When it's the season for potluck barbecues, 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 ingredients.
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.
Watch This Easy Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe
What Is Pesto?
The word "pesto" is the past tense version of the Italian word "pestare," which means to crush. That's because it was traditionally made by crushing the ingredients in a mortar and pestle. The most popular variety is the Genoese version made from basil, garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil, which is what we use here. But you can make pesto with almost any green.
Never made pesto? Try our Basil Pesto recipe, a favorite!
Store for Later
Pasta salad holds up well in the fridge. However, the pesto will darken and oxidize quickly. So, it's best to add the pesto just before serving, if possible.
Other than that, this recipe is great to keep on hand for weekday lunches or light dinners when it’s too hot out to cook. It's also great camping or picnic food, since it's designed to be served at room temperature.
It should last 2 to 4 days in a well-sealed container in the fridge.
More Delicious Pasta Recipes to Try!
- Pasta e Fagioli
- Bowtie Pasta with Peas, Prosciutto, and Arugula
- Caprese Pasta Salad
- Greek Pasta Salad
- Creamy Chicken and Asparagus Pasta
Pesto Pasta Salad
Prep the salad while the water is on to boil for the pasta.
For pasta salads, it's best to use a dry pasta rather than fresh pasta. They hold their shapes better when tossed with the other ingredients.
4 cups uncooked fusilli pasta (use rice pasta for wheat-free version)
1 cup fresh basil pesto, store bought or homemade
2 tablespoons 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 assorted cherry tomatoes, halved
Several fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
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).
Toast the 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 or plate to rest. They will burn if you leave them in the pan.
Mix the salad pasta:
Put pasta in a big bowl. Mix in fresh basil pesto, green olives, and pine nuts. Gently toss in cherry tomatoes, peas, fresh basil leaves, and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve at room temperature.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 6 to 8|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 22g||29%|
|Saturated Fat 4g||18%|
|Total Carbohydrate 34g||12%|
|Dietary Fiber 3g||11%|
|Total Sugars 3g|
|Vitamin C 9mg||45%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|