Pesto Pasta Salad

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

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


  • 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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  • Mark

    First I made your pesto, which was great. Then followed this recipe to use up the remaining pesto. I added diced red bell pepper and cucumber as well. I’ll be making it again.
    Thanks for the great recipes.


  • beth

    This is terrific. I’ve made it 3 times since posted, and given the recipe to many friends. I’m like you GOTTA try this. Thanks, another great recipe.


  • s

    Hi Elise, I made this salad for a light dinner last night. I have an abundance of Basil and will be making this salad again soon. We all loved it even my little boys. Thanks again for sharing a great recipe.


  • Marc Chambaud

    This recipe is great. Actually one of my favorite(I am a big pesto lover). You know what would blend well with this? What i prepared in 15 min yesterday. Yesterday i did roughly the same thing but as a gratin. I added Goat cheese,pin nuts and emmental cheese on top. I like when the Pasta are a bit crunchy so i first put the pasta on the fry pan before putting everything in a pot and in the oven. Man it was delicious, my wife loved is and the cherry on the cake the kids loved it:-)

  • Juanita

    I love this recipe and I hold it near and dear to my heart because it was a few years ago that I discovered Simply by “googling” pesto pasta salad and coming across this recipe! Great recipe and a great blog!

  • Nora

    I want to make pesto (with fresh basil and pine nuts) but I do not have a food processor. Can I use the blender instead or the blender’s coffee grinder attachment?

    A coffee grinder attachment might work. You could also use a mortar and pestle, or just chop everything very fine. ~Elise

  • constance

    De-lish!!! :-))

  • Liz

    I LOVE this recipe. This is wonderful recipe and I could eat it all :) but my husband keeps reminding me that he is in the room too. Very easy to make and I use your pesto recipe too. Thank you!!!!

  • Joanne

    How I like my basil pesto salad is:
    Pasta either Rotini or Penne (cook accordingly)
    Basil Pesto sauce (fresh basil, EVOO, one or two garlic clove/s, pecorino cheese, pine nuts (optional) salt and pepper to taste
    Puree in a blender or a hand blender

    Once pasta has been cooked and cooled (with cool water) fold on gently the following ingredients:
    Pesto sauce
    Roasted Red peppers (sliced)
    Black Olives (sliced or halved)
    Fresh small Mozzarella balls
    Fresh basil leaves for garnish
    Grated pecorino Romano cheese
    People usually love it!
    Tell me what you think…;)

  • Melissa

    My favorite pasta salad is as follows:

    -tri-color spiral pasta
    -whole black olives
    -cut up artichoke hearts
    -italian dry salami slices (cut into smaller pieces) a whole stick of salami cut up works well too
    -cubed colby jack cheese
    -parmesean cheese
    -italian or light italian dressing

    I like to make this ahead of time for camping since you don’t have to cook it and it tastes great with all the typical camping foods!

  • abby

    I have been looking for good salad recipes for a long time, although I am not the biggest pesto fan I finaly gave in, found the pasta pesto recipe & decided to give it a try. Everyone loved it so much! Not even one pine nut could be found in the dish! I enjoyed it just as much & plan on making it again soon.

  • jasi

    tri-color radiatore
    sun dried tomatoes
    roasted red peppers
    oil cured olives
    artichoke hearts
    pickled jalepenos
    sliced fresh garlic
    olive oil

    Cook pasta. Dice all veggies in quantities you like best. Heat oil and garlic until fragrant. add tomatoes, jalepenos, olives, peppers and heat through. Toss with pasta and artichoke hearts. Serve warm or cold.

  • kristie

    I made this last night, but left out the peas and added sundried tomatoes. My family loved it!

  • Mikaela

    My favourite pasta salad is this:
    Boil pasta, penne preferably, drain and let cool down. Then add just a little olive oil and stir. then add salt, pepper and dried Italian herbs to give the pasta a nice flavour. Mix with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, canned corn kernels, capsicum and whatever other veggies you might like.
    Great with chicken and Italian salad dressing.

  • sam

    I just made this and my husband and I both loved it – he’s a bit picky about non-meat dishes so thanks so much! :)

  • k

    I love pasta salads! This one sounds great. Here is my favorite:

    artichoke hearts
    black olives
    roasted red peppers
    mushrooms (fresh sauteed or straight from a can)
    tricolore rotini
    7 seas italian dressing (made with red wine vinegar)

  • Connie

    I don’t know if it’s called anything; it’s just something I came up with one summer day, when I was hungry for something that would fill me up but not cause me to feel heavy after eating.
    Rotini (or spiral) pasta
    Sliced green and red/yellow peppers
    Cucumbers cut into slivers
    Grated cheese of preference
    Wishbone Romano-basil vinaigrette

  • Dahlia

    This is a great one – I’ve made a similar one many times, but my standby is rotini with lightly steamed red peppers, broccoli and sauteed onions, dressed by good seasons italian dressing (made with balsamic instead of regular vinegar) – it’s really easy to make and tastes great.

  • Caroline

    I happened to make a similar meal after visiting my parents for the 4th of July. They sent me home with, among other glorious things, a squash and some green beans from their garden, plus some pesto made from their own basil.

    I sauteed the squash and beans with a chopped up tomato in extra virgin olive oil and white wine, and then I mixed in the pesto. I threw in some extra pine nuts because I love them so much, and tossed the whole thing with Rotini.

    In the summer, you really can’t go wrong with fresh veggies in pasta.

  • Charlene

    OK–my favorite is tuna pasta salad. Consists of (you can figure out the proportions):

    Canned Tuna
    Lemon Juice/Worcestershire/Dijon mustard
    Balsamic Vinegar
    Dash of sugar
    Salt/Pepper (of course!!)
    Green Onion
    Basil and or Dill and or Tarragon (if you have an herb garden like I do…or use dried)
    Chopped, seeded tomato

    Serve on a bed of romaine or iceberg and with more lemon wedges :)

  • 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!

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • 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.


  • Karen

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