Did you know that pesto is amazing in a pasta salad? Fresh basil pasta with Farfalle (bowtie) pasta noodles, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese is a simple under 30 minute side. The pretty little bowties also act as a wide based pasta noodle that really soaks up the pesto and dressing.
Although plenty filling on its own, this pasta goes amazing with hamburgers, pulled pork and hot dogs. Plus, as a rule, most pasta salads are easily adaptable so once you try the original recipe, try it again with some variations!
Summer pesto pasta salad
Make your tongue dance with summertime pesto pasta salad! This creamy pasta salad with pesto is a break from the usual table flair. Typically at most potlucks/picnics and BBQs there is a table that serves all the amazing sides everyone brings.
You can count on macaroni and cheese, potato salad, macaroni salad and old fashioned favorites like Watergate and ambrosia.
But you may have never seen a pesto pasta salad sitting there. This pesto salad BURSTS with flavor, counting on the bold Italian seasonings of Pesto, the crunch of pine nuts and the happy little bowtie pasta noodle that pulls it all together as one.
This must make (and always enjoyed) pasta salad is an uncomplicated and rich tasting side dish perfect to compliment most BBQ dishes.
Serve this salad along side a burger or chicken sandwich or simply serve up alone in a bowl for a filling lunch.
- farfalle pasta – This is the bowtie shaped pasta
- prepared jarred pesto – Any of favorite brand of jarred pesto works great. I am not overly picky about it as I have tried many brands with the same results. I use Classico, which comes in small jars near the Parmesan cheese and pasta sauce in the store.
- Hellmann’s mayonnaise
- grated Parmesan cheese
- olive oil
- fresh spinach leaves
- grape tomatoes
- pine nuts – While it may be tempting to leave out this part of the ingredients, don’t! It really is very unique and brings a great flavor to this pasta side.
What other pasta types can be used over farfalle pasta?
Farfalle pasta (also known as butterfly or bow tie pasta) is great for this side dish as the main pasta. First, its pretty and presentation matters. Second, its a thick pasta that really allows the full grab of the pesto dressing.
Technically, when it comes to pasta salad noodle substitution, “any” noodle could play a part. The main recommendation is to look at the ability for a noodle to hold the dressing and goodies without getting overwhelmed and saturated.
Therefore if you do need a substitute, large penne would do a fair job and large shells (not small shells) would do the trick in a pinch.
What do pine nuts taste like? Is there a substitution?
Pine nuts are small and sweet and give almost a butter like texture. You could easily substitute other nuts for pine nuts (or leave them out all together). Pine nuts are actually from PINE CONES, which may come as a bit of a shock and can be a bit expensive.
As far as similar tasting nuts, almonds are thought to have a similar texture and taste to the pine nut but chopped cashews, walnuts or even pecans give the same crunch with a bit of flavor.
Just remember that each nut has its own particular taste and not all may be exactly what you want for pesto.
Try dipping a few nuts in pesto prior to smothering the entire salad and altering the recipe.
What kind of jarred pasta is recommended?
Really any store bought Pesto brand you love is fine, but I tend to use Classico Basil Pesto. Just give it a good stir when it comes in a jar.
Is pesto pasta cold or hot?
This pesto pasta salad recipe is served COLD.
Do you heat pesto before putting pasta?
No, jarred pesto just needs a little stir (so its not too oily) and adding straight from the jar is totally fine. Do not heat pesto prior to adding to pasta salad.
What can I put pesto on besides pasta?
Have left over pesto from the jar? Pesto has a lot of uses that keep it from sitting in the back of the fridge till it expires.
- Mix Pesto into Caprese Cheese Dips
- Pesto goes great with scrambled eggs
- Pesto is a perfect spread for a wrap
- Add pesto as a base over traditional pizza sauce (This is how my daughter eats pizza)
Can pesto pasta be made ahead of time?
Absolutely! Just give it a stir prior to serving to gather any settled dressing.
How long do Pesto Pasta Left overs keep?
Pesto pasta salad can be kept in an air tight containers (to seal freshness and flavor) for 3-4 days in a cold fridge.
Are there any suggested additions to this pasta Salad?
I think one of the most delicious things about pasta salad side dishes is that they are easy to alter. While this pesto pasta is perfect in its own right, feel free to try a tiny square chunks of cheese like mozzarella or cheddar.
Another great addition to the pesto flavor is surprisingly avocado! Bits of avocado bring some more green to this dish as well as taste creamy with the tangy pesto.
What other salads go well with this pasta salad for a large party?
Pasta salads do their job at gatherings as a great filling side dish that keeps for days after as delicious left overs. But no on likes just one pasta salad choice! If you want to keep with the pesto theme, this Shrimp Pesto Pasta salad is a great variation in the same flavor family.
If you want to totally switch it up to have a variety of choices, try BLT pasta Salad, Pea Pasta Salad, and you cannot go wrong with cold macaroni pasta salad with lots of fresh veggies.
Pesto Pasta Salad (bowtie)
- 1 box - 12 oz. farfalle pasta
- 1/2 cup prepared pesto
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
- 1 cup grape tomatoes - quartered
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- Cook farfalle pasta according to package directions. Farfalle pasta is the same thing as bowtie or butterfly pasta and works great to hold heavy pesto dressing.
- Drain pasta completely of boiled water and rinse with cold water to cool before moving on. Make sure pasta has no excess water.
- In a separate bowl, add store bought jarred pesto, mayonnaise, grated Parmesan cheese, water, olive oil and mix dressing well.
- Pour pesto dressing over pasta and mix well to evenly coat all of the pasta sides.
- Add chopped spinach and grape tomatoes and toss again to combine all ingredients.
- Optionally add a little salt and cracked pepper prior to serving.
- Put in fridge for a few hours to get cold.
- Serve pasta salad topped with pine nuts or one of the other suggestions in the recipe.