Lunch/ Pasta/ Summer Lovin'

Pesto Pasta Salad

June 1, 2019 (Last Updated: January 17, 2020) by Chris Collins

This Pesto Pasta Salad truly is the ultimate Summer Pasta Salad. Packed with Homemade Pesto, Mozzarella, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Pine Nuts, it’s a total explosion of flavours!

overhead shot of pesto pasta in a white bowl with a hand and fork diving in

Pasta Salad Pesto

Whilst all the ingredients in this pasta salad get their chance to shine, the pesto really is the star of the show. Pesto is brilliant in the sense it goes with literally everything. Yes, even that. But honestly, there’s few things that go better than pesto and pasta.

I’ve written a more in depth post on Homemade Basil Pesto which is packed with tips and tricks to making the BEST pesto, so check that out if you fancy. But for now, here’s what you’ll need:

Basil Pesto Ingredients

  • Fresh Basil
  • Parmesan
  • Pine Nuts
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Garlic
  • Lemon (optional)
  • Salt & Pepper
Can I use store bought pesto for this recipe 🤔 – You sure can! If you’ve got a brand you know and love then go for it. But, homemade pesto, in my opinion is difficult to beat. PLUS it’s so quick to make!

How to make Basil Pesto (quick summary)

  1. Plonk all your ingredients in a food processor apart from your oil.
  2. Turn on motor and gradually pour in oil until desired texture. Check for seasoning.

How to make Homemade Pesto in a food processor - 2 step by step photos

BEST Pesto Pasta Salad

As simply wonderful just pesto and pasta is, we’ve gotta chuck some other goodies in there too. I like to go down the antipasti kind of route with the fillings, but if you want to experiment with different ones go for it! Here’s what I like in my pesto pasta salad:

Pesto Pasta Salad Ingredients

  • Pesto
  • Pasta
  • Sun Dried Tomatoes
  • Pine Nuts
  • Mozzarella
  • Red Onion
  • Olives

Very simple, but incredibly flavoursome.If you’re looking to pack the salad out a little more, then I’ve personally added these before and they go perfectly: Roasted Red Peppers, Charred Sweetcorn, Rocket/Arugula, Fresh Cherry Tomatoes. To take things to the next level flavour-wise consider adding the following: squeeze of Lemon Juice, extra Basil Leaves, 1 tbsp Sun Dried Tomato Oil.

What is the best pasta for pesto sauce?

If you’re eating it warm, you can really use any type you fancy, but for a pasta salad I generally stick to short cut pasta. Something like Penne or Fusilli works great. This time round I’ve gone a bit ‘fancy’ and used Fusillata Casareccia (you’ll still find it in most supermarkets).

Can u make pasta salad the night before?

Absolutely! In fact I encourage it. It gives time for the flavours to marry together. Just cover and pop in the fridge over night then bring to room temp and give it a stir before serving.

Deconstructed Pesto Pasta Salad Ingredients with labels and arrows

How to serve Pesto Pasta Salad

Can pesto pasta be eaten cold?

You can totally eat it cold if you fancy, but overall I would recommend it at room temp. It relaxes the pesto a little bit and brings it back to being a bit more ‘saucy’ and less stodgy. Not a deal breaker though.

When to serve pesto pasta salad?

Pesto pasta salad is perfect for BBQs or potluck, or even just as a lunch for you and a few!

What can I put pesto on besides pasta?

If you’re looking for other ideas to use up that homemade pesto, it goes great in Cheesy Pesto Garlic Bread and Chicken Pesto Grilled Cheese. Pesto is incredibly versatile and goes great on a variety of different chicken, fish, and veggies!

If you like the sound of the pesto pasta salad then definitely check out my Bacon Potato Salad and Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad! If you’re looking for more pesto recipes then check these out too:

Alternative Pesto Recipes

Righto, let’s tuck into the full pesto pasta salad recipe shall we?!

Close up shot of pesto pasta salad with focus on sun dried tomato

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How to make Pesto Pasta Salad (Full Recipe & Video)

overhead shot of pesto pasta in a white bowl with a hand and fork diving in

Pesto Pasta Salad

This Pesto Pasta Salad truly is the ultimate Summer Pasta Salad. Packed with Homemade Pesto, Mozzarella, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Pine Nuts, it's a total explosion of flavours.
5 from 6 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Lunch / Salad
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: 18 minutes
Servings (click & slide): 6
Calories: 427kcal
Cost per serving: Β£2 / $2.50

Equipment:

  • Food Processor
  • Large Pot & Colander (for pasta)
  • Large Mixing Bowl & Spatula
  • Salad Tongs
  • Sharp Knife & Chopping Board

Ingredients (check list):

Pesto

  • 2 large handfuls Fresh Basil Leaves (approx 2 packed cups worth)
  • 1/2 cup - 2/3 cup (125ml - 150ml) Extra Virgin Olive Oil, or as needed (see notes)
  • 1/2 cup / 40g Parmesan, freshly grated
  • 4 tbsp Pine Nuts, toasted (see notes)
  • 1 small clove Garlic
  • 1/4 tsp Salt, or to taste
  • 1/8 tsp Black Pepper, or to taste

