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- Dish type
- Pasta salad
This is a super flavourful pasta salad that will go over famously at picnics and summer barbecues. A quick homemade pesto is combined with pasta, cherry tomatoes, Parmesan and mozzarella.
34 people made this
- 500g fusilli pasta
- 90g fresh basil leaves
- 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
- 4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
- 2 cloves garlic
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 110g fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into strips
- salt and pepper to taste
MethodPrep:25min ›Cook:15min ›Extra time:45min chilling › Ready in:1hr25min
- Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring to the boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, stir in the fusilli, and return to the boil. Cook the pasta uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta has cooked through, but is still firm to the bite, about 12 minutes. Drain.
- Place basil, 4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and garlic into a blender or food processor; cover and chop to a coarse paste. Add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Continue processing until a soft paste has formed. Set pesto aside.
- Combine the cooked pasta, tomatoes, 3 tablespoons Parmesan, mozzarella and pesto in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Cover bowl, refrigerate to chill for 45 minutes, and serve.
Reviews & ratingsAverage global rating:(39)
Reviews in English (26)
The real caprese salad is my all time favourite salad, so this idea seemed good too. The combination of fresh basil pesto and the mozzarella cheese really works! Couple of minor things: saved a few basil leaves and slivered them over top of the salad, and added a bit of sweet aged balsamic vinegar, because I usually add that to the tomato version of this salad. Also, fresh mozzarella cheese doesn't shred, so I chopped it into thin slices. Thanks!-15 Jul 2009
This is delicious! You can't go wrong with basil, tomato and cheese. One thing I didn't think to do that I should have done - rinse the pasta with COLD water before combining it with the pesto, cheese and tomatoes. I simply drained it and it ended up melting my cheese. It's still good, but would be better with un-melted cheese.-27 Dec 2009
by Sierra Nevada Mom
I made this recipe for a cool dinner dish tonight after a hot day here in the Sierra Nevada's and it didn't dissapoint. I thought the pesto was a little light and I doubled the pesto recipe (I'm pregnant so fat content be damned!) and added a 6 oz can of olives halved and loved it! Thank you for the new summer staple at my house!-14 Jul 2009
Pesto Pasta Salad
Cook the pasta in salted water according to package instructions. Then drain it and rinse in cold water. Allow pasta to dry slightly, then toss in a bowl with 4 tablespoons pesto. (Add more if you want the pasta to be more coated.) Add Parmesan and toss. Cover and refrigerate pasta until cold.
Make the dressing by whisking together the mayonnaise, sour cream, and milk with the rest of the pesto. Add salt and pepper, then taste and adjust seasonings as needed. The dressing needs to be somewhat thin and pourable in order to coat the lettuce and pasta later. Set the dressing aside.
If you're using pine nuts, toast them over medium-low heat in a small skillet until they brown slightly. Set them aside.
To assemble the salads, make a bed of lettuce in a large bowl, then add a generous layer of pesto-coated pasta. Add tomatoes, olives, and chunks of cheese. Spoon a good amount of dressing all over the top it should be thin enough to seep down into the salad, not so thick it will stay on top of everything.
Sprinkle salads with pine nuts and a little extra Parmesan and serve!
I made this colorful, crunchy, and yes, carb-filled salad for a late lunch yesterday. My mom was visiting and was making a batch of her healthy muffins when I said &ldquoSince you&rsquore making your healthy muffins, I&rsquom going to make us a salad for lunch!&rdquo
&ldquoOh, sounds perfect,&rdquo my mom exclaimed.
&ldquoAnd I&rsquom going to put noodles in it,&rdquo I said. &ldquoBecause we&rsquore worth it.&rdquo
I got no argument from my mom, so I moved forward with this fun, really tasty salad that I had actually started thinking about during the sermon at church yesterday. It has crunchy lettuce and colorful tomatoes and the carby wonderfulness of pasta&hellipwith a delicious pesto flavor throughout. Not that the sermon had anything to do with lettuce, tomatoes, pasta, or pesto. And I promise I did listen to the message of the sermon. It&rsquos just that I listened while also fantasizing about what I was going to eat later.
Happens every single Sunday.
Crack open a box of pasta. I like this stuff because it&rsquos curly and delicious things get stuck in the crevices.
Pour it into salted, boiling water and cook it until it al dente. The pasta will be eaten cold, so you want it to be nice and cooked through&hellipbut not mushy.
Drain the pasta when it&rsquos done, rinse it in cold water, and shake out as much of the excess water as you can.
Add the pasta to a bowl with a few tablespoons of pesto. (I used the jarred stuff because it ain&rsquot basil time yet.)
Toss it around so the pasta is totally coated in the pesto&hellip
Then toss in a little grated Parmesan and stick the pasta in the fridge until it&rsquos cold.
