Side Dishes

What to Serve With Pesto Pasta

Pile up the pesto pasta – and perfect sides!

Claire Onidi By
Claire Onidi
Passionate about food and pastries since always, Claire spends most of her time in the kitchen to develop new recipes. She is French but lived many years abroad.
Learn more about me
Updated January 11, 2023

Can’t figure out what to serve with pesto pasta? Don’t worry! I have a list of delicious options that will fit any occasion.

what to serve with pesto pasta_

Pesto is a popular dish from Liguria, in Italy. In fact, the classic version of pesto, pesto Genovese, is named after the capital of this region, Genoa.

To make pesto Genovese, cooks pound fresh basil leaves with olive oil, garlic, cheese, and pine nuts. And the name “pesto” actually means “pounded.”

Traditionally, Ligurian chefs use a mortar and pestle to grind the ingredients into a paste. As well, they use a sweet local olive oil and mild basil variety that has notes of clove.

However, most people today use a food processor or blender to make pesto because it’s less time-consuming. But either way you make it, this sauce has an incredible aroma and punchy flavor.

Also, it’s very versatile, as you can put it on anything. In Liguria, people even top minestrone soup with pesto!

I love to serve pesto pasta with a salad or roasted vegetables. For example, you could make an antipasto or Caprese salad for an Italian meal.

Or, you could add chicken or seafood to your dish. And serve it with garlic bread, of course!

what to serve with pesto pasta recipe

01. Smoked Salmon Fillet

Salmon is a tasty fish, yet it’s so easy to cook it badly. But with this recipe, you’ll get a great fillet every time.

To prepare the salmon, you use a simple seasoning with Dijon mustard, and then you cook it at a low temperature in your smoker. It’s fantastic over cooked pasta, or serve it with pesto veggies for a low-carb meal.

02. Chicken Salad

For a filling lunch, I love leftover pesto pasta and chicken salad! The pesto is fresh and flavorful, and the chicken salad is creamy and a little sweet.

This Ina Garten copycat recipe uses raisins as a mix-in, but I like to use fresh grapes instead. Simply wash and slice them in half.

03. Roasted Vegetables

There’s no better way to round out a meal than with roasted veggies. It’s also an incredibly versatile side because you can use whatever is in season.

This recipe uses root veggies, which is one of my favorite mixes. When you roast them, they caramelize slightly and turn quite sweet.

So, all you need to do for an awesome side dish is chop your vegetables, add some simple flavorings, and pop everything in the oven!

04. Bruschetta

Make a meal as colorful as the Italian flag with pesto pasta and this bruschetta recipe. This dish is quick to prepare and works perfectly as a side or appetizer.

Simply top toasted baguette slices with seasoned tomatoes and a balsamic vinegar glaze. Then, dig in!

The glaze has only 2 ingredients, but it’s so good I could eat it by the spoonful!

End with a fresh fruit salad for a complete meal.

05. Arugula Salad

The combination of sweet and savory in this salad is absolutely heavenly. Fresh peaches, crunchy pecans, and salty feta cheese give you a delicious mix of flavors and textures.

If you don’t like feta, you could easily substitute shaved parmesan cheese. As well, this salad would be yummy with plums or nectarines instead of peaches.

06. Caprese Salad

This classic Italian salad also captures the spirit of the flag, layering slices of ripe tomato, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil. It’s both beautiful and delicious!

For a chopped version of this salad, you could slice cherry tomatoes and use bocconcini.

And if you want to serve two appetizers without additional prep work, you could make this and the bruschetta. That way, you can use one batch of tomatoes and balsamic reduction for both!

07. Grilled Zucchini

For a summer supper, keep it green! This grilled zucchini looks great on the plate with a nice pile of pesto pasta.

Since the seasonings are so simple on this side dish, you could serve it with different varieties of pesto. Instead of traditional basil pesto, try sun-dried tomato, cilantro, kale, or red pepper pesto.

Then, fire up your grill and get the zucchini roasting!

08. Soft-Boiled Eggs

For an easy vegetarian protein, add soft-boiled eggs to your pasta! The runny yolk mixes with the pesto, making the creamy sauce even richer.

Soft-boiled eggs are also great in to-go lunches. So if you have leftover pesto pasta, simply pop it in a container with an egg or two, and you have a filling meal ready to go.

09. Herby Grilled Chicken

Two worlds collide — deliciously — when you serve pesto pasta with Moroccan chicken. You can throw these skewers together in just 30 minutes, and they’ll round out your dinner perfectly.

First, marinate the skewers in Greek yogurt and spices. And then top them with a lemon vinaigrette that has both lemon juice and lemon zest, making it extra tangy.

This chicken is succulent on the grill or sauteed in a pan.

10. Roasted Red Peppers

When it comes to pasta, pesto is my favorite topping. However, these roasted red peppers make that dish even more irresistible.

While they take about 45 minutes to prepare, the steps are simple and the result is totally worth it. Just don’t burn your fingers when you remove the skins!

And sometimes, I’ll skip the basil pesto and just make pesto out of these peppers!

11. Antipasto Salad

If you love salty snacks, this salad is for you! The mix of cured meats, artichoke hearts, olives, pickled peppers, and cheese will satisfy any craving.

You can also experiment with your favorite add-ins, or make it vegetarian by adding other pickled veggies instead of the meat. Any way you prepare it, it’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

12. Black-Eyed Pea Salad

This Southern side dish is extremely healthy, easy to make, and tastes divine. What’s not to love?

Plus, it matches the color palette of the Italian flag!

While using bottled dressing makes this recipe really quick, I like to throw together a simple olive oil vinaigrette. That way, I can season it the way I like it!

13. Garlic Bread

Just a few ingredients in the oven make the tastiest comfort food. And you can even make the butter ahead of time for those nights when you feel like cuddling on the couch instead of cooking.

As well, this is a great side for pesto pasta because you can use it to mop up any extra pasta sauce!

14. Fried Calamari

I love this restaurant classic, but I don’t always like to deep-fry foods at home because of the mess. But in an air fryer, this calamari comes out deliciously light and crispy — with minimal cleanup!

Soaking the calamari in buttermilk tenderizes the seafood. Then, you bread and fry it!

This recipe uses Old Bay seasoning, which gives the dish an East Coast flavor. But you can use any spices you want.

15. Buttery Garlic-Seared Scallops

Simple seared scallops are an elegant dish for a dinner party or date night. And they pair well with any pesto dish.

This recipe is very simple and quick. However, be careful not to overcook the scallops.

What to Serve With Pesto Pasta


  1. Prep your pesto sauce.

  2. Choose some side dishes.

  3. Have fun in the kitchen.

  4. Serve your pasta dish and amazing sides!

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