Pesto Pasta Salad

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.

Tomatoes, pasta, spinach, basil, garlic and more ingredients for pesto pasta salad laid out on a table

Pesto Pasta Salad Ingredients

Pasta 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!
  • Spinach
  • Basil
  • Salt & pepper

Pesto Ingredients

  • Garlic – I recommend using freshly mined garlic, but jarred will do in a pinch
  • Basil
  • 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
  • Salt
  • Olive oil – I recommend extra virgin as it’s unrefined and has a stronger flavor

Optional Add-ins

  • Cheese: try freshly-grated parmesan, feta cheese or mozzarella
  • Favorite add-ins: I love adding in extra pine nuts or kalamata olives
close up creamy pesto coating pasta in mixing bowl

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.

Two photos showing how to make pesto pasta salad – cooking pasta

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!

Two photos showing how to make pesto pasta salad – stirring tomatoes and basil into pasta

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.

Making pesto - adding garlic into food processor filled with basil, parmesan, pine nuts, and salt.

Then, add in the rest of the basil, lemon juice, and salt. Now, blend until you get a chunky sauce-like consistency.

Making pesto - Pouring lemon juice and basil into food processor and blending

To finish the pesto, slowly add in olive oil while the food processor is slowly running, until emulsified.

Making pesto – adding oil to emulsify pesto into creamy sauce

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.

Two photos showing how to make this recipe – adding pesto sauce and pasta water over salad

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.

Hands holding two wooden salad tongs to mix pesto sauce onto fresh basil and tomato pasta salad

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 also use my easy Italian Dressing Recipe on your favorite salad mix for a quick and easy option.

Or, 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.

pesto pasta salad served in a brown plate

What to Serve with Pesto Pasta Salad

I also love serving this as part of a salad buffet alongside my Asian Chopped Salad for a fresh and light spread. It also goes with this this viral Jennifer Aniston Salad, too. You can also serve this salad as part of a cocktail party, alongside bright vibrant drinks such as the Bee’s Knees Cocktail, the Gold Rush Cocktail, or an 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
super close up of this Italian side dish with cherry tomatoes, fresh spinach on rotini pasta

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 ❤️

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Pesto pasta salad served with tomatoes on a brown plate

Pesto Pasta Salad

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 5 reviews


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!




  • 16 oz (1lb) pasta (rotini, fusilli, penne, farfalle, etc.) – I used rotini
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 cup fresh basil, more in Pesto ingredients
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed and divided
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup freshly-grated parmesan
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Optional Add-Ins

  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan, feta cheese or mozzarella
  • ½ cup favorite add-ins: pine nuts, sliced kalamata olives, etc.


Be sure to check out the step-by-step photo tutorial in the post above! 🙂

  1. Make the Pasta: Prepare pasta according to package directions. Reserve ¼ cup pasta water. Drain and rinse in cool water to cool down pasta and prevent sticking.
  2. Tip: Make sure pasta is completely cooled before adding in tomatoes, spinach, basil to avoid cooking the veggies.
  3. Transfer completely cooled pasta to a large serving bowl. Gently fold in tomatoes, spinach, basil, and salt & pepper to taste. Set aside.
  4. Prepare the Pesto: In a food processor, add garlic, half the basil, pine nuts, and parmesan. Blend until roughly chopped.
  5. Add the remaining basil, lemon juice, and salt. Blend until you get a chunky sauce-like consistency. Scrape down the sides of the food processor bin as needed.
  6. With the food processor running on low, slowly add olive oil until emulsified.
  7. Make the Pesto Pasta Salad: Pour the pesto sauce over the pasta, scraping the food processor clean.
  8. Add reserved pasta water as needed to thin out pesto.
  9. Add any Optional Toppings, like freshly-grated parmesan and pine nuts.
  10. Gently toss the salad to combine. If needed, add any additional salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste. Enjoy!


Storing Instructions: This pesto pasta salad keeps well for days. Store pasta salad in an airtight container for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

Freezing Instructions: Store pesto pasta salad in a freezer-friendly container for 1-3 months. For the best taste and texture, add cherry tomatoes after thawing.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Main Dishes, Side Dishes
  • Method: Cook
  • Cuisine: Italian

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  1. Pesto pasta is one we rely on concert days, but I always worry about the lack of veggies in he one I make. This recipe solves that problem easily.

  2. This was everything a gourmet salad should be and then some! So easy, hearty and flavorful; definitely, a new favorite pasta salad!

  3. I can’t believe I have yet to try making pasta salad. This one looks like a winner! Can’t go wrong with pesto 😉