Instant Pot Pasta Pesto

In case you never had it, a pesto sauce is compromised of four simple ingredients: basil, olive oil, garlic, and grated Parmesan cheese. And it has one pricier, harder-to-find member: pine nuts. Good thing this recipe has you subbing the much more accessible and affordable raw sunflower seeds for them, with it still tasting perfectly pesto and being super budget-friendly! As if that wasn’t enough, I also show you ways on how to add things you may have forgotten about in your freezer to liven it up even more. Pasta Pesto is perfection.

Pasta Pesto

Pre-Pressure Cooking

Before we even begin, let’s talk about cooking long-form pasta in the Instant Pot.
Whether you’re using linguine, spaghetti, fettuccine or bucatini (aka perciatelli), it’s not going to work out if you just leave it like this in your pot. Not only won’t the lid properly fit, but the pasta won’t be cooked evenly.
WARNING: Some hard-core Italian cooks may not be able to bear witness to what will be required to properly cook this pasta in the Instant Pot. We must be a bit taboo…
…and break it in half (okay, the sacrilegious part is over). I like to look at this as the glass being half full: it will still be plenty long AND it creates more portions while being easier to twirl around a fork!
Layer the pasta in a crisscross fashion.
Add a broth of course choice (or water if you wish to save on an ingredient, although broth will add a touch more flavor)…
…and I suggest topping the noodles with a few pats of butter. In addition to more flavor, the butter will keep the noodles slick so they don’t stick!

Making The Pesto Sauce

Now it’s time to make some amazing home-made pesto! Using a food processor
…add these four basic ingredients: fresh basil leaves, olive oil, Parmesan and garlic.
The fifth ingredient in a pesto is pine nuts. But these are harder to find in the market and are on the pricy side. Therefore, I prefer using raw sunflower seeds/kernels which are more accessible, affordable and really have no effect on the flavor of the pesto. You can also use raw almonds, walnuts and cashews.
Once everything’s added to the food processor…
…pulse until puréed.
NOTE: If you REALLY want a shortcut and to save more on ingredients, you can skip this step completely and buy a jarred pesto sauce (Costco’s is the best price and tasting).

Post-Pressure Cooking

When the pressure cooking is done, the pasta will have cooked to perfection!
Give it a stir! You’ll see it will become independent once stirred thanks to the butta!

Optional Add-Ins

If you wish to add some shrimp, rotisserie chicken and/or peas, now’s the time. Add to the pot on Sauté…
…and heat-up until cooked.

The Finishing Touches

Whether you added the optional mix-ins or not, it’s time to dress these noodles up with that pesto sauce!
Toss the pesto in with the linguine.
And plate up this beautiful pasta pesto!

Trying It Out!

And now we’ll twirl that pasta ’round the fork (which will happen much easier since it was *gasp* broken in half earlier).
Give it a taste…
…and have a moment of “Okay. That’s insanely delicious with basically no effort!” SO good!
Love all things pesto? You can also try my Pesto Risotto and Pesto Chicken Salad as well!
Instant Pot Pasta Pesto
Yield: 6

Instant Pot Pasta Pesto

Instant Pot Pasta Pesto
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 6 minutes
Total Time 8 minutes


The Pasta

  • 1 pound linguine (see Jeff's Tips)
  • 4 cups broth of your choice (for a bit more flavor) OR water
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) salted butter, cut into 4 pats (optional, but suggested)

The Pesto Sauce (this will make approx 1 cup; feel free to double if you want more)

Optional Finishes

  • 1 pound shrimp, tail-on or off raw, thawed and deveined
  • 1 pound rotisserie chicken meat, shredded by hand (you can get it hot and whole and pre-packaged and cold at Costco)
  • 10-20 ounces frozen peas


  1. Break the linguine in half and lay in the Instant Pot in a crisscross fashion (we have to do this to ensure it fits properly). Add the broth (or water) and just smooth it out so it’s mostly submerged. Top with the 4 pats of butter (if using).
  2. Secure the lid and move the valve to the sealing position. Hit Cancel followed by Manual or Pressure Cook on High Pressure for 6 minutes (see Jeff's Tips). Quick release when done and give the pot a good stir and the noodles should quickly separate and be cooked perfectly.
  3. While the pasta's cooking, make the pesto sauce by adding all the pesto ingredients to a food processor and pulse until puréed.
  4. If using any of the optional finishes, add any or all to the cooked pasta before adding the pesto. Hit the Cancel button followed by the Sauté button and Adjust to the More or High setting. If using raw shrimp, stir until the shrimp curl and become opaque (about 2 minutes) and if using cold rotisserie chicken or frozen peas, do the same. Warm rotisserie chicken
  5. Add the pesto and toss in with the pasta (NOTE: if you didn't do Step 4 and are just using the pesto and the pasta there's no need to hit the Sauté button when you stir it in as there will be nothing to cool the pasta down). Serve and enjoy!

Jeffrey's Tips

Apart from angel hair/capellini (which I find too delicate for pressure cooking), you can use any long-form pasta for this. Just make sure you break it in half so it fits in the pot in a crisscross fashion and cooks properly. If using spaghetti or fettuccine, up the cook time to 8 minutes. If using bucatini/perciatelli, up the cook time to 12 minutes. If you wish to use a short-form pasta such as penne, bowties, ziti, medium shells, rotini or gemelli, also go for 6 minutes.

If you wish to save even more time, use a jarred pesto (Costco definitely has the best and the best value). Whichever you choose, I'd suggest you get one that's in the refrigerated section of your market (usually by the deli cheeses) and use about 1-2 cups of it.

Reader Interactions


  1. Paul

    Hey Jeffrey

    To make the sauce, can I substitute dry basil for the fresh and if so , how much? I have a hard time sourcing fresh basil this time of year.

    • Jeffrey

      Sadly, no. It must be fresh basil leaves for a pesto sauce. Dried basil won’t work as it isn’t the proper volume for consistency (or even flavor).

  2. Heather

    Thank you for the tip about sunflower seeds….I am going to try this! I often have fresh basil and always crave pesto!

  3. Jack

    Thank you so much for giving my InstantPot so much value to me.. We have family instantPot cook-offs and everything. Cannot express my appreciation enough 🙂

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