This Artichoke Pesto Pasta is made with homemade artichoke pesto with the addition of sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and mozzarella balls. A super easy and quick to make (food processor does all the job) dish, it’s looks sophisticated and elegant!
Quick, flavorful pasta dishes like this artichoke pesto are my favorite meals. They are so easy but look and taste sophisticated and fresh; elegant enough for date night, but fast enough for a weeknight supper. And as a bonus, easily customizable to the season.
I was really craving the brighter flavors of pesto, but of course, it is quite hard to find flavorful fresh basil this time of year. Besides, I already have a great basil pesto recipe on this site and a chicken pesto pasta bake to match! So instead of trying to create something with lack-luster produce, I went for some jarred artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes.
This artichoke pesto is a great variant on the classic basil pesto. The recipe was adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks – Everyday Pasta by Giada De Laurentiis. Everyday Pasta is one of my favorite cookbooks, particularly for simple but elegant meals. I’ve posted many variations on her recipes in the past, like my sausage and kale pasta or this pasta salad.
As well as exchanging the basil for artichoke and parsley, this pesto recipe uses walnuts instead of pine nuts (pinoles). Pine nuts have a very delicate flavor and don’t hold up well against bold flavors like artichoke.
Walnuts, on the other hand, are a sturdy flavor backbone for unusually flavored pestos. They have a great savory/umami element that enhances a sauce, adding depth to the brighter more acidic components.
Using Frozen Artichokes
I couldn’t find them, but I bet frozen artichokes would also work in this pesto if you don’t have jarred. You just might need to increase the olive oil and lemon juice.
Oil-packed artichokes (also referred to as canned or marinated) use a lot more vinegar in their preparation, giving them a slightly acidic taste. Frozen artichokes are more similar to freshly steamed artichokes in flavor and texture since they are typically just cooked with water and a bit of lemon juice to stop browning.
Adding Seasonal Ingredients
All of the recipes I have adapted from Everyday Pasta are so flexible depending on what you have available. While this artichoke pesto pasta would be wonderful with halved cherry tomatoes when they are in season, sun-dried tomatoes and olives were a great winter alternative and balanced the creaminess of the mozzarella balls perfectly. Besides, sun-dried tomatoes and olives are some of my favorite pantry staples for adding flavor and body to dishes – even for breakfast!
As we get closer to spring, I’m definitely imagining some blanched or lightly cooked asparagus to go with the mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes. Or in late summer and fall, perhaps some pan-fried eggplant would be a good addition to the fresh tomatoes.
How to Make Artichoke Pesto Pasta
Start by cooking pasta of your choice (I used fusilli) according to package directions. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, dump all the ingredients for the artichoke pesto except olive oil and Parmesan cheese into a small food processor. Process until the mixture is finely minced. Don’t forget to scrape down the sides during the process. Add the olive oil and pulse for a short time until just incorporated.
Transfer the artichoke pesto to a large bowl and mix in the Parmesan cheese.
Add the cooked pasta and toss well to combine.
Lastly, add the mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives. If the pasta is too thick to your liking, add some reserved cooking water to moisten it. Serve and enjoy!
I like the idea of keeping this pasta vegetarian to really allow the vegetables to shine. There are so many options through the seasons and this pesto pasta is the perfect base for all of them.
Artichoke Pesto Pasta
For the Artichoke Pesto:
- 10 oz. (280g) jar oil-packed artichokes , drained
- 1 cup fresh parsley leaves , lightly packed
- 1/2 cup toasted walnuts , chopped
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
For the Artichoke Pasta:
- 1 lb. (450g) fusilli pasta , uncooked
- 2 oz. (60g) sun-dried tomatoes , drained and cut into strips
- 1/2 cup halved black olives
- 1 cup fresh mozzarella balls
- Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain in a colander, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.
- Meanwhile, in a small food processor combine the artichokes, parsley, walnuts, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt, and pepper. Process until finely minced, stopping to scrape down the sides a couple of times. Pour in the olive oil and pulse again briefly to incorporate.
- Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and stir in the Parmesan. Add the warm pasta and toss to combine.
- Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes, black olives and mozzarella balls. If needed, add the couple of tablespoons of the reserved pasta water to moisten the pasta and create a saucelike consistency. Serve.