Pesto Pasta Salad – A Couple Cooks


This creamy pesto pasta salad recipe is easy and bursting with flavor! It’s the perfect easy summer side dish.

Pesto Pasta Salad

What’s more a quintessential summer dish than a great pasta salad? Try this Pesto Pasta Salad recipe, which celebrates everything seasonal in summer! It features chewy bowties with pops of fresh cherry tomatoes, tangy artichokes and peppery baby arugula. Make a batch of fresh basil pesto or grab some at the store, then mix it up in to a creamy dressing to cover everything. This one was so irresistible, we couldn’t stop exclaiming how good it was after stuffing in each bite (and our 5 year old gobbled it up!).

Ingredients in this pesto pasta salad recipe

This pesto pasta salad recipe is simpler than most pasta salads because the ingredient list is short and sweet. The most important thing here? A high quality pesto. It’s best with homemade, but you can use purchased as well (see below for more). Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Bowties (farfalle) or other short-cut pasta
  • Canned artichoke hearts
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Sliced pepperoncini
  • Baby arugula
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Basil pesto
  • Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • Mayonnaise
  • Salt
Pesto Pasta Salad

For the pesto: homemade vs storebought

This pesto pasta salad tastes the best when you make it with homemade basil pesto, with fresh summer basil! Of course, we know that’s not always possible. Here’s the thing about pesto: purchased pesto varies greatly between brands. Many purchased brands taste intensely acidic or have an odd aftertaste. Here’s what to know:

  • Homemade pesto has the best flavor! Basil Pesto is best homemade. You can also try Arugula Pesto or Kale Pesto.
  • Purchased pesto brands vary greatly in flavor: some are very acidic. We’ve experimented with lots of different brands: and they all have a different salt and acid level.
  • Squeeze packs of fresh pesto are now on the market, and some have better flavor than jars. Experiment to find one you love!

Notes on the pasta salad dressing

This pesto pasta salad has a deliciously creamy pasta salad dressing that you’ll adore, featuring both Greek yogurt, mayonnaise and pesto. We made this one creamy because we find that pesto on it own can become sticky and dry. Mixing it with a little yogurt and mayo helps it to coat the pasta better. Don’t want to use Greek yogurt? You can substitute sour cream instead.


Use any type of short cut pasta

This pesto pasta salad works with any type of short cut pasta you have on hand! We like bowties for this one because of the look and the way that it distributes with the other ingredients. Here are some other types of short cut pasta that work well:

  • Bowties (farfalle): our favorite!
  • Spirals (fusilli)
  • Penne
  • Shells (medium-sized)
  • Orecchiette
  • Gemelli
  • Gigli

Make ahead and storage for pesto pasta salad

This pesto pasta salad is a great salad for a picnic or a barbecue! It tastes best immediately after making, but it does store well. If you make in advance and refrigerate, you may want to refresh the flavors before serving since pasta salad can lose some flavor while storing. Here’s what to know:

  • Pesto pasta salad lasts for up to 4 days in the refrigerator. It’s great for cookouts or healthy lunches throughout the week.
  • After refrigeration, make sure to refresh the flavors. Bring the salad to room temperature. Taste and see if you need to add a pinch of extra salt. If the pasta salad seems dry, add a dollop of sour cream, mayo or pesto to revive the creamy texture.
Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe

More pasta salad recipes

There’s nothing like a great pasta salad for a summer event, be it a barbecue, cookout or picnic! Here are a few more pasta salad recipes we love:

This pesto pasta salad recipe is…



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This creamy pesto pasta salad recipe is easy and bursting with flavor! It’s the perfect easy summer side dish.

  • 8 ounces short cut pasta (we used farfalle)
  • 14 ounce can (8.5 ounce dry weight) quartered artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • ⅓ cup sliced pepperoncini
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ⅓ cup basil pesto (homemade or purchased, or kale pesto or arugula pesto)
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as desired

  1. Start a large pot of well-salted water to boil. Boil the pasta until al dente according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta and run cool water over it until it’s room temperature, then shake off any extra water.
  2. Prepare the vegetables: roughly chop the artichokes and slice the tomatoes.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the pesto, Greek yogurt, mayonnaise and kosher salt. Add the drained pasta, vegetables and Parmesan cheese and stir to combine. Taste and add another ¼ teaspoon salt depending on the saltiness of the pesto. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days. (Allow to come to room temperature and if desired, add a pinch more salt. If the pasta salad seems dry, add a dollop of sour cream, mayo or pesto to revive the creamy texture.).

  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Keywords: Pesto pasta salad, pesto pasta salad recipe, pasta salad with pesto


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Jacqueline M. Faulkner

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