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Spaghetti (Recipe: spaghetti with basil pesto, tomato and olives) {vegetarian}

Spaghetti with basil pesto 

I don't know why, but I almost never cook spaghetti anymore.

Some time in the 1970s, I switched from spaghetti to linguine because it was a favorite of The Frugal Gourmet, who was a favorite of mine. And then, in the 1990s, when I started eating more of my everyday meals with chopsticks, I switched from linguine to fusilli (little corkscrews), which are easier to grab.

A few years ago, I switched from fusilli to rotini, because Dreamfields makes its delicious low-carb pasta in that twisty shape.

Dreamfields also makes spaghetti, so this year I've put spaghetti back in our pasta rotation.

The two long and stringy pastas, spaghetti and linguine, are almost interchangeable, and I use the same sauces -- traditional tomato based as well as Asian-inspired -- for both. The difference, apart from the fact that one is round and one is flat, is that everyone remembers spaghetti and meatballs from childhood.

Linguine and meatballs? Not so much.

What is spaghetti?
Pasta made from semolina and water (and sometimes eggs) formed into long, thin, solid (not hollow), round strands.

How/where to store?
Dried spaghetti: store in the original box or bag, in the cupboard, for a year or more. Remove leftover dried spaghetti from the box or bag, and place in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, or in a ziploc bag. Fresh spaghetti: must be refrigerated.

Facts about spaghetti, and ingredient photographs, on The Perfect Pantry:
Linguine, spaghetti (Recipe: pasta with clams and vegetable sauce)

Spaghetti with basil pesto

Spaghetti with basil pesto, tomato and olives

If you make pesto in the summer, when the basil is overtaking your garden, freeze it without the cheese. When you find the container in your freezer in the middle of winter, it will make your heart sing. Good quality store-bought pesto works well in this recipe, too, and it all comes together in the time it takes the pasta to cook. Serves 4.


1 lb dry spaghetti
1 cup basil pesto, homemade (recipe below) or store-bought
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for garnish
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 plum tomatoes, diced
12 black olives, halved
A pinch of fresh black pepper
A few fresh basil leaves for garnish, in season


Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large stockpot over high heat. Add the spaghetti, stir, and cook for 9 minutes, until the spaghetti is al dente ("firm to the tooth").

While the spaghetti is cooking, make the pesto:

2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Place basil, nuts, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor fitted with a metal blade, and pulse until chopped. With the machine running, add olive oil in a stream until the pesto has the consistency of a nice sauce.

Add the pesto, parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, tomatoes and olives to a large mixing bowl. Stir gently to combine.

Drain the spaghetti, leaving a bit of the cooking water clinging to it, and add to the bowl with the sauce. Toss gently; the heat of the spaghetti will melt the cheese. Season with black pepper. Top with basil leaves, if you have them, and grated cheese.

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Sicilian-style spaghetti
Traditional spaghetti gravy
Linguine with tomato-olive sauce
One-one-one spaghetti sauce
Pasta puttanesca
Chicken lo mein

Other recipes that use spaghetti:
Spaghetti with cheese and black pepper, from Smitten Kitchen
Spaghetti salad, from Cooking with Amy
Gluten-free Italian meatballs with basil pesto pasta, from Gluten-Free Goddess
Whole wheat spaghetti with Italian sausage, red peppers and hot pepper flakes, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Spaghetti alla Bolognese, from What's For Lunch, Honey?

Need more creative ideas for using tomatoes all year round? Get 25 Tomatoes, my e-book packed with fantastic recipes, full-color photos and a fun video tutorial. With the FREE Kindle Reading app, delicious tomato recipes will always be just one click away on any computer, tablet or smart phone. Click here to learn more.

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


This sounds great, and I DO have pesto in the freezer!

well actually according to "classics" the pasta for pesto (the one from Liguria, pure green) would be:
trofie (fresh pasta made with flour/water)
linguine (yes your favourite)
or trenette (again drum semolina)
or even lasagne (
Whatever your dish looks scrumptious!

I also agree with your idea.... Pesto for summer should be very enjoyable..

Your recipe has a lot of my favorite ingredients packed into one dish.

Spaghetti is definitely a pantry staple for me, and I love Trader Joe's whole wheat spaghetti. We dress it up with all kinds of made-up sauces and it is always a satisfying meal.

I haven't had spaghetti in years because somehow I have latched on to spaghettini. No matter what pasta we use I am confident your pasta dish would do it justice!!

