Pesto Pasta Salad

Pesto is delicious in pasta salad! If you’ve never had this combination, you’re in for a treat. Make fresh basil pesto and dress up spiral pasta with olives, cherry tomatoes, green peas, and pine nuts. Great for lunch or a light dinner.

Pesto Pasta Salad
Elise Bauer

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.

Pesto Pasta Salad
Elise Bauer

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!

From the Editors Of Simply Recipes

Pesto Pasta Salad

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Servings 6 to 8 servings

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


  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).

    Pouring spiral noodles into a strainer to make pesto pasta salad.
    Eliezer Martinez
  2. 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.

    Toasting pine nuts for a cold pasta recipes.
    Eliezer Martinez
    Toasted pine nuts in a bowl for a pesto pasta salad recipe.
    Eliezer Martinez
  3. 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.

    Mixing ingredients in a large bowl for a pesto pasta salad recipe.
    Eliezer Martinez
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
371 Calories
22g Fat
34g Carbs
10g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 371
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 22g 29%
Saturated Fat 4g 18%
Cholesterol 8mg 3%
Sodium 266mg 12%
Total Carbohydrate 34g 12%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 10g
Vitamin C 9mg 45%
Calcium 106mg 8%
Iron 3mg 14%
Potassium 296mg 6%
*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.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.