Pesto pasta is a delicious, savory dish.
It’s a great meal to make for a group of friends or family.
But if you’re serving it as the main course, you want to make sure you have some sides to go with it!
Here are 15 of our favorite side dishes that pair well with pesto pasta:
What to Serve with Pesto Pasta: 40 Easy Sides
If you’re looking to serve pesto pasta, you’ll want to serve a side dish that’s easy to eat and goes well with the flavor of the pesto. A favorite is fresh green beans, but you can also serve potatoes, pasta, rice, or bread.
Sure, pesto pasta can be a great stand-alone dish, but sometimes you want that extra something.
And hey, no judgement if you only have time for pesto pasta and a side!
Here are some of our favorite side dishes to serve alongside a pesto pasta dish:
If you’re looking for a simple and delicious side dish to serve with your pesto pasta, how about Avocado Toast?
It’s a staple of brunch menus across America and beyond, but we think it makes a great addition to any meal. Here are some tips on how to make avocado toast work at your next dinner.
Choose the right bread
The toast part of avocado toast is easy enough—just pop some bread in the toaster.
But what type of bread should you choose?
We recommend hearty whole-grain breads—they provide more fiber than white bread, which will help fill you up if you’re trying to eat less pasta (or even just skipping the red sauce).
Choose the right toppings
Depending on what type of pesto you make and what you’re serving with it, your toppings can be as varied as you want them to be.
Try adding some sliced radishes for crunch, or drizzle over some balsamic glaze for a tart kick.
The world is your oyster! Or avocado. Whatever works best for you.
Keep it simple
Some avocado toast recipes are elaborate and decadent, with all kinds of toppings that can get pricey and fussy.
But the best avocado toast recipes start with just three things: bread, avocado, and salt.
If you can find bread that’s thickly sliced, that’s ideal—it helps support the weight of the avocado without getting soggy under the pressure.
Once your toast is done, spread the avocado on top while it’s still warm, so the heat helps melt the avocado into a creamy texture.
Sprinkle generously with salt and drizzle with olive oil if you like, and you’re ready to serve!
If you’re a fan of pesto pasta, you need to try serving it with cauliflower “rice.”
It’s the perfect light side dish to go with your favorite pasta, and it lets you get away with eating more pasta.
Here are some tips for making this work as a meal:
- Be sure to chop your cauliflower into small pieces. Tiny ones are ideal because they look like rice grains.
- After cooking in butter or oil, season it with salt and pepper. A squeeze of lemon juice is great too!
- You can also add some spices and herbs—thyme goes great, but you can use what you have on hand.
- If you don’t care about the rice look, just put everything in a blender before cooking. It’ll give the flavor a boost!
Have you ever wanted to serve a light meal that is both delicious and easy to make?
Well, I have just the thing for you!
Arugula salad goes great with pesto pasta. It is both a tasty pairing and a healthy one too!
Pesto pasta has some strong flavors in it, so keeping the side dish simple is important. Arugula salad helps to keep the meal fresh and light.
Personally, I like my salads to have some cheese in them.
Feta cheese goes well with arugula, and gives it a nice creamy texture.
If you feel like splurging, try adding some pancetta (Italian bacon) to it as well – it’s delicious!
Pesto pasta is a classic dish that everyone should know how to cook.
It’s a simple meal that’s tasty and easy to make.
However, if you’re going for a complete meal, you’ll want some side dishes too.
A great choice for your side dish is a Caprese Salad.
This salad consists of tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil, olive oil and salt.
The flavors here go together perfectly with the pesto pasta, making this a perfect meal combination.
Try it out next time you’re making pesto pasta!
Here are some tips on how to make this work as a meal:
- Get tomatoes that are ripe and in season.
- Make sure your basil is fresh and smells good.
- Do not use pre-grated cheese. Buy a block of mozzarella and grate it yourself.
Spicy butternut squash soup is the perfect way to liven up a winter meal.
