Make bright green Pesto Pasta with snappy asparagus and smoky bacon for a perfect springtime pasta dinner.
Pesto Pasta with Asparagus + Bacon
This Pesto Pasta with Asparagus and Bacon is vibrant, herby, nutty and cheesy at all once. This is the perfect pasta recipe to serve for alight springtime dinner that satisfies.
It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t love pesto sauce. Whether it’s coating tender rigatoni like in this recipe, spread on pizza or drizzled on a bowl of Vegan Polenta with Roasted Chickpea, this classic Italian herb sauce is versatile and always delicious.
This pesto recipe is a bit of a twist of the traditional ingredients. Instead of pine nuts, it’s made with walnuts for a creamier texture. And it gets added nutrition and greens from spinach. I even added a bit of a kick to my pesto with hot pepper flakes and smoked paprika to match the smoky, savory flavor of crispy bacon on top.
To really ensure this dish screams springtime, I doubled down on greens. The pesto pasta is topped with crisp-tender asparagus and a sprinkling of smoky candied bacon. It’s the perfect balance of healthy, comforting, meaty and refreshing, all in one easy dinner recipe.
How to Make Pesto Pasta with Asparagus and Bacon
This quick weeknight pasta recipe comes together quickly with the oven and food processor.
Here’s what you need to know about some of the key ingredients in this roasted asparagus pesto dish.
Rigatoni pasta. Feel free to use any pasta shape you have on hand.
Asparagus. To prepare the asparagus for cooking, gently bend the end of each spear. It should naturally snap about an inch or two from the bottom. You can discard this woody end and cook the fresher thinner portion of the stalk. If you’re not a fan of asparagus, you can add roasted broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peas, kale or cauliflower to this pesto pasta instead. Really any roasted veggie you love will work!
Candied bacon. See below for how to make smoky and sweet candied bacon crumbles to top your pesto pasta. You can also omit the back to keep their a vegetarian dinner, or use simply pan-fried bacon.
Organic spinach. I like to add extra greens to my homemade pesto. You can use baby spinach or another green like chopped kale or even arugula.
Walnuts. This is my sub for pine nuts. It’s cheaper and I like the nuttier flavor and creamier texture you get from walnuts. Of course, if you’re a pine nut fan, feel free to use them!
Parmesancheese. This adds delicious cheesy umami flavor to the pesto. If you’d like to keep this recipe dairy-free, simply sub in your favorite vegan parmesan cheese.
Making Candied Bacon for Pesto Pasta
Candied bacon is easy to make. Plus, you already have the oven on for the asparagus, so why not enhance your crispy bacon with a sweet, caramelized coating?
Here’s how to do it:
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Place the bacon on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and brush the slices with maple syrup and sprinkle on some brown sugar.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, flipping the bacon and brushing the other side with maple syrup and sprinkling the brown sugar as well.
Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until it is completely caramelized and crispy.
Cool the candied bacon, then crumble.
Traditionally, pesto contains nuts. However, you can substitute the walnuts in this recipe with sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds for a nut-free version.
Gluten-Free Pesto Pasta
You can easily make this recipe gluten-free by using your favorite gluten-free pasta.
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1(16 oz.) packagerigatoni pasta(You can substitute w/ your own fave pasta!)
1Tbspextra virgin olive oil
sea salt + black pepper, to taste
handfulasparagus, ends trimmed + chopped in halves
2cupschopped cooked candied bacon(See Notes!)
1cuporganic spinach(You can sub w/ kale or arugula)
1/4cupExtra virgin olive oil
1tspjuice of a lemon
1/4cupgrated parmesan cheese
1tspsea salt + black pepper
1tspred pepper flakes
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare a large baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper.
Add the asparagus unto the baking sheet (in a single layer) and drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt, black pepper and bake for 7-10 minutes or until asparagus has reduced in size and browned at the edges. Remove and set aside.
In the meantime, cook pasta according to packaging. NOTE: rigatoni pasta doesn’t take a long time to cook, usually 8-10 minutes (however, you should cook at 6-8 minutes or so—‘al dente’).
Add all ingredients into a food processor and process until well blended and broken down. NOTE: If needed, add a bit of water (1 Tbsp), if too thick.
In a large bowl, add together the cooked pasta and pesto sauce, tossing it all together until pasta is fully coated.
To serve, add the pasta into your prepared plates or bowls, top with roasted asparagus and cooked bacon. Add grated parmesan cheese, if desired.
Tips & Tricks
STORAGE: Any leftovers can be kept in a tightly sealed container and refrigerated for up to 3-4 days.PASTA: You can use long pastas like Pappardelle, Fettuccine, etc. however, I would recommend tossing with tongs to ensure that pasta is fully manageable and fully coated.Otherwise, other pastas such as Penne, Rigatoni, etc. are perfect.CANDIED BACON: Place the bacon on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and brush the tops of the bacon with maple syrup and sprinkle on some brown sugar. Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for 10-15 minutes or so, flipping the bacon and brushing the opposite side with maple syrup and sprinkling the brown sugar as well. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until it is completely caramelized and crispy.