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!
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 – must be fresh – and lots of it!
- Parmesan – again, gotta be freshly grated. The powdered stuff doesn’t blended as well.
- Pine Nuts – you can toast these if you’d like for a subtle smoky flavour.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – creates the base of the pesto. Make sure it’s ‘extra virgin’ and not just regular olive oil. It’s got a much more prominent flavour and is more classically used in pesto.
- Garlic – a small clove goes a long way!
- Salt & Pepper – work to taste.
How to make Basil Pesto (quick summary)
- Plonk all your ingredients in a food processor.
- Blitz until smooth.
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 – as discussed above.
- Pasta – any short-cut pasta will do the trick!
- Sun Dried Tomatoes – these add a nice tangy flavour and pair beautifully with pesto.
- Baby Plum Tomatoes – the sweetness balances out the much stronger, saltier flavours in the salad.
- Pine Nuts – for an extra bit of texture.
- Parmesan – I like to shave some into the salad for more prominent bites of parmesan.
- Mozzarella – cherry mozzarella balls or bocconcini works perfectly.
- Red Onion – very thinly sliced, just so it’s dispersed through the pasta. If you really don’t like raw onion you can leave this out.
- Olives – pair beautifully with all the above ingredients!
What else could I add to this salad?
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. 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. Just don’t go overboard with the extra fillings otherwise there won’t be enough pesto to properly coat everything.
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! It will dry out a little, so I recommend stirring through a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil or sun dried tomato oil before serving.
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! I even make it for dinner sometimes.
Righto, let’s tuck into the full pesto pasta salad recipe shall we?!
How to make Pesto Pasta Salad (Full Recipe & Video)
Pesto Pasta Salad
- Food Processor & Spatula (for pesto)
- Large Pot & Colander (for pasta)
- Large Mixing/Salad Bowl
- Salad Tossers
- Sharp Knife & Chopping Board
Ingredients (check list):
- 2 small bunches of Fresh Basil (2oz/60g)
- 120ml / 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (see notes)
- 40g / 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 4 tbsp Pine Nuts, optionally toasted (see notes)
- 1 small clove Garlic
- 1/2 tsp Salt, or to taste
- 1/4 tsp Black Pepper, or to taste
- 300g / 10.5oz Short Cut Pasta
- 125g / 4oz Cherry Mozzarella Balls, halved (see notes)
- 100g / 3.5oz Sun Dried Tomatoes, sliced
- 100g / 3.5oz Cherry or Baby Plum Tomatoes, quartered
- 75g / 3/4 cup Mixed Olives, halved
- 20g / 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan
- 2 tbsp Pine Nuts, optionally toasted
- 1/2 small Red Onion, very thinly sliced (see notes)
- Salt & Pepper, to taste
- Add the pasta to salted boiling water and cook to packet instruction. Drain and rinse in cold water until completely cool. Give it a really good shake to drain away excess water.
- Meanwhile, add all of the pesto ingredients to a food processor and pulse until smooth, scraping down the sides once or twice if needed.
- Add the drained pasta to a large bowl alongside the pesto and the remaining ingredients. Toss well to combine, then check for seasoning and adjust if needed.
Quick 1 min demo!
Your Private Notes:
For more similar recipes check out these beauties:
Alternative Pesto Recipes
Pasta Salad Recipes
- Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
- Pizza Pasta Salad
- Deviled Egg Pasta Salad
- Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad
- Tuna Pasta Salad
- Caprese Tortellini Pasta Salad