Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto & Mozzarella Pearls

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Quick, simple and and family-approved — this pasta with sun-dried tomato pesto and fresh mozzarella pearls is delicious hot or cold.

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.

What you’ll need to make pasta with sun-dried tomato pesto

pasta with sun-dried tomato pesto

How to make 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

Quick, simple and and family-approved — this pasta with sun-dried tomato pesto and fresh mozzarella pearls is delicious hot or cold.

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.

Pair with

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.

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Reviews & Comments

  • I love this recipe. The pesto can be made a day or two ahead, stored in the refrig until you are ready to make the dish. I also love this pesto spread on bread, toast, crackers or I spread it on celery. I am addicted to the pesto. Jenn’s cookbook and site are my first stop for delicious recipes.💕

    • — Carole Bruno on June 23, 2019
    • Reply
  • What can I substitute mozzarella pearls with? I would like to keep the Parmigiano-Reggiano. I think my guests may not want too much cheese. What do you recommend? I want to make it this Sunday. Thanks.

    • — Upasana Malhotra on May 28, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Upasana, I would just leave them out; it will still be delicious.

      • — Jenn on May 28, 2019
      • Reply
    • Hi Upsana, you could brown some Italian sausages and serve it mixed in or alongside the pasta. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on May 28, 2019
      • Reply
  • Hi Jen,
    I’m thinking about making this for a potluck cookout so wanted to know if I could make it the night before then add mozzarella and basil next day at mealtime. I know you said it’s good room temp, but can it be refrigerated overnight and served cold?

    • — Kelly on May 10, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Kelly, It’s fine to make a day ahead and refrigerate but I’d let it sit out a bit before serving to take the chill off. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on May 10, 2019
      • Reply
  • Is this recipe in your cookbook? my aunt made it for us the other day, and it was absolutely spectacular!

    • — Jessica on May 1, 2019
    • Reply
  • I’m curious to know if it could be possible to make this pesto with an immersion hand blender?

    • — H on April 28, 2019
    • Reply
    • Unfortunately, I don’t think an immersion blender will work here; I don’t think it would be able to get through the sun-dried tomatoes and basil without getting stuck in the blades. Sorry!

      • — Jenn on April 30, 2019
      • Reply
  • Made this for dinner last night and the sundried tomato pesto was absolutely delicious! Hubby and I both went back for seconds and hubby is still talking about it the morning after. The mozzarella pearls I bought from Whole Foods were quite large, so I halved/quartered them… which could cut down on the ‘rubbery’ consistency some other reviewers experienced. Served with a simple side salad. This is probably the 5th recipe I’ve made from this site and loving all of them – thanks Jenn!

    • — Laura on April 24, 2019
    • Reply
    • My friend says he only likes his pasta with pesto. Weird, right?! After so many times making him a basil pesto, I tried this sun-dried tomato one. He LOVED it! Thank you.

      • — Mistie on April 26, 2019
      • Reply
  • Love this recipe! It is very easy to make. I altered the recipe and added more pesto, which I thought gave it more flavor.

    • — Bekah on April 11, 2019
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn: I have two questions due to a dietary restriction.

    Would the cooking water from gluten free pasta work to add to the pesto?

    Would we use this pesto to make a shrimp dish without the pasta? In this case, there wouldn’t be pasta water either. Would something else need to be substituted?

    Leslie

    • — Leslie Stafford on April 4, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Leslie, I wasn’t 100% sure about either of your questions, so researched it and found that the cooking water from gluten-free pasta may not be quite starchy enough for what you need here and that if you want to make a shrimp dish with no pasta a great replacement (in both cases) is water mixed with cornstarch! You can get some more details about it here. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on April 4, 2019
      • Reply
      • Thank you, Jenn. I really appreciate your help.

        • — Leslie on April 11, 2019
        • Reply
  • No thanks. The flavor was so strong. I was so excited to be able to use the basil I grew. But this was just a bit too much.

    • — Sharon on April 2, 2019
    • Reply
  • Great recipe! I was looking for a new pasta recipe, and this one will definitely be made again, minus the mozzarella pearls. I never met a cheese I didn’t love till I tasted mozzarella pearls. They actually took away from the amazing pesto, so I just pushed them aside and ate the pasta. My husband, on the other hand, loved them.

