An easy pesto pasta salad that comes together in minutes! Made with fresh tomatoes & mozzarella all tossed in a homemade pesto & topped with shredded parmesan!
Pasta salads are always a favorite during summer! They’re quick, easy, simple to make and leftovers are perfect for lunch the next day! I particularly love this pesto pasta salad though because it utilizes all my favorite summer ingredients. Juicy tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, sliced basil and your favorite pasta all tossed in a vibrant homemade pesto!
My favorite thing about this dish has to be the pesto! It’s zesty, garlicky, herbaceous and so versatile! It can be made a variety of ways and it’s so good on everything!
Ingredients You’ll Need
Tomatoes: We love using cherry or grape tomatoes! (They have amazing flavor and you can cut them in half or quarter them.) I use red and yellow tomatoes to give the salad some color.😉
Mozzarella: Mozzarella pearls works the best! (They’re the perfect size and there’s no cutting involved.)
Red onion: Adds texture and color to your pasta salad! Keep your slices thin so they don’t overpower the other ingredients.
Fresh basil: We’ll usually mix sliced basil into our salad and cut extra basil to sprinkle on top for garnish.
Parmesan cheese: A must in my opinion! Sprinkle some freshly grated parmesan over each bowl right before serving!
Pesto: Use your favorite store-bought pesto or make my homemade kale pesto! (Recipe is below)
How To Make Pesto Pasta Salad
1. Cook the pasta. Boil your favorite pasta according to the package’s directions. Then drain and rinse the pasta under cold water. Set it aside to cool.
2. Make the pesto. Place your pesto ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. (Skip this step if using store-bought pesto.)
3. Toss! Once the pasta has cooled, add it to a large bowl with your tomatoes, mozzarella, sliced onion and fresh basil. Pour your desired amount of pesto over the top and toss until it’s fully coated.
4. Serve. Sprinkle each individual bowl with shredded parmesan cheese and extra basil. Serve immediately or cover the salad and let it chill in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat.
Replace the pine nuts! Traditional pesto is made with pine nuts but they can be pretty expensive. Try replacing them with walnuts, pecans or pepitas! (Toasting instructions are the same for all nuts and seeds.)
Replace the kale! Try spinach, arugula or more basil instead! (I personally love using kale in my pesto. It cuts down on costs and adds more nutritional value.)
Add veggies! Summer squash, zucchini and asparagus would be delicious is this pasta salad too!
Serve it as a side dish with your favorite entrée OR add some protein to make it a main dish! Here are a few of our favorite proteins to add:
- Diced or shredded chicken
- Sliced Italian sausage
This pasta salad keeps well and is full of flavor – making it perfect to serve as a bbq side dish or an easy potluck dish!
Why you’ll love this pesto pasta salad recipe!
- A quick & easy dinner idea! Requires simple ingredients + takes minutes to prepare! Plus you can make it ahead of time so dinner couldn’t be easier!
- So versatile! This recipe can easily be tailored to fit your own tastes & preferences! From the pesto to add-ins, you can really make this pasta salad your own!
- Perfect potluck dish! It keeps well & is full of flavor making it the perfect side dish for your next summer potluck!
Need it gluten free? Use your favorite gluten free pasta instead!
[Made one of my recipes? Make sure to tag my social media @kalefornia_kravings – I love seeing what you create!]
Pesto Pasta Salad with Tomatoes & Mozzarella
For the pasta salad:
- 1 lb. dry rotini pasta
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced
- 8 oz. fresh mozzarella pearls
- ¼ of a red onion, sliced thin
- 2 Tbsp fresh basil, sliced (plus more for serving)
- Shredded parmesan cheese, for serving
For the kale pesto:
- 1 cup kale leaves, chopped*
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted* (see notes section for toasting instructions)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2½ Tbsp lemon juice
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- Make the pesto (if using homemade pesto). Add the pesto ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth. Set it aside while you prepare the pasta salad.
- Cook the pasta. Boil the pasta according to the package's directions. Then drain and rinse the pasta under cold water. Set it aside to cool.
- Toss. Once the pasta has cooled, add it to a large bowl with your tomatoes, mozzarella, sliced onion and basil.Pour your desired amount of pesto over the top and toss until it's fully coated.
- Serve. Sprinkle each individual bowl with shredded parmesan cheese and extra basil. Serve immediately or cover the salad and let it chill in the refrigerator until you're ready to eat.
- Spread the pine nuts out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Toast them in the oven at 375 degrees 5-6 minutes. (They should be slightly golden brown.)