This Pesto Pasta Salad is a real crowd pleaser. It's a simple, make-ahead summer salad recipe that's perfect for parties, picnics, and potlucks.
Tender pasta is tossed in a delicious pesto sauce. We'll add juicy cherry or grape tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, olives and of course sun-dried tomatoes! It's just so good.
It's the perfect make ahead salad recipe. In fact, if you make it a day ahead the flavors will just intensify overnight. Just remember to take it out of the fridge about 15 minutes before serving.
Why We Love This Salad for Summer
- Easy To Make. If you add the time it takes to cook the pasta. It takes still less than 30 minutes to make this salad.
- Easy To Customize. You can make this recipe your own. Instead of using store-bought pasta, you can make homemade pesto. Instead of basil pasta, try this 5 minute Parsley Pesto.
- Easy Prep. This is a great recipe to make a day ahead. It gives the salad to marinate and for the flavors to intensify. Remove it from the fridge 15 minutes before serving.
- Limited Ingredient Recipe: You really don't need much to make this salad. If you don't have sun-dried tomatoes, skip them, it'll still taste amazing. But if you do have some sitting in your pantry, it's a great recipe to use up sun-dried tomatoes.
- Crowd Pleaser. I don't know if it's the pesto, the juicy tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, or the olives. But all of the flavors compliment each other beautifully.
What You'll Need To Make This recipe
Pasta - Any short pasta will do. I will usually use fusilli pasta for all of my pasta salads. I've found that Rao's makes the absolute best pasta (the link is for their bow tie pasta which I have also used and loved before). And I try to find them whenever I can.
Pesto. You can easily make homemade basil pesto or our Parsley Pesto, or pick up a jar of pesto in the store.
Tomatoes. Thankfully we can find tomatoes all year around. But they are most delicious and flavorful when they are in season between May and October. Which is why I highly recommend using them for this summer pasta salad.
Olives. You might have noticed that I love olives. Black olives have that saltiness that works so well with the tomato and mozzarella flavors. I use about 1 cup of sliced olives. That means I will buy two 2 oz cans of these black pre-sliced olives or a 4 oz can at Trader Joe's.
Mozzarella. Ahh, who doesn't love fresh mozzarella? Even our dog loves it as I found out when I dropped a mozzarella on the floor and scooped it right up. And then he ran off wagging his tail to devour his prize. But I digress.
Sun-Dried Tomatoes. Adding sun-dried tomatoes rounds off the flavors beautifully. For this recipe, I like to use the kind that is in a jar marinating in oil.
Variations and Additions
Grilled Chicken. Add 2-3 cups of grilled chicken, and you've got yourself a wholesome and delicious meal. Perfect for summer lunches!
How To Make Pesto Pasta Salad
- Cook pasta according to package instructions. Cook al dente. Drain with cold water and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine pasta with cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella balls. Add the pesto sauce and toss until well combined. Top with olives and sun-dried tomatoes. If desired, season with salt and pepper.
Optional: Garnish with fresh basil
Trending Summer Salad Recipes
- Watermelon and Feta Salad - one of the most refreshing summer salads
- Creamy Cucumber Salad - Another German cucumber salad
- Mediterranean Pasta Salad - this salad can be eaten hot or cold
- Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad - the one that doesn't need a description
- Watermelon and Orange Salad - the 'other' watermelon salad you have to try
Pesto Pasta Salad
- Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
- Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Do the same with the mozzarella balls.
- In a large bowl combine pasta with the tomatoes, mozzarella balls, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes. Add pesto and toss to combine. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.