Pesto Pasta: The Kid-Friendly Introduction to Plant-Based Meals

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Plant-based meals used to be seen as a luxury, reserved only for strict dietary lifestyles or fancy in-restaurant meals. But thanks to social media, YouTube, and bigger conversations about what and how we eat, plant-based recipes are now a staple in home cooking. That said, getting your family to enjoy eating vegetables can be a challenge. If your kids turn up their noses at the sight of greens, ease them into it with a dish they’re sure to enjoy: pesto pasta.

Kids love two things — carbs and flavorful sauces. Pesto pasta gives them both. The best part? Pesto is plant-based, made from just a handful of ingredients. So, not only is it healthy but it’s also super easy to make. Read on to find out how!

Pesto: A Quick History

Freshly made, bright green pesto being spooned out of a full jar

Pesto originated in Genoa, the capital city of Liguria in northern Italy. “Pesto” comes from the Italian word “pestare,” which means to crush or pound. Crushing is an integral part of the process of making pesto. Traditionally, Italians use a mortar and pestle to crush basil leaves, extra virgin olive oil, garlic cloves, and pine nuts into a paste. Parmesan cheese comes later for creaminess.

Today, pesto is one of the most popular and beloved pasta sauces in the world, known for its vibrant green color and bright, herby flavor. While it’s most typically eaten as pasta sauce, you can pair it with bread or use it as a salad topper.

How to Make Basic Pesto Pasta Sauce

Pesto is one of the easiest pasta sauces you can make at home. To make about four cups of pesto sauce, gather the following ingredients:

  • 4 cups of fresh basil leaves, no stems
  • 4-5 large garlic cloves
  • ½ cup pine nuts (or walnuts, if unavailable)
  • 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil

Toss all ingredients, except for the oil, into a blender or food processor. Pulse until the ingredients are roughly chopped. Then, slowly add the oil as you blend until it turns into a paste. When storing, keep the sauce in a jar with a layer of olive oil on top to preserve the color. Fresh pesto should last about three days.

To make the sauce even more kid-friendly, blend it with one cup of Parmesan cheese as the last step, just enough to combine. This will make the sauce creamier, add a touch of cheesy flavor, and make it more palatable even to the pickiest young eaters!

Perfect Pasta Pairings

A rustic spread of different pasta shapes separated into bowls on a wooden table

In Liguria, pesto is traditionally served with trofie pasta—a short, spiral-shaped pasta—or trenette pasta, a long and flat noodle similar to linguine. In reality, there’s no wrong choice! But no matter what pasta type you choose, make sure to serve it al dente to give your dish just the right amount of bite. Here are some recommended pasta shapes for kid-friendly pesto pasta.


Penne pasta is a short, tube-shaped pasta cut with angled edges. It’s great for flavorful, cheesy sauces because it allows the sauce to seep inside the pasta. In other words: more flavor in every bite!


You’ve likely seen linguine pasta somewhere in your local grocery store aisles. This long, flat-shaped pasta goes well with oil-based sauces, like pesto. Its noodles are wider than spaghetti, which makes it easier for kids to pick up with a fork.


If you’re looking for a fun, quirky pasta shape, go for fusilli. This corkscrew pasta is a hit among kids because of its unique spiral shape. The bends and curves of this pasta help it pick up more sauce, making every bite all the more satisfying!


Though you can't find it readily in the Philippines, gnocchi makes for a delicious alternative to your typical pasta. It’s technically a “pasta dumpling.” Made of wheat, eggs, and potatoes, it offers a dense but airy texture and rich potato flavor for a hearty, satisfying meal.

How to Serve Your Pesto Pasta for Kids

The vibrant green color of pesto pasta sauce can be intimidating for kids who aren’t used to eating vegetables. To make the dish look more appealing, don’t be afraid to serve it with a generous helping of Parmesan cheese! Or better yet, let them sprinkle it on their own. Alternatively, you can pair pesto pasta with a side dish to balance its herby flavor. Try sizzling tofu with a dollop of Lady’s Choice Real Mayonnaise, a grilled sandwich, or a summery fruit and vegetable salad! Got leftover pesto sauce? Combine it with some mayo and turn into a spread for burgers or sandwiches.

Did you enjoy these tips on cooking pesto pasta? Head over to the Momspiration blog to read more food tips your kids will love.

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