CPK’s Pesto Creme Penne Pasta

Waited too long to take a picture – the kids were hungry.

For many months now, my two littlest ones have been asking me “to make” California Pizza Kitchen’s (CPK) Pesto Creme Penne Pasta.

Although I’ve seen my Little Cake Boss eat it a couple of times, I never really looked at it; besides, the dimly lit interior rivals that of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.  So the first time I made it, it was not what they expected; it was just plain ol’ pesto…but they ate it.  They always eat what I make…when they like it.

For my Little Cake Boss’ 12th birthday earlier this month, I took her friends to CPK.  This time, I looked at it real good and had a sample.  Well, let me tell you – “Pesto” should not have been the first word in this dish’s culinary description. 🙂

IMG_9875 copy
The redness fades quickly… but why the city requires mulch for cactus and succulents is beyond reason. My back and knees wondered why, too.

Red Spike Succulent

Well, in between the birthday and the pasta, there was:

  1. Changing out my green lawn to a drought-tolerant yard (above),
  2. Trying to write a novel while investigating new facts about my Uncle Suetaro’s death in the Philippines in 1945,
  3. A paranoid aunt freaking out (big time) about a new cell phone she asked for,
  4. Big Bear Lake, and,
  5. A really messed up oil change at Walmart (which they promptly took care of),

but I dared to try this dish again.

I did start out with my pesto but for this attempt, I just cut down the amounts and used my Cuisinart Mini Coffee Grinder to process it.

The base was a variant of my Alfredo sauce:

  • Some olive oil
  • One garlic clove, pressed
  • Maybe a 1/4 to a 1/3 stick butter
  • About 2/3rds cup heavy cream


  • Maybe two BIG tablespoons of the pesto
  • Maybe a third to a half cup (?) of sun dried tomatoes
  • Half cup of shredded Parmesan Reggiano
  • Salt, pepper
  • Penne, al dente

Heated small sauce pan, dribbled in some olive oil then quickly warmed through the pressed garlic.  After maybe ten seconds (don’t want to burn the garlic), tossed in the butter until it melted, then added the cream.  Brought it up to good simmer (don’t boil), stirring often.  Lowered heat and continued on low simmer for ten minutes, stirring frequently.

Threw in the sun dried tomatoes and after a couple of minutes, added the pesto, Parmesan cheese, salt/pepper to taste, then poured it over the penne in a stainless steel bowl.  Mixed it up then sprinkled the plated pasta with more Parmesan.

Did the kids eat it?


Did they think it was like CPK’s?

Nope.  They thought it was better.

Well, actually, as their provider of food, shelter and flu shots, I encouraged them to think that.

48 thoughts on “CPK’s Pesto Creme Penne Pasta”

      1. I, too, loved this dish and searched endlessly for the recipe…YOU are the only mention I’ve had the fortune of finding…I’m attempting it during the Holidays, when people tend to be more forgiving…

  1. Thank you for the recipe! I love that pasta! Your blog re-do looks great, by the way. (And I didn’t know you had a short story in an anthology.) A man of many talents and many secrets, apparently, too!

    1. …and the butter and cream is Tillamook! 🙂 I’ve started (twice) to try and write a novel largely based on my family’s non-fiction… but I doubt many would want to read about a non-Caucasian family here. Still, I’ve written about 25,000 words but have been snagged on translating/reading stuff to pin down the fate of my uncle. Hope you and Peggy are well!

  2. My other half picks up a lot of penne, but I rarely eat it because it seems like the same ole thing all the time. NOW, I know what to do with it myself! Thanks, Koji.
    Speaking of your Uncle Suetaro – while extensively researching a different subject, the editor of the “Voice of the Angels” newspaper for the 11th A/B Assn., Matt Underwood mentioned the following and I thought it might be of interest ______
    Due to the loss of the Philippines in ’42, the surviving staff acted as though they were protecting MacArthur. Mac’s Chief of Staff, LGen. Richard Sutherland often acted on behalf of the general and in his name when in fact Mac was not aware or involved. Other men like MGen. Charles Willoughby (Mac’s G-2), sometimes either over-estimated or under-estimated the Japanese strength and/or capabilities. eg. Leyte Campaign was declared “OVER” except for ‘mopping up’ at about 1 January 1945 by estimating that approximately 5,000 Japanese troops remained (many of my resources say that very statement as well), when in fact, there were about 24,000 – and that would include your Uncle Suetaro.

      1. Yes, it is the 11th. Right above # 28 you see General Swing’s name – where he went, you can basically assume Smitty was somewhere in the mix. They left Leyte the end of Jan. ’45. The way talked when I was young, I took it that he went to Luzon w/ Swing, but I can not locate info on his ground or air arrival there. Your uncle was still on Leyte , now dealing w/ Eichelberger’s “mop up” crews. (a whole Army of them actually).

    1. Yes, thanks, gpcox. Indeed, in my amateur research, Mac was surrounded by those who supported him – Willoughby the most, possibly. With all the stuff that exists today, I doubt anyone knows how many Japanese perished but we have a darn good idea of how many Filipinos were killed as civilians by war’s violence – Japanese and American both.

      1. Very true, Koji. There is a Japanese group now that is attempting to locate the soldiers buried in other countries. I’m afraid, off-hand I can not think of their name.

      2. Thank you. Indeed there are, gpcox. There are a couple but several established teams journey to specific islands each year to find and cremate remains. Two years ago, even the Japanese PM went to Iwo Jima (Iwoto now) to participate. I do wish we would find the remains of the Marine (Sgt. Genaust) who shot the movie of the flag raising on Iwo Jima.

        On Wed, Feb 18, 2015 at 12:11 PM, Masako and Spam Musubi wrote:


  3. mmmmm love your humor about them liking your penne dish better – and we used to have a CPK here but I think it went out of business – anyhow – awesome post Koji – and the labor for the ,gulch was worth it – looks real good dude.

  4. Happy Birthday to your little honey!
    And thanks for the terrific recipe!
    I’ve been experimenting with pasta with lemon rind and olive oil and garlic and S&P…amazing ..oh, and garlic!
    have you ever seen my food blog?? Mac ‘n GeeeZ?

  5. I found your recipe years ago after I ordered this meal from CPK and thought it seemed simple enough to make myself. I’ve been making it every since and I find it better than CPK’s. I also went to the restaurant recently and didn’t find the pasta on their menu so it may no longer be offered. So glad you posted this years ago. It’s so delicious.

      1. So lovely that this meal continues to be a fav with your family! I can’t wait to make it for others. It’s been awhile. Making the recipe now as I type this comment. 🙂

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