This pesto pasta salad is loaded with fresh mozzarella and juicy tomatoes and coated with an easy-to-make homemade pesto sauce made with fresh basil and garlic. It’s so fresh and delicious!
I love a good pasta salad. They are perfect for any occasion, and they fly off the table. Check out some more of my favorites like this California spaghetti salad, this avocado basil pasta salad and this incredible bacon ranch pasta salad.
Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe
This pesto pasta salad is so easy to put together. It’s made with fresh ingredients that smell and taste amazing. I love basil. The smell, the taste, the look of it. It is so fresh and instantly adds brightness to any dish. The combination of basil with the garlic in the pesto sauce is enough to make me feel like I am in foodie heaven. And I love the fresh cheese and veggies that really take this pasta salad over the top.
The pesto sauce is super easy to put together, just add the ingredients to a food processor, and you’re all set. If you don’t have a food processor, then you can use a mortar and pestle to grind the ingredients together. Use this summer pasta salad as a side at any potluck, BBQ or get-together, and your guests will thank you later!
Ingredients in Pesto Pasta Salad
Because this salad is packed full of so many delicious veggies, it’s a really hearty dish! Whether you eat it as a side or as the main entree, it will fill you up. Check out the recipe card at the bottom of the post for exact measurements.
- Fresh Basil Leaves: Use just the leaves from the basil and remove the stems.
- Pine Nuts: If you don’t have pine nuts then ou can also use walnuts if you would rather use those instead.
- Olive Oil: This will be the base of the sauce to mix it all together.
- Garlic Cloves: If you don’t have any garlic cloves then you can use minced garlic. ½ a teaspoon equals about 1 clove of garlic.
- Parmesan Cheese: I always like to use freshly grated cheese from a block.
- Fusilli Pasta: I like the look of fusilli and how the spirals help to hold onto more pesto! But, you can use any pasta noodle of choice. Some other ideas are penne, farfalle or large elbow macaroni.
- Pesto Sauce: See above ingredients needed to make the sauce.
- Cherry Tomatoes: I like to cut these in half so that I can get some in every single bite. You can use grape tomatoes as well!
- Kalamata Olives: The olives should be pitted and then sliced.
- Fresh Mozzarella: This is a MUST! You can find the ball shaped, pearl mozzarella in the deli section of most markets. The fresh mozzarella balls are one of my favorite things about this dish!
How to Make this Easy Pesto Pasta Salad
Once you whip up that easy-to-make pesto sauce, then it’s just a bit of cutting and combining. You will be munching on this delicious pasta salad that you will want to make for every meal in no time at all!
- Pulse: Add the basil, pine nuts, garlic, and parmesan to a food processor. Pulse until mostly mixed and the basil and pine nuts have been broken down into small pieces.
- Add oil: Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while pulsing the processor until all oil is added and the sauce is mixed.
- Boil pasta: Boil the pasta noodles until cooked and softened. Drain and rinse the noodles with cold water to help cool them.
- Coat: In a large bowl, add the pesto sauce and stir until the noodles are fully coated. Add the diced tomatoes and mozzarella. Fold to combine.
- Chill: Cover and chill for about 2 hours prior to serving. If the noodles have soaked up too much sauce add more pesto sauce as needed.
- Serve: Serve chilled and enjoy!
Helpful Tips for Making Pesto Pasta Salad
- Al Dente: Always follow the instructions on your pasta packaging to cook the pasta to al dente. This will make the pasta the perfect texture for your salad.
- Salt the water: Whenever you cook pasta, you should add a little bit of salt to the water. This will make you pasta have so much more flavor!
- Rinse the pasta: You need your pasta to be coled before you add the sauce to it. Rinsing it in cold water will help to get it there much more quickly.
How to Store Leftovers
This pasta must be stored in the fridge and tastes the best when served chilled. I like to keep a little extra pesto sauce on hand to add to my leftover pasta salad just before serving.
If you keep the leftovers stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator then they should last about 3-4 days.
Pesto Pasta Salad
- 2 cups fresh basil (just the leaves, stems removed)
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts (can substitute with walnuts if needed)
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan
- 1 pound Fusilli pasta (or pasta noodle of choice)
- prepared pesto sauce
- 2 cups diced cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup kalamata olives (pitted and sliced)
- 7 ounces fresh mozzarella (you can find the ball-shaped mozzarella in the deli section of most markets)
Add the basil, pine nuts, garlic, and parmesan to a food processor. Pulse until mostly mixed and basil and pine nuts have been broken down into small pieces.
Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while pulsing the processor until all oil is added and the sauce is mixed.
Boil the pasta noodles until cooked and softened. Drain and rinse the noodles with cold water to help cool them.
Add the pesto sauce and stir until the noodles are fully coated. Add the diced tomatoes and mozzarella. Fold to combine.
Cover and chill for about 2 hours prior to serving. If the noodles have soaked up too much sauce add more pesto sauce as needed.
Serve chilled and enjoy!
Updated on June 6, 2022
The Recipe Critic