To make this work as a meal, we recommend serving the pesto pasta with sliced bread and olive oil.
Then, serve the soup in small glasses, followed by some cheese and fruit for dessert.
This will help keep your meal light while still making sure that everyone who comes over feels full and satisfied.
For the butternut squash soup:
- Cut two pounds of butternut squash into small cubes.
- Add one tablespoon of butter to a large saucepan over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the cubed squash and cook until softened (about five minutes).
- Add three cups of chicken broth and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the squash is tender.
- Using an immersion blender or food processor, puree the soup until smooth (this can also be done in batches).
- Add salt and pepper to taste, then garnish with grated Parmesan cheese!
Looking to make a perfect meal that’s easy to put together?
This side dish is a great complement to that pesto pasta you’ve been loving lately.
Roasted, crunchy cauliflower with a creamy garlic aioli dip is the perfect combination of textures, flavors, and nutrients.
It’s an easy way to get your veggies, and it’s absolutely delicious.
Here are some tips on how to make it work in a meal:
- If you’re going for a vegan meal, use this recipe as is.
- If you’re not vegan and want more protein, add some prosciutto on top of your cauliflower!
- If you want more carbs, serve this dish alongside grilled bread or garlic knots.
Roasting vegetables is a quick and easy way to add a healthy dose of veggies to your meal without a ton of hassle or time.
You can roast whatever veggies you have on hand—asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots—the list goes on!
Do a quick internet search for the type of veggie you’re using and “roasting instructions” and you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.
If you’re looking for something to serve with pesto pasta, focaccia bread is a great way to complement the flavors of your main course.
Pesto and focaccia both have Italian roots, so they’ll go well together, but it’s also just plain delicious—and super easy to make!
You can look up any recipe for making focaccia bread online, but here’s what we recommend:
- Give yourself at least three hours for rising time.
- Let your dough rise in a warm environment so it can double in size.
- Then spread it out on your baking pan and brush olive oil over the top and sprinkle with sea salt.
- Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit until golden brown (about 20 minutes).
- Let your focaccia cool slightly before serving alongside some pesto pasta, and you’re good to go!
9. Tomato salad
The trick to making a delicious tomato salad is to use ripe-but-firm tomatoes—heirloom tomatoes are perfect.
The last thing you want is a soggy tomato salad!
An easy way to make sure your tomatoes aren’t too soft is to store them at room temperature instead of in the fridge.
Don’t leave them out too long, though, or they’ll become unpleasantly warm.
To compliment the tomatoes’ acidity, add a little bit of sweetness by adding honey or sugar to your vinaigrette. (Use olive oil and vinegar, with salt and pepper.)
This will be cut by the acidity of the tomatoes as well, so don’t add too much!
10. Fried polenta
Pesto pasta is already a great combination of carbs and protein, and polenta adds an extra dose of starch.
It’s also a perfect complement to the creamy-yet-fresh taste of pesto pasta.
Fried polenta is easy to make and works well as an appetizer or a side dish.
Slice it in thin triangles and fry on each side until golden brown.
Serve it hot with some grated pecorino cheese and lemon zest.
11. Italian Salad
It’s got all the freshness of a regular salad, but with the sweetness of tomatoes and balsamic vinegar.
It’ll balance out the richness of the pesto and give you something more substantial to munch on.
To make it work as a meal, just add some protein!
You can mix in chicken or shrimp right into the salad, which is great if you’re trying to save on dishes, or you can serve the salad alongside some grilled chicken or fish.
I personally like to sprinkle Italian dressing over my Italian salad before serving – it gives it an unmistakable flavor that everyone will recognize as “Italian.”
12. Baked potatoes
Pesto pasta is an incredibly versatile dish—but if you’re looking for a delicious side to serve with it, we’ve got the perfect thing: baked potatoes.
First, some tips on making this work as a meal:
- Preheat your oven to 375°F and let it heat up for 10 minutes.
