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Anything with pesto has my heart, so it’s no surprise that this pesto pasta salad is one of my favorite summer recipes! You can make this recipe with homemade or store-bought pesto – I’ve included my easy basil pesto in the recipe below.

Pesto pasta salad in a serving bowl with a wooden spoon.

Pesto Pasta Salad

You can never have too many pasta salad recipes! I have quite a few that I love, and I’d be hard-pressed to choose a favorite out of the bunch. My favorites include my classic Pasta Salad, Orzo Salad, and today’s recipe, a vibrant pesto pasta salad, made with pesto sauce, artichoke hearts and juicy veggies.

Since pesto and pasta are an incredible pair (see my Pesto Pasta recipe), it’s only natural to use pesto sauce as a dressing for pasta salad. It’s bright, herby flavor makes every bite of this pesto pasta salad extra flavorful! It’s cheesy, garlicky and loaded with healthy veggies.

Close up of pesto pasta salad on serving spoon.

Summery salads are one of my favorite things about the season, and this pesto pasta salad is such a great dish to make for a BBQ. It’s perfect for feeding a crowd, make-ahead friendly and absolutely delicious!

Ways I’ve Served this Pesto Pasta Salad

This pesto pasta salad makes a great side dish, but don’t stop there! Here are some of the ways I’ve served it:

  • I make this often as a side dish for BBQ’s and other get-togethers with family and friends. It goes great with Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Grilled Chicken, steak, burgers, basically all of your favorite grilling fare!
  • For dinner! Recently I made this pesto pasta salad for a mid-week dinner and served it with Baked Chicken Breast. It was such a great combination!
  • Leftover pasta salad is so good for lunch. I like to add chickpeas or chicken for protein.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Here’s a look at what you’ll need to make this recipe. Find the full instructions with measurements in the recipe card below.

  • Pasta: Any short pasta shape will work. I like to use fusilli, cavatappi, farfalle, penne or campanelle.
  • Pesto Sauce: You can make this recipe with homemade or store-bought pesto. When fresh basil is in season, I love to make it with this homemade Basil Pesto, but it’s nice to also have the time-saving option to use store-bought pesto. For the homemade pesto, you’ll need fresh basil, pine nuts, grated Parmesan, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil.
  • Bell Pepper: Use a red or yellow bell pepper.
  • Cucumber: I like to use an English cucumber because the thin skin doesn’t require peeling and they are less bitter than traditional American cucumbers.
  • Cherry Tomatoes: Sweet and juicy, they’re a perfect match for the pesto.
  • Artichoke Hearts: I love the flavor that they add to this pesto pasta salad. I like to use canned artichoke hearts packed in water or brine, rather than marinated artichoke hearts.
Ingredients needed for pesto pasta salad with labels on each ingredient.

How to Make Pesto Pasta Salad

Cook the pasta. Salt the cooking water to flavor the pasta. Follow the package directions to cook the pasta to al dente.

Make the pesto. Or use store-bought pesto sauce.

Combine the pesto and pasta. Be sure to let the pasta cool after cooking, before mixing it with the pesto sauce.

Pesto and spiral pasta mixed together.

Add remaining ingredients: bell pepper, cucumber, tomatoes and artichoke hearts. Season the salad with black pepper, to taste.

Pesto pasta, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, cucumber and bell pepper in mixing bowl.

Let it chill. This pasta salad is best after it chills for about 2 hours in the refrigerator. If the pasta salad seems dry when serving, drizzle on a little extra virgin olive oil and stir it in.

Kristine’s Tip: Don’t overcook the pasta! When you’re making a pasta salad, follow the package directions to cook the pasta to al dente, or use the minimum cook time. I always taste a bite of pasta to see it’s done: it should still be tender yet still have a bite to it.

Pesto pasta salad in a glass mixing bowl with a wooden spoon.

Recipe Variations

  • Switch up the vegetables. Try baby arugula, spinach, corn, sugar snap peas or green onions.
  • Add chickpeas or chicken to give the salad a protein boost.
  • Use a different type of pesto, such as spinach pesto or kale pesto. You can also swap the pine nuts for almonds or walnuts. If you need a nut-free recipe, try this broccoli pesto.
  • Add cubed mozzarella or bocconcini, which are small balls of fresh mozzarella.

Storage Instructions

Store pesto pasta salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. If it dries out over time, stir in a little extra olive oil.

Pesto pasta salad in a serving bowl with a wooden spoon.

Pesto Pasta Salad

Servings: 8 -10 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
This Pesto Pasta Salad is easy to make with homemade or store-bought pesto sauce. The recipe below includes how to make my favorite basil pesto. This pasta salad makes a great side dish at a BBQ or potluck. We also love it for dinner, served with grilled or baked chicken for protein.

Ingredients

For the Pasta Salad:

  • 12 ounces short pasta shapes, such as fusilli, cavatappi, farfalle, penne or campanelle
  • 1 cup pesto sauce, see recipe below or use store-bought
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 English cucumber, chopped
  • 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 14 ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • black pepper, to taste

For the Pesto Sauce:

  • 3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup toasted pine nuts
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, 2 ounces
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup olive oil

Instructions
 

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain pasta well and transfer to a large bowl to cool.
  • If making homemade pesto sauce, place all pesto ingredients except olive oil into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. With the food processor running, slowly pour the olive oil in a steady stream through the feed tube. Process until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  • Stir the pesto sauce into the cooled pasta until the pasta is coated with the sauce.
  • Add the bell pepper, cucumber, tomatoes and artichoke hearts to the bowl and stir to combine. Season with pepper, to taste. If the pasta salad seems dry, drizzle on a little bit of extra virgin olive oil and stir to incorporate.
  • Pasta salad can be served immediately, but is best if chilled for at least 2 hours before serving. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days.

Notes

  • Store pesto pasta salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. If it dries out over time, stir in a little extra olive oil.
Calories: 432kcal, Carbohydrates: 40g, Protein: 10g, Fat: 26g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g, Monounsaturated Fat: 12g, Cholesterol: 5mg, Sodium: 378mg, Potassium: 334mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 1671IU, Vitamin C: 39mg, Calcium: 103mg, Iron: 2mg
Nutrition information is an estimate.
Cuisine: American
Course: Salad, Side Dish
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