The Best Summer Pesto Pasta Salad

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Enjoy the fresh flavors of the season with this summer pesto pasta salad. Cherry tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, and rich pesto tossed with pasta create the perfect balance of simplicity and taste.

A picture of pasta salad in a white bowl

If you enjoy pasta salads, try this Mediterranean-Inspired Pasta salad!

This delicious pasta salad is not only refreshing, it’s also a quick and easy side dish for the hot summer months. It’s perfect for a family dinner or a backyard barbecue.

🤍Why you will love this recipe

  • It’s light and refreshing with the perfect balance of flavors.
  • It’s make-ahead and meal-prep friendly. This salad stays fresh and delicious for a few days in the refrigerator.
  • Summer pesto pasta salad is easy to make with a few fresh ingredients.
a picture of the pasta salad ingredients: basil, mozzarella cheese, pesto and cherry tomatoes

Here is what you will need

This is an overview of the ingredients and steps to make this recipe; scroll down for a printable recipe card with exact measurements and detailed instructions.

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🛒Ingredients

  • Pasta
  • Pesto sauce
  • Fresh cherry tomatoes
  • Fresh mozzarella pearls
  • Fresh basil leaves (for garnish)

🥄Equipment

  • Saucepan
  • Large mixing bowl

How to make summer pesto pasta salad

Prepare the ingredients: Boil pasta according to the package instructions and rinse under cold water. Rinse and slice the cherry tomatoes in half.

pasta salad ingredients in a bowl

STEP 1: Place the salad ingredients (cooked pasta, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese balls and pesto sauce) into a large bowl.

STEP 2: Gently mix all of the ingredients and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

pasta salad in a bowl mixed

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

Pesto Sauce – You can make your fresh basil pesto sauce or buy it conveniently from the store. Here is my recipe for homemade basil pesto sauce.

Pasta – I like to use pasta with nooks and crannies so that the pesto sticks to it. Campanelle (trumpet pasta), pasta shells, fusilli, or penne are good choices.

Mozzarella cheese -I prefer using fresh mozzarella pearls for this salad because of their small size. Alternatively, you can use fresh mozzarella balls, which are slightly larger, or cut a fresh mozzarella block into small cubes.

Try different pesto flavors! Here is a recipe for broccoli pesto and one for garlic scape pesto sauce.

How to store leftovers

Store this delicious pasta salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. If leftover pasta salad becomes dry, add a little olive oil or pesto sauce to moisten it before serving.

overhead view of pasta salad ina bowl

Recipe variations

Grilled Vegetable Summer Pasta Salad – Enhance the flavor by adding some grilled vegetables such as zucchini, eggplant or red bell peppers.

Mediterranean Summer Pasta Salad – Replace mozzarella cheese with feta cheese and add some sliced kalamata olives and a little bit of lemon juice to freshen up the flavor.

Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad – Turn this side dish into a light dinner entree with grilled chicken.

Zesty Pesto Pasta Salad – Red pepper flakes to taste to the pasta salad for spicy, zesty pasta salad.

Add Crunch – Add some toasted pine nuts or walnuts to achieve a satisfying crunch.

a picture of pasta salad in a white bowl

Serving suggestions

Serve this simple pasta salad garnished with chopped red onion and parmesan cheese with grilled pork, chicken, or burgers and leafy green salad on the side.

💡Top Tips

  • Before adding the pesto sauce, stir some pasta water into the cooked pasta. This will help the sauce stick to the pasta.
  • Use fresh, ripe, and juicy tomatoes and fresh, high-quality mozzarella cheese.
  • Use homemade pesto if you can; store-bought pesto is convenient, but homemade pesto sauce will take your salad to the next level.
  • When you make pesto sauce, freeze leftover sauce in ice cube trays in the freezer for the next time you make this pasta salad.
Can I serve the summer pesto pasta salad warm?

Even though pasta salads are usually served chilled, this pasta salad can be served warm or at room temperature. After cooking the salad and combining the ingredients, serve it immediately while it’s still warm.

Can I use regular-sized tomatoes that are cut up to make this salad?

Yes, you can, but small tomatoes such as cherry or grape tomatoes work the best.

Can I use dressing instead of pesto sauce to make this pasta salad?

Yes, you can. You can add a simple balsamic vinaigrette or lemon garlic dressing with fresh basil and oregano.

Are you too tired to cook dinner?

If you’re feeling uninspired when it’s time to cook dinner, this free guide will help you make a quick and healthy dinner with ingredients you have in your kitchen.

You might like these summer salads

Do you like this recipe?
Please comment and give it a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ rating below!

A picture of pasta salad in a white bowl

Summer Pesto Pasta Salad

Enjoy the fresh flavors of summer with this delicious pasta salad
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Click on serving size to scale this recipe

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Summer Pesto Pasta Salad
Servings: 4 People
Calories: 232kcal
Author: Anne
Scale this Recipe 4 People

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked pasta
  • 1/4 cup pesto sauce
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes sliced in half
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella pearls
  • handful fresh basil chopped – optional for garnish

Instructions

  • Prepare the ingredients: cook the pasta according to the package insturctions and rinse under cold water. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half.
  • Place 2 cups cooked pasta, 1 cup cherry tomatoes, 1/2 cup mozzarella pearls into a large bowl. Gently mix all fo the ingredients together and garnish with fresh chopped basil.

Notes

Store leftover pasta salad in the refrigerator for up to 5 days in an airtight container. If leftover pasta salad becomes dry, add a little bit of olive oil or pesto sauce to moisten it before serving.
Homemade pesto sauce tastes best, here is a recipe for basil pesto sauce.
See the article above for recipe variations, tips and more!

Nutrition

Calories: 232kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 12mg | Sodium: 237mg | Potassium: 118mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 589IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 104mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and can vary based on cooking methods and ingredients used

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I made this today for last minute guests. I had some leftover pesto so it was perfect for a quick recipe! Eveyone loved it thank you!