This Pesto Pasta Salad is so fresh and easy! The combination of cold pasta, vibrant pesto, creamy mozzarella, and cherry tomatoes is a match made in heaven.
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I love this Pesto Pasta Salad because it’s so fresh and earthy, just perfect for the long days of summer. This recipe is great for barbecues and parties, or as a side dish at a family dinner.
- TASTE: The nutty herbaceous pesto is perfectly paired with sweet tomatoes and rich mozzarella. This pasta salad is so flavorful.
- TEXTURE: It’s made with al dente pasta, juicy tomatoes, creamy cheese, and thick pesto sauce. So scrumptious!
- TIME: This recipe only takes 10 minutes to make.
- EASE: This salad is really simple and the hardest part is boiling the pasta. You’ll love how convenient and easy it is.
- Basil pesto- Store-bought or homemade pesto will work here. If you make your own though, you can tweak the recipe to add your favorite ingredients, such as extra pine nuts or garlic.
- Mozzarella- Pearl mozzarella works best since they are already formed and won’t break up like fresh mozzarella that you cut to size.
- Tomatoes- Cherry tomatoes are juicy and sweet, the perfect counterpoint to the pesto and cheese. Using the multi-colored ones makes the dish even prettier.
Add-ins and Substitutions
- Substitute different pasta varieties- Besides bowtie and farfalle, you can use other short pasta varieties, like elbow, fusilli, rotini, or penne. Gluten-free varieties, too.
- Add nuts and seeds- Try this salad with the addition of pine nuts, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds.
- Substitute other cheeses- You can also make this with parmesan cheese, feta cheese, or bleu cheese. For vegans, you can substitute plant-based cheeses as well.
- Add vegetables- You can jazz this Pesto Pasta Salad up with the addition of sliced yellow squash, zucchini, corn, kalamata olives, green pepper, red peppers, and artichoke hearts.
How to Make Pesto Pasta Salad
- Cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then cook the pasta in it until it’s al dente. Drain in a colander and rinse.
- Add the pesto. In a large bowl, stir the basil pesto and pasta together thoroughly.
Pro Tip: Use cold water to rinse the cooked pasta. This will stop the cooking process so the pasta doesn’t become mushy.
- Add the rest of the ingredients. Now add the pearl mozzarella and sliced cherry tomatoes. Combine and garnish with fresh basil. Serve chilled.
- Cook the pasta al dente- Since this pasta will be mixed with tomatoes and mozzarella, cook al dente so it’s not mushy and doesn’t break apart when combined.
- Use homemade pesto- Pesto is not hard to make and homemade always has richer flavor than store-bought. If you have the time, make your own.
- Combine gently- To avoid tearing the pasta or squishing the tomatoes, mix everything together gently.
- Serve chilled- This dish is tastiest when served chilled because of the cheese. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or so before serving.
Pesto is a sauce consisting of basil, pinenuts, olive oil, garlic, and parmesan cheese. It can be served as a sauce for salads, a spread for sandwiches, or even a base for Italian pasta dishes.
If you have leftover pesto sauce, you can freeze it to keep it longer. Just pour it into an ice cube tray, freeze, and then store the cubes in a freezer ziplock bag. Then you can thaw only what you need. The frozen pesto will last for up to 6 months.
When you are making a cold pasta dish, rinsing the pasta with cold water is best to stop the cooking process. But for hot pasta dishes, don’t rinse because the starch in the pasta helps the sauce adhere to it.
Cold salads are often served with hot meats like chicken, beef, pork, or even fish. Here are some tasty recipes to serve alongside this cold Pesto Pasta Salad.
- Seafood: Pair it with Cedar Plank Salmon, Fish Tacos, Beer Battered Cod, or Panko Crusted Salmon.
- Chicken/Pork: Enjoy this delicious salad with some Homemade Chicken Meatballs, Juicy Grilled Chicken Kabobs, Pork Kabobs (VIDEO) and Grilled Teriyaki Chicken.
- Beef: Serve this Pesto Pasta Salad recipe with Garlic Butter Steak Bites, Smoked Beef Brisket, or Homemade Beef Burger Patties on Brioche Buns (VIDEO).
- Salads: Pair this dish with Cucumber Radish Salad, Antipasto Salad, or Chicken Salad With Grapes.
Make This Recipe in Advance
Make ahead: You can cook and cool the pasta ahead of time. Just place it in a ziplock bag or lidded container in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble and serve.
Storing: Store this Pesto Pasta Salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Keep in mind that the longer it sits, the more juice from the tomatoes will leak out, so try to eat it soon after preparing.
Freeze: While you can freeze this pasta salad, the tomatoes are best added fresh since they become mushy when thawed. Freezing the pasta, pesto, and mozzarella can be done in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
More Delicious Pesto Dishes!
Full Recipe Instructions
Pesto Pasta Salad
- 1 box bowtie pasta
- 1/2 cup basil pesto
- 1 1/2 cups pearl mozzarella
- 16 oz cherry tomatoes
- Bring a pot of water to a boil then generously salt the water and add the Farfalle pasta to the pot. Cook al dente.
- Once the pasta is done cooking, pour it into a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the pasta from cooking.
- Now place the pasta into a large bowl and stir in the pesto, pearl mozzarella, and sliced cherry tomatoes.
- Serve chilled.