Lemon Pesto Turkey Pasta

This Lemon Pesto Turkey Pasta is an easy way to use up leftover holiday turkey! With bowtie pasta, basil pesto and lemon zest, carbonara style

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3 to 4


  • Salt
  • 2 eggs (large)
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup prepared basil pesto
  • 1/2 pound of farfalle (bow tie) pasta
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 heaping cup of chopped onion (about one medium onion)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chopped cooked turkey meat (leftover turkey thigh meat works great)
  • Freshly ground black pepper


1 Boil salted water for pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 Tbsp of salt for every 2 quarts of water.  (While the water is coming to a boil, prep the ingredients to save time.)

2 Make egg, zest, pesto sauce: In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, lemon zest, and pesto. Set aside.

3 Cook the pasta: Add the pasta to the boiling water. The pasta should take 10 minutes to cook to al dente, cooked through but still a little firm. Cook on a rolling boil, uncovered.

4 Cook onions, add chopped cooked turkey: While the pasta is cooking, cook the onions in a large sauté pan in olive oil on medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and chopped cooked turkey meat. Cook until heated through, then remove from heat.

5 Drain pasta: When the pasta is ready, reserve 1/2 a cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta.

6 Add pasta, sauce to onions and turkey: Add the hot, drained pasta to the pan with the onions and turkey. Pour the egg mixture over everything and quickly stir to combine. The heat of the pasta will cook the eggs sufficiently, though keep the pan off the heat or the eggs in the sauce will curdle.

7 Season to taste: Salt to taste (depending on the saltiness of your leftover turkey and the saltiness of the pesto, you may not need any additional salt).

Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper to serve. (If you want, sprinkle with a little fresh lemon juice as well.) Add back a little of the reserved pasta water if you want the pasta a little more loose, or if it is too dry.

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  • Sue

    Easy, tasted great. I added halved cherry tomatoes. My husband ate two bowls.


  • [email protected]

    It was really good and really easy. Much appreciated after 5 hours in the kitchen on thanksgiving! We usually don’t like to eat leftover turkey because of the taste but this hid it well. Will keep it for chicken or bacon next.


  • roberta hardin

    This was so freaking delicious!!! Family loved it! I used ground turkey and smoked bacon. I put green onions for color and at the end sprinkled some lemon juice. This is going in our keep file.


  • Argelia Avila

    I just made this for diner, I loved it my kids loved it. Tweeked it a lil by adding asparagus and toasted pine nuts!!! Simply delicious thank you!!!

  • Gloria Gower

    We had friends at our home in Spain over Christmas and New Year and, despite all the excesses at that time, this recipe proved to be a great hit with all. It was quick and easy to make and very tasty. Thank you for sharing it.

  • Ruth

    This was delicious! I’ve made it several times now. We’ve started to add broccoli to the dish to make it more of a one pot meal and its flavor blends in really well.

  • Carolyn

    It is delicious – I have bookmarked it! I make it with fresh ground turkey and cook it with the eggs – so good!

  • Alexandria Snyder

    Thank you for this recipe. I was looking for a pasta dish with turkey when I came across your recipe. I made it tonight. Not only was it quick to assemble (very important for a weekday dinner) but my husband and I really liked it.

  • Sarah

    Loved this recipe! I found some excellent ready-made basil pesto at Whole Foods, and used pasteurized egg whites instead of the egg. This would also be great with sundried tomatoes!

  • Jean Binder

    This recipe was easy and an amazingly good combination, BUT I got salmonella from it even though I stirred in the eggs immediately after draining and adding the hot hot noodles. The eggs cooked and got warm, but apparently not warm enough. To avoid this, I would want to return it to the heat or put in the microwave. Since it was all mixed, I don’t think the curdling would have been significant at all…but eggs today are just not safe unless thoroughly cooked.

  • Anne Jacobs

    This was delicious! The lemon zest really sings. I am cooking for the construction crew building my deck this week and this dish was a solid hit. Many thanks,

  • Olga

    Many thanks for the recipe! All family simply delighted. Unfortunately my English is bad therefore it is compelled to write through the translator. Very few good qualitative recipes on the Internet. Personally to you thanks. I will wait for new recipes! Yours faithfully Olga

  • Julie

    Made this tonight for supper and it was great! We halved the recipe and used penne pasta. After tossing everything together, sprinkled on shredded Parmesan cheese and put the pan under the broiler to melt.

  • Ellen

    So happy to have found this recipe – used the left over dark meat turkey tonight in this delicious and satisfying dish. It was a big hit. Love to find creative ways to use leftovers rather than just having the same meal all over again. Thank you, Elise!!

  • Jeanette | Jeanette's Healthy Living

    Elise – hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Love how easy and simple this recipe is, and a nice way to use up any leftover turkey while creating a whole new dish.

  • Aaron

    This was quick, easy and great! I’ll probably be making it with leftover chicken on a regular basis.

    Elise, I’ve been making recipes from your site for over 5 years now (your mom’s stuffing was the first), and they have all been so solid! I know I never have to pre-test anything if I have folks coming over; it’s evident you’ve done all the testing out any cook would need. Thanks for all the work you put into this! :)

  • Barbara Perry

    Made this for supper – it was very easy and definitely addicting!! A keeper for sure! Thanks for a great recipe,,,,,, Barb


  • Martha

    Sounds wonderful! But why do we reserve 1/2 a cup of the pasta cooking water?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Martha, thanks for the reminder, I had forgotten to mention to add a little of the pasta water back into the dish if the pasta seems too dry or you want the whole thing more loose. Fixed now.