Pesto Pasta Salad

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Pesto Pasta Salad in a white bowl

Pesto Pasta Salad is a quick pasta dish that tastes like summer in a bowl. Add bite-sized mozzarella pearls and fresh tomatoes and this pasta can be served warm or chilled, as a side dish or as its own light meal. 

After a few years of novice gardening, I think I’m finally starting to catch my stride and this year’s garden is looking bigger and better than any I’ve had before. I’m watching every single little green tomato and willing it to turn red. I am SO ready to start eating all the garden-fresh tomatoes. This year I went heavy on the red and yellow cherry tomatoes since they’re so easy to slice and serve the kids on their own or add to salads. 

And though I love cherry tomatoes in green salads, in summer, my mind immediately jumps to pasta salads. On the hierarchy of pasta salads, few can compete with the pure summer flavor of a pesto pasta salad. Yesterday, I shared my go-to formula for Homemade Pesto and the first batch I made this year went straight into this pasta salad. We can eat this as a meal on it’s own, but add some grilled and thinly sliced chicken breast and this truly may be my favorite meal of the season. 

It’s a simple formula! Here is my favorite way to make Pesto Pasta Salad.

Ingredients for pasta salad, including pesto, bowtie pasta, mozzarella pearls and cherry tomatoes

Ingredients for Pesto Pasta Salad

  • Pasta – Part of the fun of making pesto pasta salad is trying it with different pasta shapes. The sky is the limit, but fun shapes are great here. See below for some of my favorites!
  • Basil Pesto – Use classic basil pesto here. Check out my recipe for Homemade Pesto for tips and substitution ideas. 
  • Tomatoes – Cherry or grape tomatoes are a perfect size for pasta salad. Slice them in half, or quarter them if they’re quite large.
  • Pearl Mozzarella – It’s worth looking for pearl mozzarella to make the task of assembling pesto pasta salad super easy. Pearl mozzarella comes in tiny balls (the size and shape of…well…pearls). They come packed into a large ball and vacuum-sealed. Just gently break them apart and add them right to the salad.

Mozzarella pearls

Best Pasta Shapes for Pasta Salad

  • Bowties / Farfalle
  • Fusilli
  • Rotini
  • Tortellini
  • Penne
  • Macaroni

Make Pesto Pasta Salad Ahead

This salad can be easily made ahead and refrigerated until serving. Toss the salad with half of the pesto when you make it (this will prevent the pasta from sticking). Some of the pesto will soak into the pasta as it sits, so wait and add the remaining half of the pesto right before serving. 

Pesto Pasta Salad in a white bowl

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Pesto Pasta Salad in a white bowl
4.21 from 29 votes

Pesto Pasta Salad with Mozzarella and Tomatoes

Pesto Pasta Salad is a quick pasta dish that tastes like summer in a bowl. Add bite-sized mozzarella pearls and fresh tomatoes and this pasta can be served warm or chilled, as a side dish or as its own light meal.
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Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings: 6

Equipment

  • Stockpot
  • Mixing Bowl

Ingredients 

  • 8 oz (227g) Uncooked Pasta (this is half of most standard boxes / bags of pasta; any shape will work, but I like it with bowties / farfalle)
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) Basil Pesto
  • 1 cup Tomatoes, cherry or grape, halved
  • 4 oz (113g) Pearl Mozzarella (see note)

Instructions 

  • Boil pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain (do not rinse). Allow pasta to cool about 10 minutes (you don’t want it to be piping hot or it will melt the cheese).
  • In a large mixing bowl, stir together cooked pasta and pesto until evenly combined.
  • Fold in tomatoes and mozzarella.
  • Serve warm or chilled.

Notes

Pearl Mozzarella - These tiny balls of mozzarella are great for pasta salad because you’ll get a bit of cheese in every bite. They typically come tightly packed together in a vacuum-packed bag. If you can’t find pearl mozzarella, try using fresh mozzarella chopped into bite-sized pieces. 
Make ahead - You can make this pasta salad up to 8 hours ahead of time. Toss the pasta salad with half of the pesto and refrigerate it. Toss it with the remaining pesto right before serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 268kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 8mg | Sodium: 201mg | Potassium: 143mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 604IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 110mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Cost: $9.50
Calories: 268
Keyword: pasta salad, potluck recipe, summer
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About Jess Smith

Jess is the recipe creator and photographer at InquiringChef.com. She spent nearly a decade as the Chief Recipe Developer for the award-winning meal planning app Cook Smarts. Her colorful, healthyish recipes have been featured in popular online publications including Parade, Hallmark, and HuffPost.

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