5 from 7 votes

Pesto Pasta Salad

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There's nothing better than a bowl of chilled pesto pasta salad during summertime. Enjoy my budget-friendly take on this yummy warm-weather recipe!
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
£1.11
Makes: 5
mains, meal prep
Italian
Freezable

This yummy pesto pasta salad is a refreshing option for warm weather. Served chilled, you can enjoy this salad with your favourite BBQ recipes. It’s decadent, flavourful, and fresh. Bonus – even picky eaters love this dish!

Pasta bows in a bowl with green leaf sald and roasted cherry tomatoes with mozzarella cubes with a lemon wedge on a mustard coloured cloth.

Why you’ll love this recipe

You’ll love how quick, easy, and budget-friendly this pesto pasta salad is! I’ve created a version with jarred pesto sauce for a more affordable price per serving. However, I’ve added my own twist, so the recipe is quite flavourful!

My version includes fresh herbs, rocket, and lemon juice, so you’ll feel like the recipe is made from scratch (even the premade pesto sauce!). Of course, these ingredients are also great for adding nutrients to the recipe. If you prefer additional veggies, feel free to add chopped courgette, other tomato varieties, onions, etc.

Alternate this dish with other pasta recipes to enjoy comforting meals all week. A few yummy pasta dishes for weekly dinners include Pasta with Peas, Halloumi Pasta and Caramelized Shallot Pasta

Ingredients

Ingredients to make pasta with pesto laid out on a pale blue background and labelled.

Farfalle Pasta
I prefer using farfalle pasta for pesto pasta salad since it’s versatile (so you can use it for other dishes!) and affordable. However, you can use whichever noodles you have on hand. Pasta with ridges is best for this pesto pasta recipe salad since they’re better at holding sauce.

Jarred Pesto
I’ve included jarred pesto in this recipe to help keep costs low. If you have a higher meal budget and extra time, feel free to make and use homemade pesto instead.

Rocket
Rocket is a great option for boosting nutrients and adding a delicious peppery flavour. You can use any leafy greens you prefer, such as kale and spinach. Note – these other greens will change the flavour of the dish slightly.

See the recipe card for full information on all ingredients and quantities.

Adaptations

This pesto pasta salad is easy to turn into a gluten-free meal. Use gluten-free pasta to replace farfalle pasta. Additionally, you’ll want to double-check that the premade pesto you select is gluten-free, as some options have gluten added.

If you follow a vegan diet, you can still enjoy this pesto pasta salad recipe. For a quick fix, simply leave out the fresh mozzarella cheese and select a premade pesto that is dairy-free.

Alternatively, you can use dairy-free mozzarella cheese as a swap for regular mozzarella in pesto pasta salad recipes. If you elect to use vegan cheese, shredded or block cheese will work in this dish.

Try these other healthy salads, after you’ve tried this one; The BEST Halloumi Salad, Loaded Veggie Tacos with salad and Rainbow Grain Bowl (Nando’s inspired)

How to make pesto pasta salad

  1. Add your cherry tomatoes to your airfryer basket with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Shake to coat the tomatoes and cook in the airfryer for 10 minutes at 180°C (Image 1).
  2. Slice the mozzarella into cubes (Image 1).
2 step by step photos, the first with cherry tomato halves in an air fryer tray and the second with pieces  mozzarella on a chopping board with a knife.

Meanwhile, cook your farfalle pasta according to packet instructions, seasoning the pasta water generously with salt. Reserve a mug full of pasta water before draining. 

3. Slice your basil ready, next to the mozzarella cubes on the chopping board (Image 3).

4. After around 10 minutes, remove the cherry tomatoes from the air fryer (Image 4).

2 step by step photos, the first with chopped mozzarella and basil on a wooden chopping board the second withcherry tomatoes cooked in an airfryer tray.

5. Drain the pasta in a colander, saving a mug of pasta water (Image 5).

6. To the hot, cooked pasta, add the pesto and two thirds of the fresh basil leaves (Image 6).

2 step by step photos, the first with cooked pasta bows in a colander and the second with pesto, chopped basil on the pasta in a metal bowl.

7. Stir whilst hot, combine the pasta, pesto and fresh basil.

A large metal bowl with pasta bows mixed with basil and pesto with a spoon in the mix.

Divide into meal prep containers and top with the air-fried tomatoes. Refrigerate once cool. When it’s time to eat, add a handful of rocket to a bowl and pour the pesto pasta into the bowl and toss to combine. Top with a serving of mozzarella cubes, a lemon wedge and pinch of salt and pepper.

