When you’re told to bring a salad, this Pesto Pasta Salad is the answer! It’s so easy to make, it’s filling, it stores well and it can be made ahead of time ready for when you need it (prepare everything and keep the components separate until needed). It can be modified with different vegetables or made into an even more substantial main meal with the addition of chickpeas or poached chicken. The preparation is simple, yet these classic flavours are insanely delicious (pesto, lemon juice and olive oil steal the show).

Pesto Pasta Salad

The recipe includes instructions on how to make homemade pesto (which is one of my favourite condiments to keep on hand), but you could absolutely make this with store-bought pesto if you want to make this an even faster salad option. This Pesto Pasta Salad is the perfect choice for any gathering, party or festive feast; it goes with everything! We love serving it alongside barbecued meats, fresh prawns or ham during the holiday season. It’s fast, easy and impressive, whether you want to treat yourself or impress your guests! The recipe serves four people generously, or six to eight people as a part of a larger spread. 

What other ingredients can I add to Pesto Pasta Salad?

Aside from cherry tomatoes, bocconcini, marinated capsicum/bell peppers and rocket/arugula as suggested in the recipe, you can try olives, chargrilled zucchini or eggplant, avocado, sliced red onion, baby spinach leaves or feta cheese. Or try adding chickpeas or poached chicken for a more substantial meal.

Pesto Pasta Salad

Can you make Pesto Pasta Salad the night before?

Yes! This Pesto Pasta Salad can be prepared up to 48 hours in advance; just make sure you store the dressing in a separate airtight container and toss it through the salad right before serving for best results. The dressing may have separated. Whisk the dressing or give it a shake in a glass jar before tossing it through the salad and serving.

What goes with Pesto Pasta Salad?

Serve on its own or with grilled fish, roasted chicken, rotisserie chicken, crumbed chicken schnitzel, chicken kebabs, sausages, steak, lamb cutlets/chops, pork chops or hamburgers.

What are some other ways I can use leftover pesto?

Stir it through pasta with a squeeze of lemon juice for a super quick and easy meal, or try my One Pan Pesto Chicken Pasta, One Pot Creamy Pesto Gnocchi with bacon, Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad with chicken or Creamy Pesto Chicken Breast. You could also dollop it on top of a cheese pizza with prosciutto or simply enjoy it on crusty sourdough bread with sliced tomatoes. The options are limitless and your leftovers won’t last long!

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Pesto Pasta Salad

Pesto Pasta Salad

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This Pesto Pasta Salad is the perfect summer side. It can be made ahead of time, it’s substantial and can be made even faster by using a store-bought pesto for when you’re really short on time. Laced with parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts and fresh basil, this is a salad you will want to make again and again!

  • Total Time: 32 mins
  • Yield: 6 1x



Homemade pesto

  • 2 cups (30 g) fresh basil leaves (you can substitute half with parsley for a fragrant, brighter pesto)
  • ½ cup (50 g) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • ⅓ cup (40 g) pine nuts, walnuts or macadamia nuts (my preference is walnuts)
  • 1 garlic clove, freshly minced
  • 1 tsp salt flakes
  • ½ tsp cracked black pepper
  • ½ cup (120 ml) extra virgin olive oil (plus extra to store, see make ahead notes)


  • ½ cup (120 g) homemade or store-bought pesto
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp salt flakes
  • ½ tsp cracked black pepper

Pasta salad

  • 300 g (10 oz) pasta (orecchiette, mafalde, fusilli, macaroni or penne)
  • 1 tsp salt, for cooking the pasta
  • 1 cup cherry/grape tomatoes (roughly 1 x 250 g/9 oz punnet), halved
  • 2 cups (60 g)rocket leaves/arugula
  • 220 g (7 oz) baby bocconcini, drained and halved
  • ½ cup (75 g) marinated capsicum/bell pepper strips
  • ¼ bunch basil, leaves picked
  • 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts



  1. Place the basil leaves (and parsley if using), Parmesan cheese, nuts, garlic, salt and pepper into a food processor. Pulse for 5-10 seconds, scraping down the sides as needed until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
  2. Running the food processor, slowly add the olive oil, scraping down the sides as needed, and blitz until smooth (see note 1).
  3. Store in an air-tight container. The recipe makes approximately 1 cup of pesto; see the storage instructions below in the make ahead notes.


  1. Combine the dressing ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and whisk well. Alternatively, place the ingredients in a jar, close the lid and shake until well combined.

Pasta Salad

  1. Cook the pasta in salted water according to the package instructions, less 1 minute. Rinse under cold running water and drain. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the pasta with the tomatoes, rocket, bocconcini and marinated capsicum. Pour in the dressing and toss to combine.
  3. Serve the pasta salad on a large platter; top with toasted pine nuts. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese and serve cold or at room temperature.


Note 1 – This homemade pesto recipe includes a generous amount of seasoning but you can add more to taste. You can also add more olive oil if you prefer a looser pesto.


Pesto – Homemade pesto can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Store in an air-tight container and drizzle the top of the pesto with extra olive oil—this is the key to preserving the pesto and keeping it fresh. It may darken over time on the top, but it will be completely fine to eat. Top the pesto generously with olive oil each time after use. Freeze in ice-cube trays for up to 2 months. Thaw completely in the fridge overnight to use.

Pesto Pasta Salad – Pesto Pasta Salad is the perfect salad to make ahead of time, ready for when you need it. Prepare the dressing as per the recipe and store it refrigerated in a jar, for up to 48 hours prior to use (do not dress the salad until you are ready to serve it). Prepare the pasta and have your remaining ingredients washed, cut and ready in separate containers or in reusable sandwich bags, refrigerated, for up to 48 hours. Once you are ready to serve, assemble the individual components on a platter or in a large bowl. The dressing may have separated. Whisk the dressing or give it a shake in a glass jar before tossing it through the salad and serving.


Pesto Pasta Salad – If I know I’m going to be making this pasta salad ahead of time, I follow the make ahead instructions above. However, leftovers can still be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 days so there is no waste. I recommend removing the basil prior to refrigerating as it quickly blackens once it is dressed and refrigerated, but otherwise all of the other vegetables are quite hardy and last well, apart from losing a little bit of crispness and vibrance. Bring the salad out of the fridge at least 30 minutes prior to serving for best results.

  • Author: Nicole
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 12 mins
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Salad