Perciatelli with Creamy Pesto

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Our local farmers market had beautiful bunches of basil this week, so I couldn’t resist making the season’s first batch of pesto. After a cold spring, my plants have just gone into the ground, so I was delighted to find basil at the Coronado Farmers Market last Tuesday. It was time for the first batch of summer pesto.

On an impulse, I threw in a leftover package of cream cheese I unearthed in the back of the deli drawer. It made the traditional pesto into a rich, creamy sauce that drew raves from Larry. As always, Meyer lemon zest enhanced the flavors in the other ingredients. Cream and cream cheese make this a splurge of an entrée, something I will make again for a dinner party later this summer.

“Perciatelli” you may ask? I had never heard of it either, but found it in my local grocery store. I had been looking for bucatini, the hollow version of perciatelli. I have fun playing with different dried pastas and couldn’t resist this one for its name alone. Even spellcheck didn’t recognize it…Feel free to try this with ordinary spaghetti. It will taste exactly the same.

Blanching the garlic in the pasta water before adding it to the pesto takes the “bite” out of the raw garlic, kind of a cool trick to soften its flavor.

TIP: My Vitamix blender did a better job of producing a creamy pesto than did my old food processor. The pesto from the processor had large flecks of green throughout the sauce. This recipe makes enough pesto for leftovers the next day. If you microwave the pesto to reheat it, do about 20 seconds, stir and taste.

5.0 from 4 reviews
Perciatelli with Creamy Pesto
Recipe type: Main dish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
A summer pasta dish with a creamy pesto sauce.
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 ounces reduced fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, firmly packed
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup cream
  • ⅓ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaved parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Meyer lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ pound dried perciatelli, or other spaghetti-type pasta
  • grated parmesan, pine nuts and fresh basil leaves (optional garnish)
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the garlic cloves to the boiling water and cook for one minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Keep the water boiling.
  2. Using a processor, purée the cream cheese, blanched garlic, basil, oil, cream, parmesan, pine nuts, parsley and lemon zest until smooth.
  3. Add the salt to the boiling water and cook pasta according to package directions, usually 9-11 minutes.
  4. Drain the pasta and divide into 2 shallow bowls or plates. Top each portion with a ladle of pesto. Garnish with parmesan and fresh basil leaves. Serve.


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19 Responses to Perciatelli with Creamy Pesto

  1. Jayne June 22, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    I love pesto, but creamy pesto! You have excelled yourself! Sounds so delicious, I will definitely be making this!

    • Liz June 22, 2012 at 10:30 am #

      Thanks, Jayne, it is definitely company-worthy..Kind of rich but worth it.

  2. Lizzie June 22, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    I’ve never had perciatelli, but Italian language lover that I am, I had to check the word origin. The name comes from the verb, perciare, meaning to pierce. I imagine this refers to the hole running through the pasta. Bucatini is a favorite of mine and that means “small mouth” (also because of the hole running through it). You gotta love the Italians!

    • Liz June 22, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

      Hey, godchild, remember what fun we had in Siena? See you soon, bella…

  3. Wendy Read June 22, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    Love the look of this dish! So rich and not containing any red meat, just a winner in my book. Nice post Liz.

    • Liz June 22, 2012 at 3:13 pm #

      Thanks, Wendy – what surprised me was that my blender was more efficient than my processor. Love my Vitamix!

  4. Lynda - TasteFood June 22, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

    Beautiful photo, Liz! I love the creamy version of pesto.

    • Liz June 22, 2012 at 5:06 pm #

      Lynda, thanks so much – I made it twice before the pesto “worked”. Larry ate both versions without complaints 😉

  5. The Wimpy Vegetarian June 23, 2012 at 9:56 am #

    Love this, Liz!!! I love pesto, but have never made a creamy version. And your photo is spectacular – you better submit it to all the food porn sites or you’ll have me to answer to!! I’ve been on the fence on getting a Vitamix. It sounds like you’re a huge fan? What all do you use it for?

    • Liz June 23, 2012 at 9:58 am #

      The photo has been submitted but no takers – tastepotting has refused to reset my password for over 5 months now…Thanks! Vitamix is underused – I need to watch the cd…but great for smoothies and sauces and soups.

      • The Wimpy Vegetarian June 23, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

        You could create a new account with tastespotting and just slightly change the name? Like just add some capital letters or something? Gotta be frustrating. Or the foodblogger’s network might have some ideas. I’ve heard so many great things about Vitamix, but am afraid I’d use it like crazy for a few weeks, and then forget all about it…

        • Liz June 23, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

          Terrific idea, Susan – and if you already have a good blender and updated processor, forget the Vitamix – I needed both, or so I rationalized 😉

  6. RisaG June 25, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    A few weeks back, I started cooking with cream cheese. Your version of pesto looks so amazing – cream cheese, basil and meyer lemon! OMG. I just ran out of my Meyer Lemon frozen cubes (when it comes into season around here I buy them in 4 lb boxes, zest them all and juice them all in ice cube trays.) Darned. I will try this with regular lemon juice for right now, maybe add a tiny bit of sugar to make it closer in taste to the real thing. I just bought some basil too. I won’t have any until the end of July or August the way I am going.

    • Liz June 25, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

      I’m sure any lemon would work here – love your enthusiasm. I have made it three times now –

  7. sippitysup June 25, 2012 at 5:56 pm #

    So is Perciatelli a thick spaghetti that’s not hollow like bucatini? I bet it’s nice and chewy. GREG

    • Liz June 25, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

      Si, not hollow, but sounded so good for the blog post – and Ralph’s was out of bucatini X0

  8. Oui, Chef July 3, 2012 at 9:21 am #

    Ah….cream cheese and a Vitamix, now there is a much made in heaven! Love your creamy twist on this classic sauce, Liz.

    • Liz July 3, 2012 at 10:48 am #

      It was a hit, Steve, a little rich but delicious. I used reduced fat cream cheese – rationalizing…

  9. Cristin Wondergem April 25, 2016 at 1:56 pm #

    This sounds so delicious! I just had some pesto pasta for lunch and was wishing that it was creamier. I am going to certainly put this recipe in the mix to add some variety to my pasta lineup. Thanks for sharing.

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