This simple Summer Pesto Pasta Salad requires only six ingredients. It is conveniently made using store-bought pesto, saving time and dishes. Packed with juicy cherry tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, toasted pine nuts, and arugula, this cold salad is the ultimate summertime side dish!
Summer is all about salads. This pesto pasta salad is vibrant, fresh, and perfect for summertime. It is made using store-bought, premade pesto. This saves time and hassle. The pesto-coated noodles are tossed with fresh cherry tomatoes, arugula, and mozzarella. There are even nutty, toasted pine nuts for crunch.
Similar to my Greek Orzo Salad, this pasta salad is perfectly dressed, vibrant, and full of fresh ingredients. Served cold, it can easily be made ahead of time.
This six-ingredient, flavorful pasta salad is ready in just thirty minutes. It is the ideal side for summertime barbecues but makes a great lunch too. If you love this delicious salad, you will love my Healthier BLT Pasta Salad too!
- Cellentani Pasta (or your favorite pasta shape)
- Prepared Pesto (store-bought)
- Pine Nuts
- Cherry Tomatoes (or grape tomatoes)
- Mozzarella Cheese
See the recipe card for ingredient quantities.
BOIL PASTA - Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain the pasta and allow it to cool.
TOAST PINE NUTS - In a small skillet over medium-low heat, cook the pine nuts. Stir frequently to avoid burning.
Hint: You will know the pine nuts are ready when they are fragrant and golden brown.
COMBINE - Transfer the cooked pasta to a large mixing bowl. Gently stir in the cherry tomatoes, sliced mozzarella, and toasted pine nuts.
TOSS - Pour in the pesto and toss to coat. Gently toss in arugula.
GARNISH - Transfer pasta salad to a serving dish. Garnish with fresh basil leaves, shredded parmesan, and crushed red pepper flakes. For added flavor and visual appeal, sprinkle freshly cracked black pepper over the top too.
- Cellentani Pasta - Rotini, penne, farfalle, or large macaroni
- Mozzarella - Feta cheese or shredded parmesan
- Cherry Tomatoes - Sun-dried tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, artichoke hearts, or kalamata olives
- Pine Nuts - Walnuts or almonds (chopped)
- Arugula - Kale or spinach
- Add-Ons - Chopped chicken, chickpeas, corn, summer squash, peas, bell pepper, or cucumber
- Gluten-Free - Not all gluten-free pasta varieties taste good cold. Use a gluten-free alternative pasta like Banza.
- Meat - Toss in or garnish with grilled chicken slices or chopped rotisserie chicken.
- Roasted Vegetable - Omit the fresh tomatoes. Toss in roasted cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and/or asparagus.
See my Italian Pasta Salad variation of this recipe. It uses premade Italian dressing.
- Cuisinart Chef's Classic 6-Quart Nonstick-Hard-Anodized Stockpot
- Cuisinart Anodized Nonstick 8-Inch, Stainless Steel Skillet
- Pyrex Prepware 4-Quart Rimmed Mixing Bowl
- OXO Good Grips 12-Inch Tongs with Silicone Head
What to Serve with Pesto Pasta Salad
Pasta salad is a delicious side to almost any protein (especially grilled) or sandwich. I love it with grilled chicken and burgers. Enjoy a serving for an easy meal-prepped lunch too. While delicious on its own, it is a yummy side to these recipes.
- Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Thighs
- Cracker-Crusted Chicken Nuggets
- Sheet Pan Sausage and Peppers
- Crockpot Turkey Meatball Subs
Transfer pasta salad to an airtight container. Store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. *For best results, wait to add arugula until service.
Can you freeze pesto pasta salad? No, do not freeze this pasta salad.
- Salt the pasta water. For the best-flavored pasta, once the water is boiling salt it and then add the pasta.
- Wait to add arugula until you are ready to serve the pasta salad. This helps reduce the chance of wilting.
- Store in jars for easy lunches. Place portions of pasta salad into the base of size jars. Evenly distribute the arugula over each serving. To Serve: Pour contents onto a plate.
- Freeze extra pesto. If you are like me, you buy a big jar of pesto from Costco. Portion pesto into containers or a large ice cup tray and freeze for future use.
Frequently Asked Questions
As stated above, cooked chicken of any kind is a delicious addition to this pasta salad. Serve it as a side dish to any grilled meat, protein, or burger.
This pasta salad is served cold, however, you can certainly toss warm pasta with the other ingredients and enjoy it as a hot dish too.
Yes! Pasta salad can be made the night before. Wait to add the arugula until service to avoid wilting.
Summer Pesto Pasta Salad
- 8 oz cellentani pasta
- 2 tablespoon pine nuts
- 8 oz cherry tomatoes halved
- 6 oz mozzarella cheese sliced or cubed (depending on size)
- ½ cup prepared pesto or homemade
- 4 oz baby arugula
- For Garnish: fresh basil, shredded parmesan cheese, and crushed red pepper flakes
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, salt the water. Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain the pasta and allow it to cool.
- While the pasta is cooking, toast the pine nuts. In a small skillet over medium-low heat, cook the pine nuts. Stir frequently to avoid burning. Cook until golden brown and fragrant, about 5-7 minutes.
- Transfer the cooked pasta to a large mixing bowl. Gently stir in the cherry tomatoes, sliced mozzarella, and toasted pine nuts.
- Pour the pesto over the pasta and toss to coat. Add the arugula and toss only until incorporated.
- Garnish with fresh basil and shredded parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.
- If not serving right away, wait to toss in arugula until service.
- STORE: Transfer pasta salad to an airtight container. Store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.