This blog post is sponsored by Barilla, but all opinions expressed are my own.

Make this Mexican-inspired pesto pasta with my super quick, semi-homemade spicy cilantro pesto recipe! With bright, bold flavor, and a little kick from poblanos and jalapeños, it’s one of my favorite easy weeknight dinners.

Spicy Cilantro Pesto Pasta in a brown bowl with fork and crumbled Cotija on rustic brown counter

While it seems that I’m permanently trapped in a cycle of wondering where my time went – seriously, it’s October already? These shorter days and cooler nights only emphasize it. It’s no wonder, then, that October is National Pasta Month! Pasta is a quick, family friendly way to get cozy, homemade dinner on the table in a flash.

To celebrate, I’ve partnered with my friends at Barilla to show you just how easy it is to say “I love you” with a bowl of delicious pasta. Nothing reminds you of home quite like a homecooked meal – and this recipe is perfect for that comforting taste of home to share with your loved ones to show you care. Using Barilla’s Protein+ Penne and a jar of their delicious Rustic Basil Pesto means I can have a well-balanced vegetarian meal on the table in under 20 minutes, making it possible to share a meal with my family on even the craziest days.

About This Recipe

As a working mom it can sometimes feel like a chore to make dinnertime happen. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE to cook, clearly, but juggling my own work schedule with their extracurricular activities, practices, and homework is tough enough. Adding meal planning, grocery shopping, prepping and cleaning to my already full plate can sometimes feel like too much to bear.

That said, dinnertime is sacred in our family. It’s the one time of day that we can all sit down together and share about our lives. After the past couple of years that we’ve had, that connection is more important than ever. So, on those nights when I’m about to crack under the pressure of it all, easy pantry meals like this Spicy Cilantro Pesto Pasta are a godsend.

Barilla penne pasta box and pesto with fresh poblanos, jalapeños, squash, pepitas and cilantro

If you’ve been following the blog for a while now, then you know that I always have cilantro and peppers on hand. Aside from that, all this easy pasta recipe requires is a jar of pre-made pesto, a box of pasta, that lone squash languishing in your crisper drawer and a couple of other pantry staples.

Using Barilla’s Protein+ pasta means that I don’t have to worry about keeping this pesto pasta vegetarian – the pasta has enough protein to keep the bottomless pits that are teenage stomachs nice and full, even without the addition of any meat or fish. That said, this cilantro pesto does pair beautifully with shrimp or grilled chicken if you want to add an additional protein.

I also love keeping a jar of Barilla Pesto on hand for busy nights because it is already prepared and packed with a ton of fresh flavor. I can use it for making my Grilled Chicken and Pesto Frittata, my Quinoa and Pesto Shrimp Stuffed Pasillas, or this speedy spicy pesto pasta dinner.

If you’re gluten-free, don’t feel like you have to miss out on the fun! Try one of Barilla’s delicious gluten-free pastas instead. This semi-homemade cilantro pesto can also be used to slather in sandwiches or spoon over your favorite grilled meats; it is perfect for anything that needs a fresh, herbaceous pop of flavor!

This simple pasta recipe comes together in the amount of time it takes for your pasta to boil, meaning a delectable, fresh and (basically) homemade meal is never far from reach. Let’s get cooking, shall we?

How to Make Spicy Cilantro Pesto Pasta

Cook Pasta

Cook Barilla Protein+™ Penne in boiling water for 11 minutes. NOTE: Due to its higher protein content, Protein+™ takes several more minutes to cook than traditional pasta.

cooked penne pasta in brown with side plates of cooked squash, pesto, Cotija and pepitas

Sauté Veggies

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and cook until zucchini is tender, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

large bowl filled with cooked penne pasta topped with sautéed squash and pepitas on the table

Make Cilantro Pepita Pesto

If pepitas are not roasted, toast them in a dry pan, until they start to dance, puff up and brown lightly, about 10 minutes. Transfer the seeds to a bowl and let cool to room temperature.

Put the pesto, pepitas, poblanos, jalapenos, and cilantro into a food processor or blender, and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

pouring cilantro pesto in a bowl or penne pasta

Assemble and Serve

Drain pasta into a large bowl and toss in sautéed zucchini, drizzle pesto, and lightly combine and garnish with pepitas and crumbled cotija. Enjoy!

Spicy Cilantro Pesto Pasta topped with Cotija and pepitas in a larges called green bowl

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some ways to make this pasta even faster?

I hear you! First, buy pre-roasted pepita seeds. Second, opt for prepped veggies or frozen veggies to cut back on knife work. Remember that roasted poblanos can be frozen, too! Finally, you can use Barilla’s Ready Pasta for al dente perfection in just 90 seconds. BOOM! How’s that for fast??

How do I roast chile peppers?

If you are unsure how to roast chile peppers, please refer to this blog post: How to roast chile peppers.

roasted poblanos and jalapeños on a brown plate and scattered pepitas on table

More Tasty Recipes

Still hungry? You sound like one of my kids lol! Here are some other lightning-fast recipes to get you fed stat:

If you tried my recipe for Spicy Cilantro Pesto Pasta, please be sure to rate and review the recipe below. And don’t forget to tag me on Instagram if you share your drool-worthy creations! You can shop for almost all of the recipe ingredients here.

Spicy Cilantro Pesto Pasta

5 (2 ratings)
Make this Mexican-inspired pesto pasta with my super quick, semi-homemade spicy cilantro pesto recipe! With bright, bold flavor, and a little kick from poblanos and jalapeños, it's one of my favorite easy weeknight dinner.

Ingredients

  • 14.5 ounces Barilla Protein+™ Penne
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow squash or green zucchini, sliced
  • 6.5 ounce jar Barilla Rustic Basil Pesto sauce 
  • 1/4 cup roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 poblano chile peppers, roasted and seeded
  • 1 to 2 jalapeños
  • handful cilantro
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Cotija cheese or Parmesan

Instructions 

  • Cook Barilla Protein+™ Penne in boiling water for 11 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and cook until zucchini is tender, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
  • If pepitas are not roasted, toast them in a dry pan, until they start to dance, puff up and brown lightly, about 10 minutes. Transfer the seeds to a bowl and let cool to room temperature.
  • Put the Barilla Rustic Basil Pesto, pepitas, poblanos, jalapenos, and cilantro into a food processor or blender, and puree until smooth. 
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Drain pasta into a large bowl and toss in sautéed zucchini, drizzle Mexican style pesto, and lightly combine and garnish with pepitas and crumbled cotija. 

Notes

  • Add a generous pinch of sea salt to the cooking water to enhance the pasta’s flavor. 
  • Avoid adding oil to the water as it prevents sauce from clinging to the pasta. 
  • Roasting chile peppers:If you are unsure how to roast chile peppers, please refer to this blog post: How to roast chile peppers.
  • Leftovers - store in fridge in super airtight container.
Serving: 8g, Calories: 276kcal, Carbohydrates: 42g, Protein: 10g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 9mg, Sodium: 194mg, Potassium: 270mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 219IU, Vitamin C: 30mg, Calcium: 66mg, Iron: 1mg

Photography: Jenna Sparks