Loaded with flavor and simple to throw together, this Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe is the best side for all your summer picnics. Bow-tie pasta, corn, peas, pine nuts, and arugula are tossed with creamy basil pesto for an easy cold dish. Look no further for a healthy and quick mix for potlucks and BBQs.

A bowl of summer pasta salad is shown on the counter next to pesto and corn.

The Summer has officially kicked off and so have all of the backyard BBQs, picnics, and potlucks.

Italian Dressing Pasta Salad has been the ONE cold dish I always turn to for such outings. But now, this Pesto Pasta Salad is quickly taking its place.

And it’s not like your traditional pesto pasta salad at all.

The inspiration actually came from one of our favorite restaurants’ Summer seasonal gnocchi dish. They make it with house-made pesto, sweet bites of corn, tender peas, and peppery arugula.

And oh ya… we couldn’t forget those toasted pine nuts! They add the most delightful crunch and nutty flavor.

While the flavors are quite unique, the simple process and ease with which you can make this summer dish is not.

Just like other cold pasta salad recipes, this one is SO super quick to throw together. It can also easily be prepped ahead the night before.

Make it with gluten-free pasta so the Celiac’s and vegetarians can get down on this dish as well!

Don’t miss out on this Pesto Risotto and Shrimp Pesto Pasta, either!

Arugula, pesto, pasta, peas, pine nuts, corn, salt, and pepper are the ingredients for this recipe.
Email this recipe!
Simply enter your email and get it sent to your inbox! You’ll also get the newest recipes from us every week!

Ingredients

The ingredients you need to make this pasta salad include:

  • Pasta. Gluten-free farfalle, or bow-tie, pasta was used in this recipe. Rotini or fusilli is the best to use in salads. They have more surface area to soak up all of the sauce. Farfalle, or bow-tie, pasta is also a great choice and gives the salad a unique appearance. Penne pasta works almost as well but does have the least area to soak up the sauce. If using a gluten-free variety, make sure you look for one that is rice, chickpea, quinoa, or lentil-based. Avoid corn-based pasta, it will tend to fall apart more easily than the other types.
  • Pesto. It’s so worth it to make your own fresh basil pesto! There’s no preservatives and it only takes 5 minutes to whisk up. You can also use store-bought or freshly made from stores such as Central Market and Whole Foods.
  • Corn. Use fresh boiled corn, canned corn, or frozen corn.
  • Peas. You can either use canned or previously frozen.
  • Pine Nuts. Toasting pine nuts gives them a crunchy texture and buttery flavor.
  • Arugula. This adds a spicy bite that complements the sweet corn and peas. You can also use spinach for a milder flavor. 

Expert Tip: If using frozen corn and peas, place them in a colander and run them under warm water until thawed. Drain them thoroughly before mixing into the pasta salad.

All of the pesto pasta salad ingredients are mixed together in a bowl.

How to Make Pesto Pasta Salad

These are the simple steps to take when making pesto pasta salad:

Cook the Pasta

Cook pasta according to package directions. Boil in a large pot of salted water. Aim for al dente. Drain in a colander.

Make sure to rinse under cool water to remove any of the starchy outer coating from the pasta after cooking. This will make the pasta clump together if left on.

Bowtie pasta is cooked and strained before using.

Toss the Noodles

Once pasta is cooled to room temperature, combine it with ¾ cup of prepared pesto in a large bowl.

Toss it IMMEDIATELY. The longer the pasta sits without any sauce, the more likely it is to stick together.

Also, don’t use all of the pesto. The pasta will soak some up while chilling, so save a little to add at the end.

Basil pesto is added to a bowl of cooked pasta.

Combine and Chill

Add peas, corn, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix until all ingredients are just combined.

Refrigerate pasta salad for 1-2 hours, or until chilled. Allowing this recipe to chill in the fridge really enhances the taste.

Serve

If serving immediately, stir in the remaining pesto and arugula.

If chilled first, then remove from the fridge and mix in an additional ¼ cup of pesto, and stir in toasted pine nuts and arugula.

