Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto & Mozzarella Pearls

5 stars based on 7 votes

Quick, simple, and family-approved — this pasta with sun-dried tomato pesto and fresh mozzarella pearls is a new favorite of mine. It’s almost as easy as opening a jar of tomato sauce and pouring it over noodles, yet so much more special. And here’s the best part: the pesto itself yields enough for two dinners (and freezes well) and the dish is just as good at room temperature as it is hot, so it can double as a pasta salad for a picnic or barbecue. To complete the meal, toss a quick arugula salad and warm some good bread. Or, for meat lovers, consider browning some Italian sausages to serve alongside.

pasta with sun-dried tomato pesto

To begin, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. (Add enough salt so that the water tastes like the sea.) Cook the pasta according to the package instructions until al dente. You’ll need to reserve some of the cooking water for the sauce. It’s easy to forget to do this, so I always set a liquid measuring cup out as a visual reminder.

pasta with sun-dried tomato pesto

Meanwhile, make the pesto. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the sun-dried tomatoes with their oil, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, sugar, basil, pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano and olive oil.

pasta with sun-dried tomato pesto

Pulse, scraping down the sides as necessary, until the mixture is finely puréed. Divide the mixture in half. Set aside.

pasta with sun-dried tomato pesto

Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water (you’ll need it for the sauce), then drain the pasta.

pasta with sun-dried tomato pesto

Add the pasta back to the pan. Add half of the pesto and stir to combine, adding the reserved pasta water little by little, until the pasta is well-coated and moistened. I usually use about 3/4 cup of the pasta water, but you may need more or less. (Refrigerate or freeze the remaining pesto for another meal.)

pasta with sun-dried tomato pesto

Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt and red pepper flakes, if necessary. Right before serving, toss in 2 tablespoons chopped basil and the mozzarella pearls (it’s important to do this right before serving so the cheese doesn’t melt from the heat of the pan).

pasta with sun-dried tomato pesto

Transfer to a serving dish or pasta bowls and serve with more grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

pasta with sun-dried tomato pesto

 

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Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Mozzarella Pearls

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Total Time: 25 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 12 oz pasta, such as fusilli, penne or farfalle
  • 1 (8.5-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for the pasta water
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (8 oz) tub fresh mozzarella pearls, drained (alternatively, use a fresh mozzarella ball and cut into chunks)

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. (Add enough salt so that the water tastes like the sea.) Cook the pasta according to the package instructions until al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, make the pesto. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the sun-dried tomatoes with their oil, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, sugar, basil, pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano and olive oil. Pulse, scraping down the sides as necessary, until the mixture is finely puréed. Divide the mixture in half. Set aside.
  3. Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water (you'll need it for the sauce), then drain the pasta. Add the pasta back to the pan. Add half of the pesto and stir to combine, adding the reserved pasta water little by little, until the pasta is well-coated and moistened. I usually use about 3/4 cup of pasta water. (Refrigerate or freeze the remaining pesto for another meal.) Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt and red pepper flakes, if necessary. Right before serving, toss in 2 tablespoons chopped basil and the mozzarella pearls (it's important to do this right before serving so the cheese doesn't melt from the heat of the pan). Transfer to a serving dish or pasta bowls and serve with more grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
  4. Note: If you'd like to serve this pasta dish at room temperature, wait until the pasta is cool to add the mozzarella pearls.
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Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (4 servings)
  • Calories: 697
  • Fat: 28 g
  • Saturated fat: 10 g
  • Carbohydrates: 83 g
  • Sugar: 15 g
  • Fiber: 7 g
  • Protein: 31 g
  • Sodium: 533 mg
  • Cholesterol: 50 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Reviews & Comments

  • 5 stars

    Really delicious recipe! Quick question how long would the pesto keep in the fridge? Thanks

    - KatP on June 20, 2018 Reply
    • Glad you liked it! The pesto should keep well in the fridge for up to about 3 days.

      - Jenn on June 20, 2018 Reply
  • Hi Jen,
    Just wondering… you say to use half the batch of pesto for this recipe. Approximately how much would that be?

    Laurie

    - Laurie Reilly on June 11, 2018 Reply
    • Hi Laurie, It’s about a cup. Hope that helps!