- When it’s ready, place your washed potatoes directly on the rack in the middle of the oven.
- Set a timer for 45 minutes, and check occasionally. You’ll want them to be soft inside, but not mushy.
When you’re done, you can serve them hot (and top them with your favorite butter!), or wait for them to cool down and use them as a base for your pesto pasta.
Whichever way you choose to serve them, they’ll make the perfect addition to your already-delicious pesto pasta!
One of the most exciting parts of a meal, in my opinion, is the side dish. It’s just the little sprinkles on top that really make it perfect for me.
So when I’m making a main dish, I like to pick something that adds value to the whole meal.
In this case, broccoli casserole is one of my go-to’s.
It’s healthy because it’s vegetables, and it’s got cheese so it’s delicious.
My kids love it too, so that’s a plus.
Plus, you can make your own pesto if you want to be fancy and go all out, or you can just get some from the store—that’s up to you!
Just remember that making your own pesto requires basil, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese.
14. Caesar Salad
Salads are always a great way to lighten up a meal, especially if it’s a carb-heavy one.
And this is the perfect salad for any pasta dish—not only does it have the same basic ingredients as most pesto sauces (anchovies, garlic, oil, lemon juice), so it has similar flavor notes; but it also has crunchy croutons and creamy dressing that help you feel full and satisfied after eating.
If you’re worried about making sure your guests have enough to eat, try adding some grilled shrimp or chicken breast to the salad.
The protein will keep them full without overpowering the flavors of the salad or the pasta.
Spinach salads are a great side dish because they’re both nutritious and delicious.
They’re packed with vitamins, and the added fruit is high in fiber.
The crunch of the nuts and seeds is a nice contrast to the softness of the pasta.
Classic Spinach Salad is a great complement to pesto pasta for a few reasons:
- It adds some greens for a balanced meal!
- Its tangy, vinegar-based dressing helps cut through the richness of the pesto.
- It’s super easy to make!
To bring these two together in a meal, we like simple salads like this one:
- Take a few handfuls of baby spinach and top it with sliced red onion, halved cherry tomatoes, and crumbled feta cheese.
- Drizzle it all with balsamic vinegar and toss it up!
- Serve it on the side of your pesto pasta, and voila—dinner is served.
The thing that makes this particular side dish so amazing is the fact that it’s sweet without being sugary, and savory without being too rich.
So it compliments the pesto pasta without competing with it.
Plus, it’s really simple to make:
- Just steam some carrots until they’re tender and then drain them.
- Melt in a little butter, and toss in some roasted garlic cloves.
- Sprinkle some salt (and maybe some thyme) on top—that’s it!
You’ve got yourself a tasty side dish that will make your pesto pasta even better.
Brussels sprouts are a great addition to any meal—and you might be surprised at how much you like them.
Even if you don’t like these green veggies, we think we can change your mind.
Crunchy brussels sprouts with parmesan is a great pairing for pesto pasta because they both have similar flavors: earthiness from the vegetables and saltiness from the cheese.
You can throw these in the oven and let them cook while your pasta cooks, so it’s one of the easiest dishes you can make.
How to make it:
- To make these brussels, preheat your oven to 425F.
- Cut up 2 lbs of brussels sprouts and chop 1/2 cup of onion.
- Toss these vegetables with 1 tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
- Bake for 35 minutes or until the vegetables are soft when pierced with a fork.
- Melt 2 tbsp butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Add the juice of one lemon, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/4 tsp paprika, and 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional).
- Add the cooked vegetables to the saucepan and stir until coated.
- Sprinkle 3 tbsp grated parmesan on top of the brussels sprouts before serving.
18. Roasted potatoes
Roasted potatoes are a classic side dish that pair really well with pastas of all kinds, but especially with pesto pasta.
They’re also super easy to make and take very little time.
Here’s how I like to do it:
- Start off by preheating the oven to 450° F.
