Creamy, garlicky pesto coats bountiful pasta and fresh tomatoes, basil, and spinach for a colorful, fresh Pesto Pasta Salad that’s filling and packed with healthy ingredients! One of my favorite lunch recipes!
Fresh & Delicious Pesto Pasta Salad
Wondering what to eat for lunch today? Welcome to one of my very favorite lunch recipes: pesto pasta salad!
In this pesto pasta recipe, fresh lemon perfectly balances creamy Pesto that’s packed with basil, pine nuts, and olive oil, while fresh spinach and cherry tomatoes add crisp juiciness and tangy parmesan that is filling and delicious.
Pesto Pasta Salad Ingredients
- Pasta – I used rotini pasta, but fusilli, penne, and farfalle are other fun options
- Cherry tomatoes – cherry tomatoes are delicious and sweet, but grape tomatoes will do as well!
- Salt & pepper
- Garlic – I recommend using freshly mined garlic, but jarred will do in a pinch
- Pine nuts
- Parmesan – freshly grated parmesan has the best flavor, but there’s nothing wrong with the convenience of store-bought grated parm!
- Lemon juice
- Olive oil – I recommend extra virgin as it’s unrefined and has a stronger flavor
- Cheese: try freshly-grated parmesan, feta cheese or mozzarella
- Favorite add-ins: I love adding in extra pine nuts or kalamata olives
How to Make Pesto Pasta Salad
Remember to check out the recipe card at the bottom of this post. What follows is a step-by-step tutorial on how to make pesto pasta with photos!
Cook the Pasta
First, make the pasta according to the package directions. Just make sure to use salted water.
Then, reserve ¼ cup pasta water for later.
To cool down the pasta to prevent sticking and cooking the raw veggies, drain and rinse the cooked pasta in cool water.
Add completely cooled pasta to a large mixing bowl, then add in cherry tomatoes, spinach, and salt and pepper.
We’ll give the tomatoes and basil a good stir here, that way your pesto pasta salad will be evenly dotted with those yummy ingredients!
Prepare the Pesto
In a food processor, add in freshly minced garlic, half the basil, pine nuts, and parmesan.
Blend all ingredients together until you get a finely chopped texture.
Then, add in the rest of the basil, lemon juice, and salt. Now, blend until you get a chunky sauce-like consistency.
To finish the pesto, slowly add in olive oil while the food processor is slowly running, until emulsified.
Make the Pesto Pasta Salad
Now, for the magic! Transfer all of the homemade pesto you just made into the bowl of pasta and veggies.
Grab the pasta water you reserved earlier, and pour it over the bowl, until you get the saucy consistency of your choice.
Tip: More pasta water equals thinner pesto sauce on your salad, less pasta water equals thicker pesto sauce!
Add in any optional toppings, then toss the salad to combine.
Lastly, give it a taste and see if you’d like to add in any more lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
Enjoy the best pesto pasta salad recipe!
Can you make pesto pasta salad the night before?
Yes! I think this pesto pasta salad tastes even better the next day. Simply place pasta salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve—up to 4 days.
What salad goes with pesto pasta?
The best salad to compliment pesto pasta is anything with a spinach base since pesto is made with fresh basil, which goes really well with spinach.
You can go simple and top spinach with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and salt and pepper to taste.
What to put in pesto pasta salad?
You can add your favorite protein, extra vegetables like more spinach or tomatoes, and cheese to your pesto pasta salad.
What to Serve with Pesto Pasta Salad
- Pizza Sliders
- Garlic Parmesan Roasted Potatoes
- Baked Tortilla Chips
- Mushroom Quesadilla / Cheese Quesadilla
- Garlic Toast + Garlic Confit
- Tasty Cocktails: Bee’s Knees Cocktail, Gold Rush Cocktail, Extra Dirty Martini
Storing & Freezing
How long does pesto pasta salad last in the fridge?
This recipe lasts 3-4 days in the fridge, as long as it’s store in an airtight container.
Can I freeze pesto pasta salad?
Yes, you can freeze it. However, keep in mind that the texture will change quite a bit after being frozen and thawed.
For example, tomatoes don’t love being frozen due to their high water content. As such, the tomatoes will be a bit soggy, soft, and mushy. The spinach will be a bit wilted, which isn’t too odd if you’re used to cooked spinach. However, pasta and pesto freeze well.
You can opt to add the tomatoes right before serving. 😉
How Many Calories in Pesto Pasta Salad?
One serving of this pasta salad with pesto is about ½ cup. For one ½ cup serving, you can expect:
- Calories: 105
- Fat: 5.7g
- Carbohydrates: 12.2g
- Protein: 3g
- Sodium: 67.5mg
Tools You Need
Pesto Friends Forever! 🌿 📸 🍅
Have you been sooo enjoying our Pesto Food Tour or what? It’s been so much fun making all of the pesto dishes with you! Be sure to take a pic of your BB creation, tagging me at @beamingbaker and #beamingbaker when you post it it to Facebook and Instagram. 🙂 ‘Til the next one…
Sending you all my love and maybe even a dove, xo Demeter ❤️
Pesto Recipes & Related
- Pesto Pasta
- Vegan Pesto
- Asian Salad
- Asian Salad Dressing
- Pineapple Salsa
- Chickpea Salad
- Tomato Basil Pasta
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