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Lunch/ Pasta/ Summer Lovin'

Pesto Pasta Salad

June 1, 2019 (Last Updated: July 31, 2023) 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 – 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.
Can I use store bought pesto for this recipe 🤔 – You sure can! I highly recommend using fresh pesto from the fridge section though – much more delicious!

How to make Basil Pesto (quick summary)

  1. Plonk all your ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Blitz until smooth.

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 – 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.

overhead shot of pesto pasta salad ingredients with text labels

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?!

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

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
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Servings (click & slide): 6
Course: Lunch / Salad
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: 18 minutes
Calories per serving: 427kcal
Cost per serving: £2 / $2.50

Equipment:

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

Ingredients (check list):

Pesto

  • 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

Pasta Salad

  • 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

Instructions:

  • 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!

Notes:

a) Olive Oil - Make sure it's Extra Virgin Olive Oil, not just regular olive oil. Extra virgin has a much more intense flavour and is the classic addition in a pesto.
b) Toasted Pine Nuts - This is down to preference, but I do recommend using toasted pine nuts as they add 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) Red Onion - You'll want this very thinly sliced so it disperses through the salad. If you really don't like raw onion you can leave it out.
e) 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.
f) 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 and artichokes all work well. Just don't go overboard or there won't be enough pesto to coat everything.
f) Calories - Per serving.

Your Private Notes:

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.
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Looking for more?You'll find plenty more delicious comfort food like this in my Debut Cookbook 'Comfy'

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13 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 🙂

  • 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! 🙂

  • 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! 🙂

  • 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!! 🙂

    5 KNOCKOUT

    DINNERS

    YOU'LL NEVER STOP MAKING!

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