- Then, cut up some red potatoes into bite-sized pieces and toss with olive oil and salt.
- Spread the potatoes out on a baking sheet and put it in the oven for 25 minutes.
- Take it out and serve!
Grilled shrimp has the perfect amount of crunch, and the garlic in the pesto complements grilled shrimp perfectly.
To make these grilled shrimp skewers, you’ll need:
- 2 pounds of raw, peeled and deveined large shrimp
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat grill to medium heat and lightly oil grate.
- In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper.
- Add shrimp and toss to coat evenly.
- Thread evenly onto skewers.
- Grill in batches for about 2 minutes per side or until pink and opaque.
20. Crab cakes
You may be wondering how crab cakes can go with pasta.
The two dishes seem like they’re worlds apart.
But hear us out: not only does the bright green pasta and creamy crab cake complement each other well texturally, but some of the ingredients in the crab cakes mix with the flavors of the pasta to make a dynamic, unforgettable dish.
Crab cakes can be made in an air fryer or on a pan with olive oil.
After you choose your cooking method, simply combine the following ingredients in a bowl:
- 1 pound crab meat
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- 1 egg
- ½ cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- Mix it all together, form it into patties and cook until crispy!
- Serve immediately on top of your pesto pasta for a meal that will satisfy anyone’s palate.
One great option to try out next time you’re making pesto pasta is black-eyed pea salad.
The crunchy, fresh vegetables in the salad help break up the richness of the pesto sauce and provide some additional nutrition.
Here’s how I like to make this side dish:
- To make black-eyed pea salad, start by rinsing and draining a can of black-eyed peas.
- In a large bowl, mix together the peas, diced red onion, sliced celery, and chopped parsley.
- To make the dressing for this salad, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
- Toss the vegetables with the dressing until everything is coated.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to enjoy!
The garlic and basil in pesto pasta make it the perfect companion to robust sausages, while the lemon zest in the pesto adds a bit of brightness that can be offset by the juicy, salty meat.
You’ll take your pesto pasta from great to amazing with this classic pairing.
Making grilled sausage links can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be:
- First, preheat your grill to medium-high heat (about 450 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Next, remove your sausages from their packaging and place them on the grill. Now you’re just waiting for them to cook!
- For about three minutes per side, you’ll turn each link over until it’s browned on both sides and has an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Then you can remove them from the heat and serve them with your pesto pasta right away.
23. Sauteed kale
Kale is packed full of vitamins and nutrients, and sauteing it softens the texture so you can enjoy it without having to chew for hours.
It also absorbs the flavor of the oil and spices used in the sauteeing process, which means that when you pair it with pesto pasta, it will compliment the flavors of the pasta perfectly.
Here’s how to make it:
- To make this side dish, start by cutting up a few cloves of garlic into thin slices.
- Heat up some olive oil in a skillet on medium heat until the oil starts to shimmer.
- Add the garlic to the skillet, and let it cook for about 30 seconds before adding your chopped kale.
- Sautee for about five minutes, stirring occasionally until the kale has wilted down enough that you can fit all of it into your skillet at once.
- Add salt and pepper to taste before serving alongside your pesto pasta!
Mushrooms are the perfect complement to pasta because they’re earthy and umami, whereas pesto is herby and fruity.
I like to use cremini mushrooms for this dish because they have a meaty texture and flavor, but you can use any kind of mushroom you like.
Here’s how to make this side:
- To make sautéed mushrooms, heat some olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat until it’s shimmering.
- Add the sliced mushrooms (about a pound will do) and cook until they’re browned and tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, toss with the cooked pasta, and enjoy!
A simple chickpea salad is good when you want to serve a pasta with pesto, which has a sauce that can be overpowering.
Pairing things like this seems great for those days when a simple dinner just needs to happen, and the other side doesn’t need to be fancy.
How to make it:
- To make simple chickpea salad, begin by combining chickpeas with olive oil and lemon juice.