While the pasta is cooling, get the other ingredients ready: Slice up some mozzarella&hellip
And cut it into cubes. (If I&rsquod had some, I would have preferred to use the good, fresh, bright white stuff. But this was just fine.)
Then grab a handful of grape or cherry tomatoes&hellip
Next, slice up some Romaine lettuce&hellip
And slice some black olives in half. Kalamata olives would be yummy, too!
Finally, mix together some mayonnaise, pesto, milk&hellip
And some sour cream (or you could use greek yogurt.)
Stir it around, add some salt and pepper, and stir it until it&rsquos nice and smooth. You want the dressing to be on the thin side, so splash in enough milk to get it to the consistency you want. It needs to be more of a pasta salad dressing that will pour and easily coat the pasta (rather than be thick and gloopy.)
Now, you can assemble one huge salad on a platter or you can do individual servings. Start with a bed of lettuce, followed by a layer of pesto-coated pasta.
Add a good amount of tomatoes&hellip
Then throw in some olives&hellip
Then drizzle on the dressing!
The dressing has to coat the lettuce, pasta, and other stuff, so don&rsquot be shy!
Finally, sprinkle on a little more Parmesan&hellip
Mmmm. This really was super tasty. The lettuce added a really nice crunch, and the pesto-coated noodles made for such a great flavor.
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.
- 8 ounces whole-wheat fusilli (about 3 cups)
- 1 cup small broccoli florets
- 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
- ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 large clove garlic, quartered
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add fusilli and cook according to package directions. One minute before the pasta is done, stir in broccoli. Cook for 1 minute, then drain and rinse under cold running water to stop further cooking.
Meanwhile, place basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, mayonnaise, oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper in a mini food processor. Process until almost smooth. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the pasta and broccoli, along with tomatoes. Toss to coat.
More Tips & Variations
If you like more of a particular ingredient, say, sun-dried tomatoes, add more! If you like less, add a little less. There&rsquos no right or wrong here.
Mix it up! Fresh basil, baby spinach or baby kale would also work instead of baby arugula.
Trying to keep things dairy free? Opt for a dairy free pesto and omit the feta.
I used store-bought basil pesto, but you could totally use homemade if you prefer.
Speaking of pesto, if you really enjoy arugula try my lemony arugula pesto instead of basil pesto.
Don&rsquot forget to season your pasta water with salt when cooking. It infuses the pasta with flavour!
Want things looser (i.e. saucier), but don&rsquot want to add more pesto? Try a splash or two of water.
I used about ¾ of a pound of pasta, or roughly 4 cups (uncooked). Brands of pasta could vary in package size, so just keep that in mind when preparing this recipe.
This pesto pasta salad is all about the dressing and a rainbow of textures. Here are more popping textures you can have fun playing with add even more of a Mediterranean vibe:
- Olives: specifically Kalamata olives for their dark, rich intensely fruity flavor.
- Roasted red peppers: pick up jarred roasted bell peppers that can be found next to the pickles at the grocery store or roast your own. Make sure you pat the jarred bell peppers dry so they don’t water down the pasta salad.
- Pepperoncini: are slightly sweet but mostly tangy with a slight zip of heat. The pepperoncini (100 to 500 Scoville heat units) is much closer to a bell pepper than a jalapeño (jalapenos are about 40x hotter) so don’t be scared away. Their sweet heat tang is explosively delicious.
- Mushrooms: add your fresh chopped mushrooms or marinated mushrooms for a sweet and tangy flair.
- Roasted veggies: add any of your favorite roasted vegetables such as Brussels sprouts,cauliflower, eggplant, etc.
- Giardiniera: is an Italian preparation of marinated, pickled vegetables with loads of tangy flavor. It often contains celery, cauliflower, onions, carrots, red bell peppers and green olives. It comes in both MILD and HOT – so pay attention! Giardiniera can be found in a jar near the pepperoncini at your grocery store.
- Artichokes: are tender, slightly sweet and nutty. Purchase artichoke hearts in water NOT marinated. The marinated ones often have an acrid taste.
- Capers: add salty, lemony punches of flavor. Capers should be easy to find by the olives at your grocery store. You can use the leftovers in my fabulous Chicken Piccata or Salmon Piccatta recipes.
- Chickpeas: for a nutty, earthy, creaminess and are a rich source of vitamins, minerals and fiber.
- Feta cheese: this rich, creamy, salty, tangy cheese adds SO much flavor! It is also quite salty so I would reduce the amount of Parmesan if also using feta, or swap the Parmesan for feta.
- Nuts: sliced almonds, pine nuts, pistachios, etc. for a delightful crunch.
- Prosciutto: swap the salami for prosciutto – it’s silky and salty fabulous.
- Bacon: can be substituted for the salami as well. Make sure to use thick-cut bacon so it doesn’t get soggy immediately.
- Other protein: you can add chopped rotisserie chicken, lemon basil chicken,Greek chicken, lemon garlic shrimp, or steak in place of the salami or in addition to.