      - Jenn on June 12, 2018 Reply
  • I’ve made this already and it was amazing!!! I was wondering if this could be made ahead and served cold?

    - Vikki L. on June 7, 2018 Reply
    • Hi Vikki, Yes definitely – it’s good at room temperature. Just wait to add the mozzarella until the pasta is cool, otherwise it will start to melt.

      - Jenn on June 7, 2018 Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    Looking forward to trying this one! Quick question though: your red pesto includes 1/4 cup olive oil in this recipe, but you don’t seem to add any olive oil to the red pesto recipe of your grilled cheese sandwich… maybe just an oversight? thanks!!

    - Marine on June 7, 2018 Reply
    • Hi Marine, That’s correct – this one needs more to moisten the pasta. 🙂

      - Jenn on June 7, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this recipe last night for my family and it was incredibly delicious AND easy. We loved the mozzarella pearls!

    - Lisa on June 4, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Perfetto!

    - 2pots2cook on June 4, 2018 Reply
  • Hi Jen,

    I am going to make this tomorrow night but would like it as a main dish so I want to add a protein to it. I was thinking shrimp – any recommendation on how to do that? I would use uncooked tail on frozen shrimp.

    Thanks as always!

    - Elizabeth on June 3, 2018 Reply
    • Hi Elizabeth, I think shrimp would be great with this. I’d sauté them separately in a little olive with garlic, salt and pepper, then add them to the pasta along with the pesto. Keep in mind that you may need a bit more than half of the pesto sauce. I’d love to know how it turns out!

      - Jenn on June 4, 2018 Reply
      • 5 stars

        It was delicious! I did just what you suggested – sauteed the shrimp with some butter and garlic and added it in. The pesto is incredibly easy – I made the pesto and then put the dish together right after work in about 15 minutes. The flavor is great and I’m excited to figure out what to do with the rest of the pesto!

        - Elizabeth on June 4, 2018 Reply
        • So glad you enjoyed it, Elizabeth. I love this pesto on grilled cheese sandwiches with fontina or even smoked gouda.

          - Jenn on June 4, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Very good pesto!! Could not find mozzarella pearls so I left them out and added more parmesean-reggiano.

    Questions: how long can I refrigerate the other half of the pesto before freezing? And, can I reheat the left over pasta with pesto sauce?

    - Diane Butler on June 3, 2018 Reply
    • Glad you enjoyed it, Diane! I’d say you could keep the pesto in the fridge for up to 3 days before freezing. And yes, you can definitely reheat the pasta with pesto sauce; just keep in mind you may need to add a bit of water or olive oil to re-moisten it.

      - Jenn on June 3, 2018 Reply
  • 4 stars

    I really liked this recipe but my family didn’t. I think if I made it again, I would happily skip the mozzarella pearls. To me, they just add more fat to the recipe without a huge taste payoff. The sundried tomato base recipe is so yummy, I could probably eat it by the spoon.

    - Holly on May 31, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    The pesto is absolutely delicious! My mind is spinning with other uses for it.

    - MLG on May 30, 2018 Reply
    • Glad you like it! It’s wonderful on grilled cheese, too.

      - Jenn on May 30, 2018 Reply
  • HI Jenn….I purchased a ball of burrata for your tomato salad…would this be a good substitute (cut up of course) for the pearls? Thank you in advance…you rock the kitchen world!

    - Gail on May 30, 2018 Reply
    • Hi Gail, While it would be delicious, I don’t think burrata would work here as it has a much softer, runnier consistency than the mozzarella pearls. Sorry!

      - Jenn on May 30, 2018 Reply
      • 🙏

        - Gail on May 31, 2018 Reply
  • Looking for a new pasta salad to serve at a picnic. This looks delicious. Can it be served cold?

    - Susan Weed on May 30, 2018 Reply
    • Hi Susan, I’d serve it room temperature if possible otherwise cold will work. I’d love to know how it turns out!

      - Jenn on May 30, 2018 Reply
  • Could walnuts be substituted for the pine nuts?

    - Pat Zwiers on May 30, 2018 Reply
    • Yes definitely, Pat – I often do that.

      - Jenn on May 30, 2018 Reply

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