- Then add some garlic powder and salt, and that’s pretty much it—the rest is all up to you.
- The best part about this dish is its ability to be customized to your taste; try adding roasted red peppers or cilantro, or even avocado—it’s totally up to you!
A fresh fruit salad is the perfect complement to the heavy, rich flavors of pesto.
It adds a much-needed hint of lightness without overpowering the pesto dish.
You can make a fruit salad by combining any type of fruit you like: oranges, bananas, apples, pears.
We also recommend adding in some vegetables for color and crunch: celery stalks, sliced radishes, and carrot sticks are all good choices as long as they’re well-washed to remove any dirt or chemicals from growing.
You can also add dried fruits like raisins or dried cranberries if you want to sweeten up your salad even more!
27. Garlic bread
This one is a classic!
It’s also really easy to make.
- Slice a baguette in half lengthwise, then slather on some butter or margarine (or both!), garlic powder, and parsley flakes.
- Wrap it in foil and toss it in the oven while your pasta is cooking.
- You can crisp it up by opening the foil and broiling it for 1-2 minutes at the end.
If you’re looking for a simple but impressive side dish to complement your main course, then bruschetta is an amazing choice.
See Also: Best Tomatoes for Bruschetta
The contrast of textures and flavors between these two dishes is a match made in heaven.
Bruschetta is basically chopped tomatoes and garlic, seasoned with salt and pepper, drizzled with olive oil, then topped on toast.
Here’s how you make it:
- Wash and chop 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
- Mince 2 cloves of garlic
- Place tomatoes and garlic in a bowl, then add 1 tsp each of salt and pepper, 1 tbsp of olive oil, and a pinch of red pepper flakes (if you want some heat)
- Let the mixture sit for 20 minutes so all the flavors can mix together nicely
- Pour the mixture into a colander to drain off excess liquid
- Spread the tomato mixture on top of toast, sprinkle with parmesan cheese if desired, and serve alongside your pesto pasta!
Who doesn’t love roasted asparagus?
It’s a classic, but it never gets boring, because there are just so many different things you can do with it—and the crispiness of the roasted asparagus makes such a nice contrast with the creaminess of the pesto sauce in the pasta.
So what are you waiting for?
Here’s how to make roasted asparagus:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
- Place washed asparagus in an even layer in a baking pan, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender and lightly browned.
30. Grilled Zucchini
Grilled zucchini is a simple side dish to make that pairs well with the flavors of pesto —especially a basil-based one.
To make this side dish, you’ll need:
- 1 medium or large zucchini
- Olive oil
- Lemon juice
- Salt and pepper
- Start by cutting the zucchini into rounds about one-half inch thick.
- Place these rounds on a plate and lightly brush them with olive oil.
- Then, sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the rounds.
- Finally, place the rounds on a hot grill until they are charred on each side.
- Remove them from the grill, squeeze lemon juice over them, and serve!
31. Mushroom Soup
Mushroom soup is a great side dish!
With its savory, earthy flavor, it complements the fresh, herbaceous taste of pesto.
Here’s how to make this super simple soup:
- Sautee a chopped onion and some minced garlic in butter.
- Add sliced mushrooms and sautee until they are soft.
- Pour in chicken or vegetable broth, bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.
- Puree the contents of the pot in batches in a blender.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Pesto is a strong flavor, so the secret is to go with something that complements it. Meatballs do just that.
They soak up the pesto flavor and make it even more delicious.
If you want to make your own, here’s how:
- To make meatballs, you’ll need ground beef, eggs, milk, bread crumbs, chopped onion and garlic cloves, salt and pepper, and herbs of your choice (like parsley or oregano).
- Mix all these ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Form patties from the mixture and place them on a greased cookie sheet.
- Bake them at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.
Steamed broccoli is a great choice because it’s a light and healthy veggie that pairs well with the rich, creamy sauce in your main course.
But don’t just steam it!