Here are 25 yummy things to add to your next pesto pasta salad:
1. Grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
4. Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
5. Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
6. Roasted broccoli, chopped
7. Zucchini or summer squash, diced, cooked or raw
10. Mozzarella cheese, diced
11. Parmesan cheese, shredded
13. Provolone cheese, diced
17. Asparagus, roasted or blanched
19. Chickpeas, drained and rinsed
21. Sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
I generally add about two cups of a mix of other ingredients to my pasta and pesto. Depending on how much you add, you may want to mix in a bit more pesto too or add a drizzle of olive oil to moisten a salad that's a day or two old. Be sure to refrigerate any leftovers.
How To Make Creamy Pesto Dressing
The key to any pasta salad is the dressing which provides a sort of base for the whole thing. This dressing couldn't be easier. Part of what makes it so easy is the jarred pesto sauce.
You can certainly use homemade pesto if you're feeling ambitious, but hey - It's summer in Minnesota and I'm not spending all my time in the kitchen.
- Simply combine a heaping ½ cup of mayo, ¾ cup good quality jarred basil pesto sauce, 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp. sugar, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk together until completely combined.
- Set the dressing aside for a few minutes to let the flavors meld together.
Summer Pesto Pasta Salad
Summer pesto pasta salad is great for a quick and easy lunch or dinner, to take to parties, picnics or barbecues. It&rsquos fresh, colorful and a real crowd pleaser.
This pasta salad comes together in less than 15 minutes as you prepare the pesto while the pasta is cooking.
Pesto is so easy to make: just pulse in the food processor a handful of ingredients and you have a tub that stores well for days in the fridge and compliments most dishes. If you don&rsquot have fresh basil in your backyard and it&rsquos too pricey at the store, try using arugula or kale.
Choose a short shape pasta: half rigatoni, penne, farfalle (bow ties) , fusilli (corkscrews). You can also use two different shapes as long as they have the same cooking time. I usually do that when I have too many open boxes in my pantry and I want to finish them up. Feel free to use gluten-free, spelt or wholegrain pasta if you prefer.
Cook the pasta 2 or 3 minutes less than package instructions, drain and rinse it under cold water then toss it with half tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to keep it from sticking.
You can also prepare the summer pesto pasta salad ahead of time and keep it in the fridge for a couple of days. Just make sure that you use more pesto than you think you&rsquoll need, as the pasta will absorb a lot of the sauce as it cools, and can become dry. If it does get dryer, simply stir in a little more pesto, or drizzle some extra virgin olive oil to moisten it.
Mediterranean Pasta Salad
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A simple Mediterranean pasta salad loaded with fresh arugula, sun-dried tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, pine nuts, kalamata olives, basil pesto and so much more! It’s a copy-cat recipe for Cafe Express’s Pasta Amore and let me just say it’s actually BETTER!
My friends, I present to you, L❤️VE in a bowl.
But really! It is. And it’s not just what Cafe Express calls it on their menu — Pasta Amore. A lot of you may know it as a Mediterranean pasta salad. And when it’s been raining for almost 3 weeks straight and you’re on edge because you need to shoot recipes for the upcoming weeks and just can’t seem to catch a perfect sunny day, you may even know it as comfort food. ?
This Italian inspired pasta salad was a dish at the besties baby shower this past January which came from a Texas based restaurant called Cafe Express. One bite and you’ll know what I mean, flavors from the basil pesto mingling with the pine nuts and the richness of sun-dried tomatoes while you get a little freshness from the arugula and nutty parmesan. This is love. You want more. And ever since then, it’s been on my mind to make over and over again. So much so, that I actually dreamt about it.
Just take a look at all the goodness that’s going into this one pasta salad recipe. We’re tossing in marinated artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, olives, capers, homemade pesto, parmesan cheese, arugula and scallions. But you know what the best part is? The only thing you need to cook is the pasta. Which means this salad can be served at room temperature or cold <– which means that you can absolutely make it ahead of time <– which means it’s the perfect pasta salad to take to all your gatherings this summer.
By know, i’m sure i’ve expressed to you the importance of a good pasta salad. There’s so much going into this salad recipe. It’s loaded with Mediterranean flavor and isn’t ‘leafy based’ which means it’s full of filling ingredients. And the best part? It’s NOT mayonnaise based. So it’s healthier too! And on top of that, it feeds a crowd! Theres is just so much goodness going into this recipe that it’ll easily feed 12-14 people as a small side if you’re planning on taking this to book club or a summer barbecue. I served this with grilled chicken on the side but you could just add cooked diced chicken into the Mediterranean pasta salad as well to make it even more hearty and filling! And how amazing would that be for bagged lunches? Definitely saves you time and $. Not to mention makes your co-workers slightly jealous of the delicious aromas erupting out of your brown-bag.
I’m telling you, you need this Mediterranean pasta salad in your life.