When the temperatures rise and outdoor party season begins, there’s nothing better than a refreshing pesto pasta salad. With sun-ripened tomatoes and small creamy mozzarella pearls, this pasta salad is the perfect summer dish.
Whether as a side dish or main course, this salad is a light and delicious option for any occasion. It is perfect for potlucks, picnics, or dinner on the deck.
It also makes a great summer lunch. Make a batch on the weekend and portion it out to take to work with you.
In this post, I’ll share the simple recipe for this flavorful pasta salad. You will see it is easy to put together, so it is perfect when life gets busy.
Plus you can make it ahead of time, which makes it perfect for taking along to carry-ins and barbecues. Or just prep it in advance to make getting your family’s dinner on the table that much easier.
This recipe is from the German blogger, Estelle from GutBeck.com. Estelle loves cooking and sharing traditional European recipes on her Blog. Click here to find the original recipe post: Nudelsalat mit Pesto.
Should this pasta salad be served warm or cold?
The pesto macaroni salad tastes best when allowed to chill in the refrigerator for an hour before serving. The cold pasta salad is especially enjoyable in warm temperatures.
What pasta shapes work best for pasta salad?
Penne works great for this recipe, but there are so many fun shapes you can use. Bow-ties or farfalle is always a great option. So are shells, rotini, or whatever you want to try.
Tips and Tricks
Of course this tastes great with freshly made basil pesto. However, you can pick up a jar at the grocery store and it will still taste amazing.
For pasta salad, it is best to cook your pasta al dente. So cook it on the lower end of what is suggested on the box or even a minute less.
Drain the pasta and rinse it with cool water. This stops the cooking and removes excess starch so that it is less likely to stick together.
This pesto pasta salad is great as written. However, you are welcome to make it your own.
Here are some ideas for additions if you want to bulk it up even more:
- fresh greens, like arugula
- zucchini: sauté or roast chunks of zucchini and cool them before adding to the salad
More Great Fresh Summer Side Dish Recipes:
If you like the flavors in this pasta salad, you will also love caprese quinoa salad. It features fresh tomatoes and basil as well and the quinoa gives it a fun texture.
Or try making chicken and grape poppy seed pasta salad. It is a perfect mix creamy with a little bit of sweet from the grapes.
Pesto Pasta Salad
- 8 oz. penne pasta
- ⅔ cup pesto
- 8 oz. mozzarella pearls
- 1 small onion
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- 3 Tablespoons white wine or balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- Cook the pasta to al dente according to the package instructions, drain and rinse with cold water.
- Finely chop the onion and parsley. Cut the cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls in half and set aside.
- Put pasta back in the pot or place in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the pesto, onion, and herbs. Add 1-2 tbsp of vinegar and season with salt and pepper. If needed, add 1-2 tbsp of olive oil.
- Add half of the tomatoes and mozzarella, then mix everything together. Store the remaining tomatoes and cheese a covered dish in the refrigerator to use for garnish.
- Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors meld before serving.
- Transfer the salad to a serving dish and garnish with the remaining tomatoes and mozzarella before serving.