You can make the broccoli even better by simmering it in a butter sauce that’s seasoned with garlic and salt.
- To make your butter sauce, combine 3 tablespoons of butter, 2 minced cloves of garlic, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 tablespoon of black pepper in a small pot.
- Bring your mixture to a simmer and let it cook for about 5 minutes before adding in your steamed broccoli.
Roasted bell peppers are the perfect accompaniment for any pasta dish with pesto because they don’t compete with the main dish for attention—they just highlight its best qualities.
The slight, sweet smokiness of the roasted pepper goes perfectly with the earthy flavor of basil, and the rich texture of both works together to create a hearty meal.
Here’s how I do it:
- To make roasted bell peppers, simply roast them in a 400-degree F oven until they’re blackened on all sides.
- Remove from the oven and place in a bowl covered with plastic wrap or foil until cool enough to handle.
- Peel off the skin and remove seeds, then slice into strips before serving alongside your pesto pasta!
If you’ve ever had a plate of pesto pasta, you know that the sauce can be rather thick and heavy.
It’s the kind of thing that sticks to your ribs and makes you feel full for hours—and sometimes it can feel a bit like overkill.
You don’t want your pasta to weigh you down—you just want it to taste good! That’s why breadsticks are such a great companion; they’re simple, yet light and delicious, so they make the perfect side dish for pesto pasta.
Here’s how to make it:
- To make homemade breadsticks, start by mixing water and yeast in a large bowl.
- Once the yeast has dissolved, add flour, butter, salt and sugar.
- Then knead it all together to form dough.
- Let the dough rise for 30 minutes before rolling it out into long sticks about 12 inches long.
- After that, bake for 10–12 minutes at 400 degrees.
- You’ll end up with fresh, hot breadsticks that will rival any restaurant’s!
36. Garlic knots
There’s nothing like pesto to make you feel like you’re sitting on a patio in Italy, drinking wine and eating fresh pasta.
If you want to mix it up a little bit, serve it with garlic knots as your side dish.
You can make them yourself or buy some from your favorite bakery—either way they go great with the herbaceous, garlicky flavor of pesto.
To make them yourself:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Cut refrigerated pizza dough into strips about 1/2 inch thick and 8 inches long (they will puff up). Tie into knots and place on a lightly greased baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Brush tops with melted butter mixed with minced garlic and sprinkle with dried parsley and Parmesan cheese.
- Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with a small dish of marinara sauce for dipping.
Coleslaw provides a refreshing crunch to contrast the texture of the noodles and sauce.
You can feel free to add some shredded carrots and onions or celery seed to add even more texture.
To make this side dish, simply toss together shredded cabbage, carrots, and red onions with a simple vinaigrette.
- Shred 1/2 medium head green cabbage, 1 large carrot, and 1/2 red onion into a large bowl.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons white vinegar, 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 teaspoons sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt until dissolved.
- Pour over vegetables and toss to coat completely.
- Season with freshly ground black pepper and let stand 15 minutes before serving.
If you’re looking for a simple, delectable side dish to serve with pesto pasta, you can’t go wrong with grilled corn on the cob.
It’s light and fresh, which is just what you need after all that rich, hearty, garlicky flavor from the pasta sauce.
Plus it takes very little prep time or active cooking time—just pop it onto the grill!
How to make it:
- To make grilled corn on the cob, shuck 3-4 ears of corn.
- Brush each ear with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Place on a hot grill and cook for 5 minutes on each side.
39. Roasted Tomatoes
Roasting brings out the sweetness of tomatoes, which pairs perfectly with the rich flavors of pesto pasta.
Cut cherry tomatoes in half and line them up on a baking sheet with salt and pepper.
Drizzle with some olive oil before tossing in the oven for 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
40. Pesto Bread
This one’s easy: just buy a loaf of bread (or a baguette if you’re feeling fancy) and spread some pesto on it.
