What Meat Goes Best With Pesto Pasta?

Which Meat Goes Best With Pesto Pasta?

Pesto is one of those sauces that can be used as a spread for sandwiches or as a dip for raw vegetables.

It also makes a great pasta sauce, as long as you go with a pesto that isn’t too heavy on the cheese. This is because the cheese in pesto pairs well with meat.

If you’re making a pasta bolognese, for example, parmesan and pancetta are your best friends. Pesto, on the other hand, goes best with something lean and mild, like chicken. Here’s a list of the best meat and pesto pasta combinations.

The meats that go best with pesto pasta include chicken, shrimp, Turkey, Tuna and Salmon. Lets take a deep dive and look at each one and why it pairs so well with pesto pasta.

Pesto Chicken Pasta

Pesto is a perfect pairing with chicken because it has a mild flavor and isn’t too heavy on the cheese. You can use it with penne or spaghetti, but we recommend keeping the ratio of pasta to pesto at about 3:1.

This ensures that the flavor of the pasta isn’t overpowered by the pesto. You can also use chicken in other pesto pasta combinations, like a pesto chicken alfredo.

Pesto Shrimp Pasta

Shrimp is a great protein to pair with pesto, and it’s even better when you mix it into a bowl of pasta. If you want a lighter pesto, you can go with a pesto verde or Italian style to offset the richness of the shrimp.

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions and then top it with the shrimp and a few spoonfuls of the pesto.

Spicy Pesto Turkey Meatballs

Turkey doesn’t really have an overpowering flavor so it works really well with pesto. The mild flavor of the pesto compliments the meatballs really well without stealing the spotlight.

If you want to take it up a notch, try adding some crushed red pepper and chiles to give the turkey meatballs some kick.

Pesto Tuna Pasta Salad

Salads are generally mild and light in flavor so they go best with pesto. Tuna pasta salad combines tuna, brown rice, beans and fresh veggies for a hearty, filling salad that’s sure to please.

You can also add some chicken or ham to the mix if you want a full meal.

Pesto Salmon Pasta Salad

Salmon is yet another mild fish that works really well with pesto. It’s one of the more expensive types of fish, but it also has a really mild flavor and is great for salads.

If you don’t want to go with the more expensive fish, mackerel would also be a good substitute. And to add some protein, some beef or pork sausage would be a great addition.


There are so many delicious combinations of meat and pesto! Use this list as a guideline to inspire your own combinations. Remember, the key to a great pesto pasta is balance.

For a pesto that’s not too heavy on the pasta or the sauce, use a light pesto and don’t over mix it with the pasta. The perfect pasta is nice and al dente, and the pesto doesn’t overpower it.