Tips for best results

Use salted water for boiling pasta.
Cooking pasta in salted water is dual purpose. For one, the salt helps prevent the noodles from sticking together as they cook. Salting the water also helps add flavour to the noodles for this pesto pasta salad.

Toss the rocket in last.
It’s best to add rocket right before you’re going to serve this pasta salad with pesto. If you add it too early, it can get soggy due to the pesto.

Save a mug of pasta water.
Don’t forget to save a mug of pasta water for this pesto pasta salad. The starch in pasta water helps create a thicker sauce. It also binds the sauce ingredients together. Leave a mug next to your boiling water as you cook pasta to remind you to set aside some starch water.

While you can leave the starchy pasta water out of the recipe, if you forget to save it to the side, the sauce will be thinner.

Leave out leafy greens for easy storage.
Since rocket gets soggy with dressing/sauces, it is best to store leftover cold pesto pasta salad without these leafy greens. Instead, leave some rocket on the side (pre-washed and ready to go). Then, add it to the leftover pesto pasta salad before eating it.

Don’t fret if you have extra pasta after making this pesto salad recipe. Use leftover pasta to make recipes like Rigatoni Fiorentina, Creamy Tomato & Spinach One Pot Pasta or Mushroom Stroganoff Recipe

Close up of pasta bows in a bowl with green leaf sald and roasted cherry tomatoes with mozzarella cubes and a lemon wedge on a mustard coloured cloth.

FAQs

What to serve with pasta with pesto?

This tasty pesto pasta salad pairs well with soup to create a more filling meal. A few of my favourite soups to make with this pesto pasta include Red Cabbage Soup with Feta, Gyoza Soup or 10 Minute Vegetable Soup.

Is pesto pasta meant to be eaten cold?

Pesto pasta is one meal you can enjoy hot or cold. However, since I’ve added leafy greens to this recipe, I recommend enjoying it cold. When this recipe is served cold, you won’t need to worry about the rocket wilting from the heat.

How healthy is pesto pasta?

Pesto pasta is antioxidant-rich and filling due to the protein and fibre in the dish. Like most pasta recipes, this one is best in moderation. With moderation, this yummy pasta salad dish can be part of a healthy diet. You can also boost the nutrients of pasta salads by adding more veg, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese (additional protein).

A bowl filled with pasta bows with green leaf sald and roasted cherry tomatoes with mozzarella cubes on a mustard coloured cloth.

If you tried this Pesto Pasta Salad, it would be mean so much to me if you could leave a review & a star rating to let me know how you found it! I love hearing about your experiences – it motivates me to keep creating more and more recipes for you guys 💛 Let’s get cooking! – Mimi x

 

Pesto Pasta Salad

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5 from 7 votes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
£1.11
mains, meal prep
Italian
Freezable
Servings: 5
There's nothing better than a bowl of chilled pesto pasta salad during summertime. Enjoy my budget-friendly take on this yummy warm-weather recipe!

Ingredients

  • 250 g cherry tomatoes, halved (£0.55)
  • 500 g farfalle pasta (£0.95)
  • 4-5 tbsp (heaped) jarred pesto (£1.25)
  • Fresh basil, roughly chopped (£0.55)
  • 125 g ball of mozzarella, cubed (£1.10)
  • 120 g 1 bag rocket (£0.80)
  • Juice of half a lemon, plus wedges to serve (£0.30)

Cupboard Essentials

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Method

  • Add your cherry tomatoes to your airfryer basket with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Shake to coat the tomatoes and cook in the airfryer for 10 minutes at 180°C.
  • Meanwhile, cook your farfalle pasta according to packet instructions, seasoning the pasta water generously with salt. Reserve a mug full of pasta water before draining.
  • Stir whilst hot, combine the pasta, pesto and two thirds of the fresh basil. Divide into meal prep containers and top with the air-fried tomatoes. Refrigerate once cool.
  • When it’s time to eat, add a handful of rocket to a bowl and pour the pesto pasta into the bowl and toss to combine. Top with a serving of mozzarella cubes, a lemon wedge and pinch of salt and pepper.

Notes

  • Use salted water for boiling pasta to prevent sticking and enhance flavor.
  • Add rocket right before serving to avoid it getting soggy due to the pesto.
  • Save a mug of pasta water to create a thicker sauce and bind the ingredients together.
  • Store leftover pesto pasta salad without rocket to maintain freshness; add it just before eating.

Nutrition

Servings: 5 servings
Fat: 21g
Calories: 567kcal
Carbohydrates: 75g
Protein: 18g

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Thank you so much for trying my recipe! I hope you loved it. I’d be so grateful if you could leave a comment/rating - it makes my day hearing your feedback!

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