    • — Sandi S on March 18, 2019
    • Reply
  • You replied in one of the reviews that leftover pasta can be re-heated with pesto and a bit of water or olive oil. If I made the pasta ahead the day before can I reheat before serving the same way? I would be making a double recipe.

    • — Jo on March 4, 2019
    • Reply
    • Yes, Jo, I’d reheat it that same way. If you plan to wait until the second day to eat it, I’d add the mozzarella after you reheat it.

      • — Jenn on March 5, 2019
      • Reply
  • I can’t find Mozzarella pearls, can it be substituted by Bocconcini pearls? Do they have the same taste? Thanks

    • — Cel on February 14, 2019
    • Reply
    • Sure, Cel, I believe they’re pretty interchangeable. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on February 14, 2019
      • Reply
  • I’ve been looking for a good pasta recipe for awhile now (ever since we got tired of canned/jarred pasta sauce) and this was delicious! It was also so so so easy. I much prefer to bake and am not much of a cook, but for the 2nd time in 9 years, my husband said something I made was “delicious” and, for the 1st time(!), that he’d like me to make it again.
    I will definitely make this again. There were a few edits because I either couldn’t find an ingredient or my husband doesn’t really like cheese – I used a jar of sun-dried tomatoes with pine nuts (which was helpful bc I couldn’t find pine nuts in my grocery store), couldn’t find fresh basil so used some slightly dehydrated basil in the produce area, cut the parmesan in the pesto in half, and omitted the mozzarella pearls. It was still so delicious and so easy! Thank you for such a great and easy recipe!

    • — Amanda on January 25, 2019
    • Reply
  • Another Yummy one! Thanks Jen!

    • — Nora on January 5, 2019
    • Reply
  • Without exception,this recipe and EVERY recipe in your cookbook AND on your website is sooo easy and so delicious! I added fresh corn sauteed with onion in olive oil after everything was mixed together. It was a huge hit!

    • — Christine Simon on December 20, 2018
    • Reply
  • Absolutely delicious! I paired it with your Parmesan Crusted Chicken and a simple salad.
    I will make this again for sure!

    • — Kenya R. on October 16, 2018
    • Reply
  • This recipe was delicious. My husband is usually weary of dinners that don’t include any meat, but this was so delicious he didn’t even notice. The fresh mozzarella adds a great texture and the pesto was surprisingly easy to make. Love how accessible/easy your recipes are while still tasting like fine dining! Your recipes make me feel like I can actually cook!

    • — Sarah on October 7, 2018
    • Reply
  • I LOVE this, but not with pasta, I found the mozzarella a bland and rubbery addition to the dish, it was ok but not my favorite pasta dish, However, just the pesto as a dip or spread on grilled crostini was out of this world!!! The reserved half that the recipe makes was eaten plain by the spoonful and it is swoon-worthy.

    • — Vicki Stanton on July 26, 2018
    • Reply
  • Hi! My kids are in love with your dishes and are eager to try this one…the thing is, they have nut allergies. Do you suggest I try the recipe without the pine nuts, or is there another ingredient I can substitute in for the pesto? Thank you!

    • — Christine on July 23, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Christine, You could just leave the nuts out – the sun-dried tomatoes give the sauce plenty of body. Add more cheese if you think it’s missing something. Hope that helps and so happy your kids like the recipes!

      • — Jenn on July 24, 2018
      • Reply
  • So delicious and easy to make! A hit with my pasta loving husband as well.

    • — Evelyn on July 1, 2018
    • Reply
  • 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
      • Hi Jenn:
        I’ve got packaged sun dried tomatoes. Can I use them and add 3/4 c olive oil? I haven’t made it yet but am a big fan.

        • — Susan Foster on January 24, 2019
        • Reply
        • Hi Susan, I think it would work, but that you’d need to rehydrate the tomatoes first. Am I’m not 100 percent sure how much olive oil you’ll need to add to make the pesto, but I’d start the 3/4 cup that you mentioned and then add more if necessary. Hope you enjoy!

          • — Jenn on January 24, 2019
          • Reply
  • 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
  • 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
      • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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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