Spruce up your picnic basket this summer with Pesto Pasta Salad! Tender bites of pasta are accompanied by tomatoes, spinach, red onions, mozzarella and more. And of course there’s plenty of vibrant basil pesto dressing holding it all together!

A large white platter is topped with pesto pasta salad.


Pesto Pasta Salad

If you’re anything like me… you’re obsessed with pesto. It’s hard not to be! It’s so vibrant, bright, and above all, summery. Now that we’re officially in the thick of summer heat, I’m stocking up on all of my favorite pasta salad recipes like this one. The fact that it really showcases basil pesto is just the cherry on top!

The pesto dressing isn’t the only delicious part of this easy pasta salad recipe. I’m also pretty obsessed with the balance of varying flavors and textures from ingredients like tomatoes, olives, mozzarella, chickpeas and more. This is a pasta salad that really satisfies and doesn’t leave you still hungry. It’s a perfect light lunch!

Oh, and the very best part of all is just how quick and easy this salad is to make. The only part that takes a little bit of time is letting it sit in the fridge for about half an hour so it chills. Besides that, every other step of this recipe can be completed in no time and with little to no effort.

The ingredients for pesto pasta salad are presented.

Ingredients for Pesto Pasta Salad

For the salad

  • Pasta – Any short shape will work, so just use whatever you already have or what sounds good to you! Gemelli, farfalle, shells, etc.
  • Cherry Tomatoes – Grape tomatoes also work just fine.
  • Baby Spinach – Chop it up so it’s easier to fit on a fork.
  • Red Onion – I don’t recommend using any other color of onion. Red onions have the boldest flavor that tastes so good in this pasta salad!
  • Mozzarella Pearls – Make sure they’re well drained, that way they don’t add any extra liquid.
  • Olives – These also need to be drained of all excess liquids prior to using.
  • Chickpeas – White (cannellini) beans can also be used.
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmesan Cheese – Freshly grated is the way to go for the very best flavor!
  • Fresh Basil – This is the loveliest garnish that compliments the pesto.

For the dressing

  • Basil Pesto – If you take one piece of advice from me, let it be this – use homemade pesto.
  • Olive Oil – Use a good quality that you actually like the flavor of.
  • Red White Vinegar – This makes everything so tangy!
Pesto dressing is being poured over the pasta salad.

How to Make Pesto Pasta Salad

Take a quick sneak peek at just how easy this recipe really is! For more detailed step by step instructions, keep on scrolling all the way down to the recipe card.

  1. Place everything in a bowl. Add the pasta, cherry tomatoes, spinach, onion, mozzarella, olives, and beans to a bowl. Toss everything together to combine.
  2. Make the dressing. Whisk together the pesto, olive oil and vinegar.
  3. Toss and chill. Add the dressing to the salad and give it a good toss to coat. Then, let it all chill in the fridge for half an hour. I know waiting is never fun, but it’s really best to serve this pasta salad chilled.
  4. Enjoy! Garnish with some fresh basil and grated parmesan just before serving.

Can I make it ahead of time?

Just note that the longer the pasta salad sits, the softer it will become over time. With that being said, it’ll stay fresh in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. Give it a good toss just before serving to coat everything again!

A plate of pasta salad is placed next to a full sized platter of pasta salad.

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A large white platter is topped with pesto pasta salad.

Get the Recipe: Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe

Pesto pasta salad is a refreshing and flavorful dish perfect for a light lunch or summer side. Made with cooked pasta, fresh pesto, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, and a variety of other vegetables or ingredients, it's a versatile dish that can be customized to taste.
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Ingredients

  • 1 pound pasta, cooked to al dente according to package instructions
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved.
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1 cup fresh mozzarella balls
  • 1/2 cup sliced olives
  • 1 15 ounce can chickpeas or white beans, rinses and drained
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, optional
  • Chopped fresh basil, optional

For the Dressing

  • 7 ounces basil pesto, homemade or store-bought
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Equipment

  • 1 mixing bowl

Instructions 

  • Add the pasta, cherry tomatoes, spinach, onion, mozzarella, olives, and beans to a large bowl.
  • Toss to combine.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the pesto, olive oil and vinegar.
  • Pour the dressing over the pasta salad and toss to coat.
  • Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Serve sprinkled with cheese and basil, if desired.

Notes

Pasta Salad can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Be sure to mix up a little extra dressing to use just before serving.
Calories: 518kcal, Carbohydrates: 63g, Protein: 19g, Fat: 21g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 12mg, Sodium: 502mg, Potassium: 646mg, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 1580IU, Vitamin C: 16mg, Calcium: 224mg, Iron: 4mg