Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe

Summer of Salads: Pesto Pasta Salad

During the Summer, I love making salads that can be tossed in the fridge and eaten later in the week. In order for me to do this, the salads have to be hearty and durable; they can't be mayonnaise- or greens-based salads.

The obvious salad that comes to mind is pasta. And since basil is at its peak during the warm months, pesto pasta salad has quickly become my favorite. I like to think of this recipe as a blank canvas. Start with cooked pasta and homemade pesto, then add in a bunch of ingredients.

Antipasto elements like olives, tangy cheese, and marinated vegetables are wonderful. Fresh veggies — spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, and zucchini — also work well. A protein such as tofu, grilled chicken, or salami would be delicious, too. I recommend using my recipe as a guide and substituting in the elements your family enjoys. Learn how I make it now.

Pesto Pasta Salad

Pesto Pasta Salad

Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe 2010-06-15 20:56:52


2 cups fun-shaped pasta, such as fusilli, cavatappi, gemelli, farfalle, or what I used here, campanelle
For the pesto
1 tablespoon walnuts
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
For the salad
30 black Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, roughly chopped
1/4-1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese


  1. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta according to the directions on the label, until al dente. Drain and let cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, toast the nuts in a small skillet over low heat until fragrant and golden, 5 minutes, taking care not to burn.
  3. In a food processor, combine the toasted nuts with the basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper. Process until smooth.
  4. In a large bowl, stir the cooled pasta with the pesto, being sure to combine well.
  5. Add the remaining ingredients and toss gently until everything is combined. Chill until ready to serve.

Serves 4.