Pesto bowtie pasta salad with creamy, savory basil pesto is one of this year’s best recipe choices as a pork side dish, BBQ side dish, or cookout.
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 soaks up the pesto and dressing.
Although plenty filling on its own, this pasta goes excellent 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!
Why you will love this Summer Pasta Salad
Make your tongue dance with summertime creamy pesto bowtie pasta salad! This creamy pasta salad with pesto is a break from the usual table flair. Typically, at most potlucks/picnics and BBQs, a table serves all the fantastic 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 that complements most BBQ dishes.
Serve this salad alongside a burger or chicken sandwich, or simply serve it alone in a bowl for a filling lunch.
- Farfalle pasta – This is the bowtie-shaped pasta cooked to instructions on the box.
- Prepared jarred pesto – Any of your favorite brands of jarred pesto sauce 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 store’s Parmesan cheese and pasta sauce.
- Grape tomatoes – I love the elongated shape of grape tomatoes; however, cherry tomatoes would work fine.
- Pine nuts – While it may be tempting to leave this part of the ingredients, don’t! It is unique and brings a great flavor to this pasta side.
- Hellmann’s mayonnaise
- grated Parmesan cheese
- Virgin olive oil
- fresh spinach leaves
How to make Bowtie Pasta
- Cook pasta according to package directions.
- Drain pasta entirely of boiled water and rinse with cold water to cool before moving on. Make sure pasta has no excess water.
- Add store-bought jarred pesto, mayonnaise, grated Parmesan cheese, water, olive oil, and mix dressing well in a separate bowl.
- Pour creamy pesto sauce over pasta and mix well to evenly coat all pasta sides.
- Add chopped spinach and fresh tomatoes and toss again to combine all ingredients.
- Optionally add a little salt and cracked pepper before serving.
- Put in the fridge for a few hours to get cold and let fresh ingredients work together to flavor the perfect pasta salad.
- Serve pasta salad topped with pine nuts, kosher salt, and pepper, or one of the other simple ingredient alterations suggested in the recipe.
What kind of jarred pesto sauce is recommended?
Any store-bought Pesto brand you love is fine, but I tend to use Classico Basil Pesto. Just give Basil Pesto Sauce a good stir when it comes in a jar because olive oil tends to settle on top.
Can other pasta types 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, it’s pretty, and presentation matter. Second, it’s a thick pasta that allows the total 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 of a noodle to hold the dressing and goodies without getting overwhelmed and saturated.
Therefore, if you need a substitute, large penne would do a fair job, and large shells (not small ones) 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 altogether). Pine nuts are actually from PINE CONES, which may come as 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.
Remember that each nut has its own particular taste, and not all may be precisely what you want for pesto.
Try dipping a few nuts in pesto before smothering the entire salad and altering the recipe.
Commonly Asked Questions
This pesto pasta salad recipe is served COLD.
No, jarred pesto needs a little stir (so it’s not too oily), and adding straight from the jar is fine. Do not heat pesto before adding to pasta salad. This is one of those delicious recipes that taste better cold.
Absolutely! Just stir it before serving to gather any settled dressing.
Pesto bowtie Pasta salad can be kept in an airtight container (to seal freshness and flavor) for 3-4 days in a cold fridge.
What can I put basil pesto on besides pasta?
Have leftover pesto mixture 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)
Are there any suggested additions to this Pasta Salad?
One of the most delicious things about pasta salad side dishes is that they are easy to alter with optional ingredients. While this pesto pasta is perfect in its own right, feel free to try tiny square chunks of cheese like fresh mozzarella or feta cheese, black olives that bring color and flavor, or a few pepper flakes.
Another great addition to the pesto flavor is surprisingly avocado! Bits of avocado bring some more green to this dish and taste creamy with the tangy pesto.
To create a complete meal, add cooked skinless chicken breasts or rotisserie chicken to bow tie pasta salad.
Related Cold Pasta Salads
Pasta salads do their job at gatherings as a great filling side dish that keeps for days after as delicious leftovers. But no one likes just one pasta salad choice! This Shrimp Pesto Pasta salad is a great variation in the same flavor family if you want to keep with the pesto theme.
If you want to switch it up to have various choices, try BLT pasta Salad, Pea Pasta Salad, and you cannot go wrong with cold macaroni pasta salad with lots of fresh veggies.
Sick of pasta but still need a side? All kinds of pasta need a balance of sweetness, so go with traditional Ambrosia Salad or Watergate Salad.
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