Pesto Pasta with Shrimp

  • By Jackie Sun
  • July 13, 2014

When it comes to carbs, everyone has their opinion about it. Yay, nay, or maybe nay for 6 days, but the 7th day is okay (the “slow-carb” diet)?

Well, the Cook Smarts team all has varying tastes, preferences, and dietary restrictions. But one thing we all agree on – we cannot resist good food! So while we do not stuff ourselves silly with platefuls of pasta, rice, and bread, we do enjoy a good serving of carbs every now and then.

Take, for example, this week’s recipe – Pesto Pasta with Shrimp. A good-sized portion of spaghetti, fettuccine, or linguine (whichever you prefer!), coated in a creamy (and dreamy!) pesto sauce made with – wait for it…

Pesto Pasta with Shrimp #recipe via @CookSmarts


That’s right. You heard us correctly! An extremely light, smooth, healthy take on the traditional pesto, avocado is the secret ingredient to making this meal awesome.

You know those pasta dishes that are drenched in a rich and heavy cream-and-cheese sauce? Adding avocado to this sauce eliminates all that heaviness, and you still get that rich and filling quality, but you can feel good about it because it’s way healthier.

“Made the pesto and LOVED it! The avocado added a creaminess while keeping this pesto relatively healthy (and vegan!). Such a good variation.” -Sarah

And if you know us by now, you know how we feel about avocados. We love them so much, not only do we use them in salads and soups we also had to fry them to make avocado fries!

We guess it was only a matter of time before we started to think about other ways to use this yummy fruit. And lucky for us, we came up with this pesto pasta recipe that has us saying Yay! to carbs.

“Love pesto! This was a very simple and tasty recipe which we look forward to during our busy work week.” -Jamie

But just because this sauce is so good doesn’t mean that we’re piling our plates to the sky with pasta. We like to eat our veggies, so we like to enjoy this meal with a side of fresh and simple salad.

For all of you vegetarians and vegans out there, or if you don’t like shrimp, try sauteing your favorite veggies to add in instead, such as asparagus or broccoli. You can even toss in roasted radishes!

Try one of our favorite side salads with this pasta dish to round out the meal:

Prepping Smarts:

We recommend making the pesto in a food processor for extra creamy results, but if you don’t have a food processor, you can brush up on your knife skills and make a hand-chopped pesto:


How to Make a Hand-Chopped Pesto

Food processors and blenders are not needed to make a delicious herb pesto.

Shrimp can be defrosted quickly on the day that you need to use it. Here’s how:


Prepping Frozen Shrimp

Watch how we defrost frozen shrimp when we need it for tonight's dinner.

Equipment Smarts:

Making pestos in a food processor is quick and easy, and for this pesto, it’ll come out super smooth!

Make sure you use a big enough sauce pan filled with enough water to cook your pasta, or else the pasta will come out gummy.

Saute the shrimp (or veggies!) with a handy and inexpensive saute pan.

Instead of straining the cooked pasta, transfer pasta to the saute pan with tongs, so that you can save the pasta water if you want a ‘saucier’ sauce.

Tongs by Oxo from Amazon.comFor more kitchen and equipment and tool smarts, visit our ‘Essential Kitchen Cookware and Tools’


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Pesto Pasta with Shrimp

This pesto has a secret ingredient - avocado! - which provides a lovely creaminess. Tossed with long strands of noodles and shrimp, this will be a dish that is great for weeknight eating or a fancy dinner party.

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: 20 min

Total time: 30 min

Serves: 4


  • Pine nuts - 2 tbsp (Sub walnuts if you're on a budget)
  • Basil - 2 cups, loosely packed
  • Garlic - 1 small clove, peeled
  • Avocado (small) - ½
  • Olive oil - 3 tbsp to ⅓ cup
  • Shrimp - 1 lb, shelled and deveined
  • Spaghetti - ½ lb (Sub fettuccine, linguine if you prefer)
  • Cooking oil - 1 tbsp
  • Peas - 1½ cups
  • Lemon - 1, juice of



  1. Pine nuts (optional step) – Toast in a frying pan over medium-high heat until golden brown. It’s also completely fine to skip this step.
  2. Make pesto – Combine pine nuts, basil, garlic, and avocado in a food processor. Pulse until ingredients are broken up. Drizzle in olive oil, while keeping food processor on, until you get a sauce-like consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be done up to 3 days ahead)
  3. Shrimp – Defrost, rinse, and dry.


  1. Bring a saucepan of water to boil. Salt generously and add pasta. Cook until al dente, tender but not soggy.
  2. This takes a bit of timing, but heat up a saute pan over medium-high heat 2 to 3 minutes before pasta is done. Add cooking oil to saute pan and then shrimp to pan. Toss until pink on the outside.
  3. Once pasta is done, use tongs to transfer cooked pasta directly from saucepan into saute pan (don’t toss pasta water just yet). Add in peas and pesto. Toss until everything is coated nicely and shrimp is cooked through. If you want your sauce to be ‘saucier’ just add a few tablespoons of pasta water. Remove from heat and finish with lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


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