Pasta Salad

  • 12.3oz / 350g Fusillata Casareccia, or other short cut pasta
  • 1.25 cups / 125g Sun Dried Tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 cup / 50g Mixed Olives, halved
  • 3-4 tbsp Pine Nuts, toasted
  • 20 Cherry Mozzarella Balls (see notes)
  • 1/2 small Red Onion, very thinly sliced

Optional Extras

  • squeeze of Lemon Juice
  • 1 tbsp Sun Dried Tomato Oil
  • Salt & Black Pepper, to taste
  • small Basil Leaves

Instructions:

  • Cook 12.3oz/350g pasta in salted boiling water according to packet instruction. Drain and rinse with cold water and place in a large mixing bowl.
  • Meanwhile, add 2 packed cups of fresh basil leaves, 1/2cup/40g, 4 tbsp pine nuts, 1 small clove garlic and seasoning (to taste) in a food processor and turn on the motor. Gradually pour in extra virgin olive oil until desired texture. Test for seasoning.
  • Pour pesto over pasta and toss through 1.25cups/125g sliced sun dried tomatoes, 20 mini mozzarella balls, 1/2 sliced small red onion, 1/2cup/50g olives and 3-4tbsp pine nuts (and optional extras). Serve right away or cover and pop in the fridge for later.

Quick 1 min demo!

Notes:

a) Olive Oil - Firstly, make sure it's Extra Virgin Olive Oil, not just regular olive oil. Then just work to preference as you pour it in. It'll start to form into pesto after around 1/4-1/3 cup, I just like mine a little saucier!
b) Toasted Pine Nuts - Again, this is down to preference, but I do recommend doing it as it adds more flavour. To toast the pine nuts pop them in a dry pan over very low heat and shake occasionally until they turn golden. Careful as they turn from perfectly toasted to char in seconds!
c) Cherry Mozzarella - If you can't find cherry mozzarella then tear up 4.4oz / 125g fresh mozzarella.
d) Storage - cover and store in the fridge until needed. I recommend bringing it to room temp before serving. Do not heat in the microwave or the oil will separate and the mozzarella will melt. Pesto is always best served at room temp.
e) Extras and Optionals - if you're looking to fill out the pasta salad a little more then consider adding the following: Charred sweetcorn, roasted red peppers, arugula/rocket, fresh cherry tomatoes.
f) Calories - Per serving, using 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 4 tbsp pine nuts and no extra fillings

Nutrition:

Nutrition Facts
Pesto Pasta Salad
Amount Per Serving
Calories 427 Calories from Fat 270
% Daily Value*
Fat 30.04g46%
Saturated Fat 4.592g23%
Trans Fat 0.082g
Polyunsaturated Fat 6.299g
Monounsaturated Fat 16.899g
Cholesterol 12mg4%
Sodium 544mg23%
Potassium 553mg16%
Carbohydrates 27.98g9%
Fiber 5.7g23%
Sugar 5.43g6%
Protein 15.44g31%
Vitamin A 1700IU34%
Vitamin C 7.4mg9%
Calcium 350mg35%
Iron 2.7mg15%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition is based on the absence of salt unless stated as a measurement in the ingredients. Cost is worked out based on ingredients bought from UK supermarkets, then divided by the number of servings. In both instances these values are just for guidance. Please check out my FAQ Page for more info.
Tried this recipe?Show me how you got on by tagging @dontgobaconmyheart_ on IG and #dontgobaconmyheart!

If you loved this Pesto Pasta Salad then be sure to Pin it for later! Already made it or got a question? Give me a shout in the comments and pick up your free ecookbook along the way!

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12 Comments

  • Reply
    Lisa
    June 2, 2019 at 7:20 pm

    5 stars
    Such a great salad for summer! And love all those flavors!

    • Reply
      Chris
      June 2, 2019 at 7:48 pm

      Thanks Lisa πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Rosa
    June 2, 2019 at 6:52 pm

    5 stars
    Mmmm everything about this sounds so delicious. I love pesto, can’t wait to try it!

    • Reply
      Chris
      June 2, 2019 at 7:48 pm

      Enjoy! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Natalie
    June 2, 2019 at 6:43 pm

    5 stars
    I love pasta salads! Looks so delicious and perfect for a quick summer lunch!

    • Reply
      Chris
      June 2, 2019 at 7:47 pm

      Thanks Natalie! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Jill
    June 2, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    5 stars
    Homemade pesto is one of my favorite parts of the summer. This pasta salad looks delicious!

    • Reply
      Chris
      June 2, 2019 at 7:46 pm

      You seriously can’t beat homemade pesto can you!?

  • Reply
    Juli
    June 2, 2019 at 3:44 pm

    5 stars
    You pretty much can’t go wrong with anything pesto. I can’t wait to try it with the corn and rocket additions you suggested.

    • Reply
      Chris
      June 2, 2019 at 7:43 pm

      Oh yay! Enjoy!

      • Reply
        Puneet
        May 20, 2020 at 3:21 pm

        5 stars
        Made it today on a hot summer day. Perfect picnic food to carry and enjoy outdoors. Another superb recipe which is as easy as its tasty.

        • Reply
          Chris Collins
          May 21, 2020 at 10:22 am

          Thanks Puneet! Glad to hear it went down well!! πŸ™‚

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