small containers, which are great ways to freeze for portion control. This way, you’ll have ready-to-use pesto whenever you need it.

The frozen pesto will keep well for up to 3 months. 

Remember to thaw overnight in the fridge before using. Add the cream only when you’re ready to serve it.

The homemade pesto sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. It can also be frozen, as mentioned above.

If you’re planning to serve the dish for a dinner party, you can cook the pasta and prepare the sauce beforehand, then combine and reheat when ready to serve.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use dried basil instead of fresh basil?

This recipe highly recommends fresh basil as it gives the most authentic taste.

Can I use a different type of cheese besides Parmigiano?

Parmigiano cheese contributes significantly to the authentic Italian flavor of this dish. However, you can substitute it with a sharp, hard cheese like pecorino or a mild cheese like mozzarella if you don’t have it.

Can I make this pesto vegan?

Yes, you can substitute the Parmigiano cheese with vegan cheese or nutritional yeast, and the cream can be replaced with a plant-based cream or non-dairy milk.

How can I make this recipe gluten-free?

To make this recipe gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta. Be sure to check the labels of all other ingredients to ensure they are also gluten-free.

fettuccine al pesto genovese

Are you looking for more delicious recipes to enjoy?

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Fettuccine al Pesto

5 from 11 votes
fettuccine al pesto genovese
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4 people
This recipe has been passed down to me by my mother which I have seen her make all my life.


  • 2 fresh basil, leaves removed from the stems and washed
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts
  • 1 walnut
  • ½ garlic clove
  • 4 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil,
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 pound fettuccine pasta,
  • 1 potato, cut in slices (optional)
  • grated Parmigiano Reggiano


  • Put water in a pan and bring it to a boil.
  • When boiling add the basil leaves and blanch for less than a minute. Drain. In a blender or food processor, place the basil, pine nuts, walnut, garlic, Parmiggiano, and olive oil. Blend on high.
  • When all the ingredients are well blended, add the heavy cream, and give it a quick pulse.
  • If using the potato, place the cut potato in a large pan of salted water and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook to al dente. Drain the pasta and reserve ¼ cup of the cooking water.
  • In a serving dish place the butter, the pesto, and add the cooked pasta. Add some of the water as you mix. The pesto should be of a nice light green color and the pasta should be moist. Generously grate Parmigiano cheese over the pasta.


Calories: 664kcal | Carbohydrates: 95g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 16mg | Sodium: 117mg | Potassium: 492mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 182IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 89mg | Iron: 2mg

Giangi’s Kitchen provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as a registered dietician does not calculate them.

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