Why try Pesto Pasta Salad?

If you’re looking for a light summer dish with a little bit of zest then look no further. Pesto pasta salad is a wonderfully refreshing recipe to make for a family lunch or get-together with friends on a hot summer day. The pesto sauce combines an earthy, herbal taste with a slight hint of citrus and nutty flavor that nicely complements the sweet simplicity of tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. This easy-to-make recipe can be prepared in under 30 minutes and works well as a side dish or entrée.

The Ingredients You Will Need:

This recipe requires two parts for completion: making the sauce and assembling the pasta salad. To save some time you could simplify this recipe even further by buying premade pesto sauce from the grocery store, but everyone knows nothing beats a homemade dish!  

The pesto sauce requires walnuts, garlic cloves, shredded parmesan, olive oil, lemon juice, basil, and salt. If using freshly squeezed lemon juice as I did for this recipe, expect to use about half of a lemon. A food processor is needed to blend all of these ingredients into a paste.

Assembling the pasta salad involves combining the pesto sauce, noodles, mozzarella, and tomatoes. Any type of pasta can be used, but I prefer rotini noodles. This recipe also includes fresh mozzarella pearls, however you can select your favorite brand of mozzarella and cut it into small, bite-sized bits. Likewise, grape tomatoes are used here, however cherry tomatoes  or slices of any standard tomato will work.

Serving size is about 6-8 people. This dish tastes best the same day it is made. However, if you find yourself with some leftovers, it is best to eat cold or warmed up to room temperature, as heat can break down the flavor of pesto.

Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe

Colette Johnson
Pesto pasta salad is a great summer recipe with a lot of taste that takes little effort to make.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6


Pesto Sauce

  • 2 tbsp walnuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup parmesan shredded
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cups basil tightly packed
  • 1 tsp salt

Pasta Salad

  • 1 box rotini pasta 1 LB
  • pesto sauce
  • 1 cup mozzarella pearls
  • 1 cup tomatoes


  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add pasta. Cook for 7-8 minutes or al dente.
  • While the pasta cooks, begin making the sauce. Roughly chop walnuts and garlic cloves. Shred parmesan until obtaining ½ cup. Cut lemon into slices and squeeze lemon to get 2 tbsp of lemon juice. Pick basil leaves from their stems. Make sure you tightly pack the basil when measuring out two cups to ensure your dish gets a good amount of flavor.
  • Combine walnuts, garlic, parmesan, lemon juice, olive oil, basil, and salt into a food processor. Blend until it reaches a smooth consistency with only a small number of chunks. Set aside.
  • When the pasta is ready, reserve one cup of pasta water and drain the noodles. Place the pasta in a large bowl and allow to cool for several minutes.
  • While the pasta cools, cut the grape tomatoes in half until you have 1 cup. If you picked out mozzarella that is not already in small pieces, also cut up the mozzarella at this time until you have 1 cup.
  • Once pasta is cooled, add the pesto sauce to the bowl with pasta and stir to combine. If the pesto sauce is too thick, add small amounts of reserved pasta water until it reaches the desired consistency.
  • Finally, add the tomatoes and mozzarella to your pasta bowl. Stir to until evenly distributed and enjoy!
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Thanks for checking out this recipe! After trying it for yourself, leave a comment to let me know your thoughts.