This creamy pesto pasta has a unique flavor from sweet, caramelized onions. It’s an easy dinner that is perfect for any day of the week!
It wasn’t until my trip to Italy that I learned to appreciate good pesto. I had always found it a little skunky and pungent. In Genoa, I had the best pesto of my life and I brought home a few jars that tasted exactly like what I had in Italy.
You can use good jarred pesto from Genoa or you can make the pesto at home. If you are like my past self and find pesto to be pungent, try this recipe. I promise you’ll love it.
I caramelized a large sweet onion in butter and added 1 small teaspoon of sugar to help bring out the sweet flavors even more. The sweet richness of the onion really complements, but doesn’t overwhelm, the flavor of the pesto.
The rest of the sauce is simple: a bit of white wine, a bit of cream, some reserved pasta cooking water, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. And, you’re done! Simply toss with cooked pasta and serve.
One thing about this recipe is that the caramelized onions and the cream will reduce the bright green of the pesto sauce. I garnished with fresh parsley to help bring fresh, bright colors into my dish.
Regardless, this creamy pesto pasta with caramelized onions is delicious and is guaranteed to be a hit in your home!
Looking for more vegetarian recipes? Check my archives!
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Creamy Pesto Pasta with Caramelized Onions
- Large pot
- Wide pot
- 1 pound pasta short or tubular pasta preferred, such as torchiette or cavatelli
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter divided
- 1 large sweet onion peeled and diced
- 1 teaspoon sugar optional
- ½ cup white wine
- ½ cup reserved pasta cooking water
- ⅓ cup heavy cream more or less, depending on preference
- 6 ounces homemade or store-bought pesto
- Salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste
- Freshly chopped parsley or thinly sliced basil leaves optional, for garnish
Cook the Pasta:
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until 1 minute under al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. Drain and set aside.
- Note: The sauce should come together in the time it takes to bring the water to a boil and cook the pasta!
Caramelize the Onions:
- Heat the extra virgin olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter in a wide pot over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook, stirring often, for 15 minutes until it begins to soften and turn golden brown. Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the onion from burning.
- Add 1 teaspoon sugar and melt the remaining butter into the pot. Cook for 10-12 minutes more, stirring often and keeping a close eye on the onions until they are well caramelized and browned.
Prepare the Creamy Pesto Sauce:
- Pour in the white wine and scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until almost completely evaporated.
- Add the reserved pasta cooking water to the pot and stir to incorporate. Add the cream and bring to a very low boil. Cook for 2-3 minutes until thickened slightly.
- Stir the pesto into the sauce and cook for 1-2 minutes more over low heat. Taste and season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste.
Finish the Pasta:
- Add the cooked pasta to the pan and toss to combine. Taste and season again to your preferences. Keep the pan on low for 1 minute. Toss again to combine and turn off the heat.
- Divide the cooked pasta between bowls and garnish with fresh parsley or sliced basil, if desired. Enjoy!