Pesto Pasta Salad

Summer pesto pasta salad with fresh basil pesto, spiral pasta, pine nuts, olives, peas, and cherry tomatoes.

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

The season for potluck barbecues is here and a quick and easy dish to prepare for a gathering is pesto pasta salad!

Spiral pasta catches and hold the bits of basil pesto. You can dress up the pesto and pasta with any number of things.

Cherry tomatoes, nuts, peas, and olive tapenade are what I had on hand for this particular version, but you could also add goat cheese, slivered almonds, sun-dried tomatoes, or snow peas.

What’s your favorite summer pasta salad? Let us know in the comments.

Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6-8

Prep the salad while the water is on to boil for the pasta.


  • 4 cups uncooked fusili pasta (use rice pasta for wheat-free version)
  • 1 cup fresh basil pesto
  • 2 Tbsp chopped green olives, or olive tapenade
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted (or fresh if you can get them)
  • 12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Several fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


1 Cook the pasta: Cook pasta according to instructions on the package. Make sure the water is salted (one and a half teaspoons per quart). Remove pasta from heat and strain when pasta is cooked, but still firm (al dente).

2 Toast pine nuts: While the pasta is cooking, toast the pine nuts in a small pan over medium-high heat. Keep an eye on them because pine nuts can go from lovely and toasty to acrid and burnt in seconds.

When most of the nuts have a blush of golden brown on them, move them to a cool bowl to rest. They will burn if you leave them in the pan.

3 Mix pasta with pesto, pine nuts, olives, tomatoes, basil, olive oil: Put pasta in a big bowl. Mix in fresh basil pesto, green olives, and pine nuts. Gently mix in cherry tomatoes, peas, fresh basil leaves and olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve at room temperature.

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Pesto Pasta Salad

Showing 4 of 24 Comments

  • Karen

    When the tomatoes get good, here’s one I like, and vegetarians always appreciate:

  • Lou

    My favorite is Greek Pasta Salad — with cucumber, tomatoes, red and green peppers, Kalamata olives, onion, feta and red wine vinaigrette dressing. Chicken can be added for an entree salad. Tricolor rotelle pasta is a colorful choice for the salad.


  • Christine

    I know you asked for favorite pasta salads, but this sounds wonderful Elise, and the timing couldn’t be better as I have picnic food to prepare for our blues festival up here this weekend. I would use a low glycemic pasta, like Dreamfields, and keep everything else the same.

  • TwinMamaLinda

    I combine styles and do a cheese tortelini pesto pasta salad with sundried tomato, black olives, red onion, pine nuts, feta cheese and red/orange or yellow peppers. I made this just over the weekend and it always gets finished up quickly!

    Thanks for the great blog – I love lurking here.


  • Cindy

    What a coincidence! I just made this salad for the fourth with a few variations. I added one cup of fresh parmesan cheese to the pasta and pesto, then added chopped olives, grape tomatoes, red onions, green peppers, yellow peppers and red peppers to the top so the picky eaters could eat just the veggies they liked. It was such a hit, there were no left overs!

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