Who loves a quick weeknight dinner? I couldn’t wait to post this celery pesto rigatoni recipe. It’s so easy to make, including making the pesto yourself  and, if you don’t feel like celery pesto, use any pesto you like.

Pasta is one of my favourite comfort foods and I know you love them too. You’ll love this easy salmon pesto pasta and this one pan chicken pesto pasta bake too.

A dark brown bowl filled with pesto covered pasta.

I’m currently in love with this pasta. It’s an easy weeknight meal of fresh and rich pesto it’s bathed in to the crunch of toasted cashews. I love it all the more since it can be made in less than 20 minutes, including making the pesto.

It’s also a stunning meal. The deep green colour of the pesto feels so rich and nourishing at the same time as totally comforting. The celery leaves give this pesto an earthy flavour and it’s such a great way to use up everything.

You could make this meal extra special with a side of pesto garlic bread.


I mean, who wouldn’t love this pesto rigatoni with just 5 ingredients (parmesan not shown in the image below).

Ingredients for pesto rigatoni on a marble surface.
  • Rigatoni: I like using rigatoni since this tube-shaped pasta allows the sauce and nuts to seep inside the pasta too. Every piece has all the flavour. Whole wheat pasta would also be a great option here.
  • Pesto: I use my Celery Leaf Pesto for this one but any pesto will work great. You can even use your favourite store-bought pesto.
  • Cashews: These add an amazing crunch which is a lovely texture against the soft pasta. Plus, it complements the celery pesto, that also uses cashews.
  • Lemon juice: Perfect to give the rich flavours a lift and zing. Please use fresh lemon juice, not the bottled variety. Feel free to add a little lemon zest too.
  • Parmesan cheese: Scattered over the top to serve, this rich cheese adds both creaminess and umami, that wonderful super-savoury flavour.

Filled with the flavours of parmesan, nuts, garlic and olive oil, pesto has all the seasoning you need though I always add a little freshly cracked black pepper too.

How to make celery pesto rigatoni

While the pesto sauce is made in the food processor, the pasta and resulting meal are all made in one pan.

Pasta in a saucepan with pesto and lemon juice being added.
  1. Bring a large pot half full of water to a boil. Add a good hit of salt (you want it to taste like seawater) then add the pasta and let it cook until al dente.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, make the pesto – that will take less than 10 minutes.
  3. Once the pasta is ready, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water (see why below) then drain the pasta and return it to the pan.
  4. In the same pan add the pesto, some chopped nuts and lemon juice (photo 1). Give it a stir.
  5. Now add some of that pasta water (photo 2), stirring after each small addition until you have the right sauce consistency for the pasta.

Why save pasta water?

Here’s a little magic trick in the world of pasta dinners. Always save a little of the water the pasta has been cooked in.

Pasta water is starchy and salty and, when it’s added back to your pasta, will make any sauce extra silky and flavourful and it’s how you’ll get a wonderful creamy pesto rigatoni.

A saucepan filled with pesto covered pasta.

You’ll love this creamy pesto pasta too!

Can I use a different pesto?

One of the wonderful things about this quick and easy pesto rigatoni recipe is the ease with which you can customise it.

Homemade pesto is so simple to make and you can use anything from herbs to spinach to kale and even broccoli or combinations of them. Try one of these pesto recipes.

You can also use store-bought pesto if you’re pressed for time but I urge you to take the 10 minutes to make your own.

Can pesto rigatoni be made ahead of time

Celery Pesto Rigatoni is best served fresh. If you have leftovers, you can reheat them in a pan or in the microwave but it’s best to add a little water to loosen it up again.

Bowls of pasta surrounded by cashews adn celery leaves.

If you try this pesto rigatoni recipe, please take a moment to leave a rating and comment below. I love hearing from you and it helps other readers too! You can also take a photo and tag @sugarsaltmagic on Instagram.

Top down view of a dark brown bowl filled with pesto covered pasta.
5 from 2 ratings
This incredibly quick and easy celery pesto rigatoni not only tastes amazing but takes less than 20 minutes to make – that includes making the pesto from scratch. While this easy dinner recipe uses up those often discarded celery leaves, you can use any pesto you prefer.


  • ½ cup celery leaf pesto notes
  • 300 g dried rigatoni pasta
  • 2 tablespoons cashews, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan

For best results, always weigh ingredients where a weight is provided


  • Start by making the celery leaf pesto (it takes only 5 minutes).
  • Bring a large pot, half full with water to a boil. Add a good 3-4 teaspoons of salt to the water and stir. Add the pasta and cook according to packet instructions or until just al dente.
  • Scoop out 1 cup of the pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta, discarding the remaining water.
  • Add the pasta back to the pan and add the pesto, half the cashews and half the lemon juice. Stir well.
  • Add the pasta water a little at a time until the sauce is the consistency you like. Taste and add more lemon juice plus salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve with the remaining cashews and parmesan scattered over the top.


  1. You can use this celery leaf pesto recipe or use your favourite store-bought pesto.
Have you tried this recipe?Don’t forget to leave a rating and comment below and let me know how it was! I love hearing from you. Nutrition information is approximate and derived from an online calculator. The brands you use may cause variations.