This Pesto Pasta Salad is incredibly delicious and is overflowing with flavor. Made quickly and with just a few ingredients, it’s perfect for any occasion!
THE EASIEST PASTA SALAD YOU’VE EVER MADE
This Pesto Pasta Salad is the perfect summer side dish! It’s quick and easy to make with just a few ingredients and each bite bursts with fresh flavor. The combination of pesto, tomatoes, cheese, and bow-tie pasta makes for a delicious, unique salad that everyone will love. Plus, it can be served either warm or cold so you can enjoy it year round. This pasta tastes like summer in a salad!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Of course not! I have a great recipe for a Homemade Pesto if you’d like to try it out. It really is very simple to make!
Rinsing the pasta cools it and stops the cooking process. You want to cook the pasta so it’s al dente. If you don’t rinse it, it will cook a little longer as you proceed with the recipe and it will soak up a lot more of the dressing if it is warm.
You bet. Adding protein like shredded chicken, rotisserie chicken, cooked shrimp, or other protein will help round out this pasta salad. You could easily serve it as a main dish that way.
Of course! Instead try using rotini, cavatappi, or penne.
You can swap out various ingredients. Trade the red onion for sliced green onions. Don’t want spinach? Try arugula. And, in place of the cheese, you can add mozzarella pearls. Finally, you could switch out the cheese for feta, and add cucumbers, and kalamata olives to bring a Greek vibe to the salad.
This version is my favorite version of this pasta salad. But here are a few ideas you can add in to change the flavor profile:
– Artichoke hearts
– Chopped bell pepper
– Crushed red pepper flakes
– Black or green olives
– Pepperoncini peppers
– Roasted red peppers
– Sun-dried tomatoes
Sure, this is a great dish to make for parties and even better that you can prep it ahead of time. You may however choose to add the spinach right before serving. That is up to you on whether you want it to have a tiny bit of crunch or a little wilted.
Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days for the best flavor. You can keep it an additional 2 days but the flavor may lose quality and the pasta may start to break down. I don’t suggest attempting to freeze this.
INGREDIENTS NEEDED: (SEE RECIPE CARD BELOW FOR THE FULL RECIPE)
- pine nuts – these are optional but add a nice crunch to the salad – you could substitute with almonds are just leave them out altogether.
- bow tie pasta (farfalle) – this is a fun pasta to use with this recipe but as I state above in the FAQ, you can use any similar size pasta shape.
- pesto sauce – Barilla and Classico make a good store-bought pesto sauce or you can easily make it homemade.
- lemon juice – this brightens up the flavors but also helps to keep that pesto looking bright green.
- fresh spinach – you can use regular spinach or baby spinach.
- cherry or grape tomatoes – if you want a softer skin and a slightly sweeter tomato then go with cherry tomatoes. Grape tomatoes are firmer and work well if you plan to keep this around for a few days to eat.
- red onion – did you know you can soak red onion in an ice water bath to reduce the strong taste? You can also substitute with a shallot which brings a mild garlicky flavor to the party.
- grated or shaved parmesan cheese – you can freshly grate it your self or use store-bought – whatever you prefer.
HOW TO MAKE PESTO PASTA SALAD
If choosing to toast the pine nuts, here is what you’ll need to do (optional step): Over medium heat, heat a skillet and add the pine nuts. Toast them for about 6-7 minutes while stirring frequently to not let them burn. Once toasted, fragrant, and lightly brown, remove the pine nuts from the skillet and set aside.
Add water to a large pot and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, add 2 Tablespoons of kosher salt with your pasta. Follow the directions on the pasta package to cook pasta to al dente. Once it’s cooked, drain and rinse under cool water. Add cooled pasta to a large mixing bowl as well as the pesto and lemon juice. Toss them together until the pasta is evenly coated.
Now add salt, pepper, spinach, diced tomatoes and onions. Toss it all together until well mixed.
Add grated parmesan cheese and toasted pine nuts to the pasta salad. Enjoy!
CRAVING MORE RECIPES?
Pesto Pasta Salad
- ⅓ cup pine nuts (optional)
- 1 pound bow tie pasta (you might see it called farfalle pasta)
- 7 ounce jar pesto sauce
- 3 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups packed fresh spinach, cut into strips (or chopped)
- 1 ½ cups halved cherry or grape tomatoes
- ½ cup thinly sliced red onion
- grated or shaved parmesan cheese (for topping)
- Toast the pine nuts (optional first step): Over medium heat, heat a skillet and add the pine nuts. Toast them for about 6-7 minutes while stirring frequently to not let them burn. Once toasted, fragrant, and lightly brown, remove the pine nuts from the skillet and set aside.
- Add water to a large pot and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, add 2 Tablespoons of kosher salt with your pasta. Follow the directions on the pasta package to cook pasta to al dente. Once it’s cooked, drain and rinse under cool water.
- Add cooled pasta to a large mixing bowl as well as the pesto and lemon juice. Toss them together until the pasta is evenly coated.
- Now add salt, pepper, spinach, diced tomatoes and onions. Toss it all together until well mixed.
- Add grated parmesan cheese and toasted pine nuts to the pasta salad. Enjoy!
- Please refer to my FAQ’s and ingredient list above for other substitutions or for the answers to the most common questions.
- Add protein like shredded rotisserie or grilled chicken, or grilled shrimp to complete this pasta salad.
- You can swap out bowtie pasta for rotini, cavatappi, or penne.
- This can be made ahead of time, see post for full instructions.
- Salting the water helps season the pasta more evenly.
“The Country Cook” is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories and other nutritional values can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.