If you want to get really fancy, cut the bread into slices, toss it in olive oil, arrange it on a baking sheet, spread pesto on it, then bake until it’s nice and crispy.
How to Serve the Perfect Side Dish for Pesto Pasta
Pesto pasta is a great, easy dish to whip up when you want to impress your dinner guests with something that seems like you’ve spent all day in the kitchen.
But no matter how many hours you spend making the perfect pasta sauce or finding just the right herb mix, it’s going to take some careful planning to put together the perfect meal.
Here are a few tips on choosing side dishes that will make your pasta dish shine:
1. Consider Flavors and Textures
It’s important to choose a side that can stand up to pesto pasta’s dominant flavors and textures, but also one that won’t get lost in the mix.
Think about the potential pairing:
- Is the side going to be too soft or too crunchy?
- Too sweet or too spicy?
You want something that pairs well with all of the tastes and textures already present, but still has its own flavor profile to add variety and interest to your dish.
2. Don’t Forget About the Colors
You want to make sure your plate is as beautiful as it is delicious, so think about a variety of colors when you’re deciding what to serve on the side.
A serving of pesto pasta by itself is already pretty colorful and vibrant, so choose something else that will add a contrasting color (like broccoli).
3. Don’t Skimp on The Garlic
What makes pesto so delicious?
The garlic, of course.
It’s what gives it that special zesty flavor that can’t be replicated.
So when you’re serving a side dish to accompany your pesto pasta, don’t be afraid to add even more garlic.
No one is going to feel bad about having too much garlic—they’ll only feel bad if you don’t have enough.
4. Pesto Pasta Works Nicely with Crisp, Acidic Sides
Pesto pasta can get pretty rich, with all the cheese and oil used in its preparation.
But no worries—that just means that it pairs well with crisp, acidic sides.
Even a nice slice of tomato from your garden or local farm stand will do wonders to balance out the richness of the pesto sauce on your pasta!
5. Don’t Be Afraid of Carbs!
Just because you’re having a pasta dish as your main course doesn’t mean you have to put a side salad in your mouth.
Try other carb-based sides, like steamed broccoli and brown rice or a fresh kale salad with brown rice.
Carbohydrates are awesome and necessary for the body’s functioning, so don’t feel guilty about it.
6. Choose an Unexpected Side Dish
Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box!
Pesto sauce is a great way to add a herby flavor to your pasta, but it can also be heavy and overpowering—so it’s important to choose side dishes that will bring out other flavors.
Instead of using just one type of cheese for your pesto, try using two or three different types.
And instead of using just Parmesan cheese, try using a combination of Parmesan and goat cheese.
This will help balance out the flavors and give your pasta a brighter taste.
What to Serve with Pesto Pasta: 40 Easy Sides
- Avocado Toast
- Cauliflower "rice"
- Arugula Salad
- Caprese Salad
- Spicy Butternut Squash Soup
- Roasted cauliflower with garlic aioli
- Roasted vegetables
- Focaccia bread
- Tomato salad
- Fried polenta
- Italian Salad
- Baked potatoes
- Broccoli Casserole
- Caesar Salad
- Classic Spinach Salad
- Steamed carrots with roasted garlic butter
- Crunchy brussels sprouts with parmesan
- Roasted potatoes
- Grilled shrimp skewers
- Crab cakes
- Black-Eyed Pea Salad
- Grilled sausage links
- Sauteed kale
- Sautéed mushrooms
- A Simple Chickpea Salad
- Fresh fruit salad
- Garlic bread
- Roasted Asparagus
- Grilled Zucchini
- Mushroom Soup
- Steamed Broccoli with Butter Sauce
- Roasted Bell Peppers
- Garlic knots
- Grilled Corn on the Cob
- Roasted Tomatoes
- Pesto Bread
- Pick any of these easy and tasty sides to serve with your meal.
- Prepare the ingredients according to the recipe.
- Enjoy your pasta dinner in no time!