Pesto pasta salad is easy to make and hard to resist!

In this fresh, easy side dish, pasta is tossed with fresh mozzarella, juicy tomatoes, and basil in a quick creamy pesto dressing.

It’s perfect for cookouts, picnics, and parties or an easy lunch or dinner!

A large bowl of pesto pasta salad

An Easy Meal or Side Dish

  • Make ahead, chill, and serve when ready. Easy peasy!
  • This salad is pretty to look at and delicious.
  • Enjoy as a meatless main dish or serve with grilled chicken or bay shrimp.
  • Potluck perfect, this easy meal is a favorite at BBQs and get-togethers, too.
ingredients for pesto pasta salad in a large bowl

Ingredients for Pesto Pasta Salad

  • Pasta—Choose pasta with ridges, twists, or tubes for the dressing to cling to. Cavatappi (corkscrew), farfalle (bow-tie), penne, fusilli, or rotini are all excellent choices for this salad.
  • Dressing—The dressing is a simple combination of pesto sauce, mayonnaise, and red wine vinegar. Store-bought pesto makes this dish easy, but if you have a garden with fresh basil, homemade pesto is easy to make.
  • Cheese—Bocconcini are small fresh mozzarella balls that can be found in almost any grocery store. A large ball of fresh mozzarella can also be cubed and used in this recipe, or crumbled feta cheese can be used in place.
  • Add-Ins—Grape or cherry tomatoes add freshness, while sundried tomatoes and olives add flavor to this pasta salad recipe.
  • Variations—Add your summertime favorites, such as corn off the cob, fresh spinach, red onion, or diced cucumbers. Top with cubes of fresh avocado.
ingredients for pesto pasta salad in a bowl next to pesto dressing

How to Make Pesto Pasta Salad

  1. Cook Pasta: Boil the pasta until al dente according to package directions.
  2. Prep Dressing: Mix dressing ingredients in a bowl per the recipe below.
  3. Mix & Chill: Combine all ingredients in a large bowl & rest in the fridge before serving.

Garnish with fresh basil leaves and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese if desired.

Pesto Pasta Salad in a bowl

Make Ahead & Leftovers

To make ahead, prepare all ingredients a day or two ahead of time and store them separately. Toss together a few hours before serving.

Leftover pesto pasta salad should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If using homemade pesto, it can be stored for up to three days.

Mediterranean Inspired Pasta Salad Recipes

Did you make this Pesto Pasta Salad? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below!

A large bowl of pesto pasta salad
5 from 34 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
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Pesto Pasta Salad

Pesto pasta salad is easy to make and can be served as a side dish or main dish!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Chill Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Servings 6 servings

Equipment

Ingredients  

  • 8 ounces cavatappi or rotini pasta
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes halved
  • ¼ cup sun dried tomatoes diced
  • ½ cup small mozzarella balls
  • ½ cup kalamata olives pitted
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves

Dressing

  • ½ cup pesto* see notes
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Instructions 

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta al dente according to package directions and drain well. Rinse under cold water to stop cooking.
  • In a small bowl, whisk pesto, mayonnaise, and red wine vinegar.
  • In a large bowl, combine the drained pasta, grape tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella, and olives. Add the dressing and toss well to combine. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if desired.
  • Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
  • Chop fresh basil and sprinkle on top just before serving

Notes

  • Rinse the pasta in cold water to stop it from cooking.
  • As the salad sits, it will absorb dressing, so be sure to dress generously.
  • Optional additions include parmesan cheese, fresh spinach, capers, or a squeeze of lemon juice.
*If using homemade pesto, the pasta salad and leftover pesto should be refrigerated and consumed within 3 days.
 
5 from 34 votes

Nutrition Information

Calories: 338 | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 9mg | Sodium: 449mg | Potassium: 300mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 760IU | Vitamin C: 5.4mg | Calcium: 86mg | Iron: 1.2mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.

Course Pasta, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
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fresh Pesto Pasta Salad in a bowl and plated with a title
fresh Pesto Pasta Salad in a bowl with a title

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About the author

Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!
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Comments

    1. It can be prepared the day ahead however, the pasta will soak up a lot of the dressing so I suggest that you prepare all ingredients a day or two ahead of time and store the dressing separately. Toss together a few hours before serving.

  1. This was such a nice surprising departure from typical mayonnaise pasta salads. I made it for our Bloc party and everyone loved it. It was awesome even two days later. I will be making this instead of the typical boring macaroni salad5 stars

  2. VERY TASTY! I always use Cavatappi pasta. I like to make homemade Pesto, b/c the Pesto in a jar from the store has waaay too much sodium. Great recipe….Thanx :-)5 stars