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!
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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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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).
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).
7. Stir whilst hot, combine the pasta, pesto and 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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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