what to serve with pesto pasta

What to Serve with Pesto Pasta: 13 Carbs and Protein Dishes

Pesto pasta is a one-of-a-kind treat. It’s bright, fresh, and vibrant, different from other kinds of pasta. Such uniqueness has made it a fascinating novelty, and many are eager to try such a verdant, herby food. Others instantly like it, while some have to warm up to it.

Whichever side of the population you are, there’s no denying that pesto pasta is a filling food. But it’s even more satisfying when paired with protein-rich foods like meat and carb-based sides, such as bread. By the end of the meal, you’ll be rubbing your full and happy tummy! Here are 13 sides for you when you need some ideas for what to serve with pesto pasta.

1. Easy Crostini

Bread is a classic tandem with pasta dishes, and pesto pasta is not one to break that trend. But instead of going for the usual plain, simple loaves, serve your pesto pasta with crostini! Crostini is like extra-toasted bread: crunchy, golden, buttery, and garlicky, but not burnt at all. It’s excellent for those who love crisp textures, and you can easily elevate it into a pesto bruschetta!

2. Garlic Parmesan Breadsticks

For those who prefer tender bread instead of crunchy ones, don’t worry; here’s a treat you’ll love: garlic parmesan breadsticks. These are phenomenal when fresh from the oven and still warm, soft, chewy, and delicious! The garlic parmesan flavors also suit any pasta dish, including pesto pasta. You’ll also find that its unique, twisted shape adds an elegant touch to your meal.

3. Rosemary Focaccia

Transport your dinner table to Italy with a pesto pasta meal served with rosemary focaccia. Admittedly, focaccia takes more time and effort than the other bread recipes above. However, that doesn’t mean it’s difficult for novices – with this recipe, you’ll be whipping up Italian flatbreads like you’ve been doing so your whole life! The subtle herby flavors also contribute a much-appreciated complexity to your meal.

4. Grilled Chicken

Grilled chicken is one of the top choices when discussing protein side dishes for pesto pasta. It’s neither heavy nor light and has an incredible flavor that doesn’t overwhelm. Some recipes even incorporate grilled chicken instead of making it separately. But if you’re doing the latter, you can serve the juicy and tender chicken by cutting it into strips and laying them on the pasta bed.

5. Parmesan Crusted Chicken

If you prefer your chicken to have some crunchiness, swap the previous recipe for this parmesan-crusted chicken. It’s butterflied chicken breasts coated with parmesan cheese and panko bread crumbs. The meat is fried until it turns a gorgeous golden brown color. Overall, it’s a relatively effortless dish that results in sharp, savory flavors that are subtle enough to complement the pesto pasta.

6. Pesto Crusted Salmon

While you’re making pesto, why not make the most out of it? Like chicken, salmon is a well-recommended protein for pesto pasta. While you can bake or fry it, giving it a pesto crust not only matches the meal’s flavor profile but also gives it a wonderful texture. Also, this extra step doesn’t require much effort, as you can use the pesto you’ve made for the pasta.

7. Baked Cod with Lemon

If salmon is scarce or expensive in your area, cod is a fantastic alternative! It has an irresistibly mild, buttery flavor, especially if your fish is fresh. The cod is baked in this recipe, so it’s healthier and less oily, and the seasonings are kept bright yet simple. Your pesto pasta would benefit significantly from such brightness, especially as the pesto’s natural vibrance gets toned down when mixed with pasta.

8. Grilled Ahi Tuna Steak

Tuna tastes like a luxurious delicacy. Hence, it’s a great alternative to beef – it tastes and feels elegant but much healthier. Moreover, the cooking is like steak; you must be careful so it’s a perfect medium rare, or else you’ll be left with a chewy and tough overcooked fish. While that sounds intimidating, this grilled ahi tuna steak recipe helps ensure you nail that down at first cook.

9. Sauteed Shrimp

If you want shrimp with your pesto pasta, grab a recipe that already includes the shellfish. It’s more straightforward, and the pesto flavors are better absorbed. But you can also cook your shrimp separately, and if you do, follow this quick and easy 15-minute sauteed shrimp recipe. Also, the recipe keeps the flavoring simple and bright, so your seafood perfectly matches your pesto pasta.

10. Grilled Tofu

The versatility of tofu has proven that protein-rich yet meatless meals don’t have to be boring. There are many ways to cook tofu and make it flavorful, but for pesto pasta, grilling is the best move. It’s simple and quick, and the tofu gets awesome charred streaks. Moreover, it’s like a rendition of the grilled chicken and pesto pasta combo, which we know works out amazingly.

11. Oven-Baked Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs are a crowd favorite – can the same be said for pesto pasta and oven-baked meatballs? The best way to know if the combo works is to test it yourself! Make these healthy meatballs and enjoy them with your pasta: either on the side, separate from the dish, or mix in with the pasta and sauce.

12. Pesto Steak

Are you feeling fancy tonight? A simple and quick way to make your pesto pasta meal feel like a thousand bucks is to pair it with perfectly cooked flank steak. While you can cook your meat how you love it, this recipe helps maximize the pesto you made. Besides the pesto and beef, you’ll need white vinegar, water, and twenty minutes of preparation and cook time.

13. Italian Sausage

Sausage, particularly Italian sausage, is a classic pairing with pesto pasta. The juicy and meaty links can be quite flavorful, so if you want to keep the taste profile simple, this tandem may not work for you. However, if you prefer intense, complex flavors, grab your Italian sausage from the market and either grill or cook it in the oven. Slice into chunks and mix in with your pasta!

AboutRibana Hategan

Ribana is a certified pastry chef and passionate home cook who curates and develops recipes that are high on nutrition. She develops and tests cost effective, nutritious meals using quality ingredients to help people better their everyday eating experiences.