This looks so delicious! Can't wait until I have basil in the garden again . . . gorgeous.

And I agree . . . spaghetti is underrated!

This reminds me, I have pesto in the freezer. Must make something like this with it soon!

I know - what happened to spaghetti -I have forgotten about it too - Angel hair became the much trendier choice in our house and even that I haven't cooked in ages!!

Spaghetti tonight!

Beautiful! I switched fro spaghetti to angel hair and back....always changing keeps it interesting.

Looks very delicious. Perfect for a fast and tasty dinner. THANKS FOR THE RECIPE!

That is a long history of pasta switcheroos! I'm a linguine fan myself...but who knows how that will change in the coming years. Love pesto. It is so versatile.

I love spaghetti. Well actually pretty much any pasta is great in my book. Love olives, too. Looks yummy I'll have to try it!

Oh how I wish I lived in a climate where basil would overtake my garden!
Looks yummy!

Well I'm glad you came back to spaghetti long enough to give us this recipe, thanks for sharing!

I haven’t had spaghetti for the longest time, Lydia. I have most of the ingredients so today I will be making this dish of yours. No pine nuts though, but I have found that Brazilian nuts are good substitute for pine nuts in pesto. Cheaper, too.

I love spaghetti & use it frequently. As you mentioned, Dreamfields spaghetti is so tasty---I really like having the low-carb option, for myself and guests with dietary restrictions. Your recipe sounds delightful---the perfect side for chicken breasts fresh from the grill!

I love briny pastas likes this one. Mediterranean on a plate, taste sensation and rather filling.

Kalyn, Alta: I always seem to have pesto in the freezer. No matter how much I make each summer (or how little), there's a container or two hanging around at all times. Perhaps it multiplies over the winter.

Briga, thanks for adding to our pasta knowledge; I always have linguine in the pantry, and pesto in the freezer!

Shanmugam, pesto is good all year round.

Nupur, thank goodness for Trader Joe's. We finally got a store in Rhode Island last year.

Val, Carol, Noble Pig: You've all gone to thinner pasta. I've gone thicker. But thanks for the reminder about thin pastas; I haven't cooked with them in years.

Sandy, Natashya: ever since I started my herb garden, I've been completely spoiled by having fresh basil right outside the kitchen door. I can't buy basil (or most herbs) in the winter anymore.

Mari's Cakes, with pesto made beforehand, this dish comes together in the time it takes to boil the pasta. Quick and easy!

Joanne, yep, I'm a linguine girl most of the time when I want a long pasta. But mostly I've gone twisty.

Maria, Patty: I really do love spaghetti. It's fallen out of our regular pasta rotation in recent years, but whenever I do cook with it, I wonder why I haven't used it more often.

Anh, I think there are lots of nuts that would work in pesto. I often use walnuts when I'm out of pine nuts.

Sandie, I've gone completely low-carb, and until I discovered Dreamfields (by reading Kalyn's blog), I'd given up pasta altogether. I love having a pasta option that is easy on my health.

Peter, nothing says Mediterranean like pesto -- the garlic and basil are absolutely Italy!

My husband recently bought me two of the Frugal Gourmet's cookbooks he spotted at a rummage sale. I have really enjoyed reading them.

And, your pesto pasta looks beautiful and sounds scrumptious.

Thats looks great! I have never tried making my own pesto so thats number one on my list this summer! I do love the Trader Joe's pesto though and I think it will work quite well here.

Pesto! Summer! Since we've been close to 60 here, I can imagine buying basil plants soon.

looks so delicious and easy, great info on the different pastas!

There's something so fun about spaghetti - makes me feel like a little kid again. I add pesto to spaghetti regularly, but have never added olives. Great idea!

Rocquie, I still have those old Frugal Gourmet cookbooks. The first one is my favorite, but I also like Three Ancient Cuisines.

Radhika, it's so easy to make pesto -- especially if you're lucky enough to have basil in your garden. I admit I'm completely spoiled by that, and I make enough pesto every summer to last clear through to the next summer.

Mimi, I was out in the garden today, imagining how many basil plants I'll buy and where I'll put them this year.

Angie, it really is quick and easy!

Cookin' Canuck, spaghetti takes me back, too. It's the only pasta I remember my mother ever cooking, except for occasional elbow macaroni.

This was really tasty! Thanks for the recipe.

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