Serve with an additional sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Meal Prep and Storage

  • To Prep-Ahead: Make the salad but keep the arugula, pine nuts, and ¼ cup of pesto separate. Mix in just before serving. Please note, some gluten-free pasta will get harder after being refrigerated for 48 hours.
  • To Store: Keep this pesto pasta salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.

Dietary Modifications

The recipe you’ll find below is already vegetarian as written. Here are some adjustments and substitutions you can make to help it fit your other dietary requirements:

  • Gluten-Free: Use a certified gluten-free pasta.
  • Dairy-Free: Make or purchase a pesto without parmesan.
  • Vegan: Make sure there is no parmesan in the pesto, like this vegan avocado pesto.
This summer side dish is loaded with healthy ingredients.

FAQs

Can I eat pesto pasta cold?

Yes! Cold pesto pasta salad is absolutely delicious and is perfect for Summer.

What goes best with pesto?

Pesto is incredibly versatile and delicious with a wide variety of things, like this pasta salad. Pesto sauce is also great with chicken, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil leaves, or on veggies like cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, or cucumbers.

Can I cook pasta ahead of time for pasta salad?

Cook the pasta no more than 12 hours in advance. Also make sure to toss it with the dressing so it does not dry out.

Should I make pasta salad the night before?

It is best when made 2-3 hours before eating or, at most, the night before. If you do, wait to add in any fresh greens or nuts until just before serving.

How do you keep pasta salad moist?

Add in ¾ of the amount of sauce that the recipe calls for. Then add in the remaining ¼ just before serving.

Expert Tips and Tricks

  • Rinse pasta under cold water. This gets rid of the extra starchy coating. It also stops the cooking process so the pasta stays firm and it doesn’t get mushy.
  • Use farfalle pasta. There’s lots of surface area to soak up pesto, plus it looks pretty and unique.
  • Make it homemade. Whip up your own basil pesto at home for the freshest flavor.
  • Use frozen corn and peas. They’re quick to use, and they have more flavor than canned.
  • Chill for 2 hours. This is long enough so the flavors meld, but not so long that the pasta loses its texture.
  • Add in more veggies. Asparagus, zucchini, squash, and tomatoes would all taste great.
Cold pesto pasta salad is served from a white bowl with a metal spoon.

What to Serve with Pasta Salad

This Pesto Pasta Salad goes GREAT with any of these summertime dishes:

More Pasta Salad Recipes

You can never have too many pasta salad recipes! Try these other flavors to mix things up:

Tap stars to rate!

5 from 1 vote

Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe

Loaded with flavor and simple to throw together, this Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe is the best side for all your summer picnics. Bow-tie pasta, corn, peas, pine nuts, and arugula are tossed with creamy basil pesto for an easy cold dish.
A white bowl full of pesto pasta salad is placed on the counter
Yield 6
Prep 20 minutes
Cook 10 minutes
Total 30 minutes
An image of an envelope sealed shut with the Evolving Table logo.

Email this recipe!

Enter your email and we’ll send it directly to you.

Ingredients 

  • 10-12 oz. bow-tie pasta gluten-free
  • 1 cup basil pesto store-bought or homemade
  • cup green peas canned or previously frozen*
  • cup corn canned or previously frozen*
  • ½ tsp. salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper to taste
  • cup pine nuts toasted
  • 2-3 cups arugula
  • Parmesan cheese optional

Instructions 

  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain in a colander and rinse under cool running water.
  • Once pasta is cooled to room temperature, combine it with ¾ cup of prepared pesto in a large bowl. Toss until well coated.
  • Add peas, corn, salt and pepper to taste. Toss until all ingredients are well combined.*
  • Refrigerate pasta salad for 1-2 hours, or until chilled.
  • Just before serving pour in additional ¼ cup of pesto, and mix in toasted pine nuts and arugula.
  • Serve with an additional sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and enjoy!
Last step! If you make this, please leave a review letting us know how it was!

Tap stars to rate!

5 from 1 vote

Notes

  • Toast pine nuts at 325°F for 6-8 minutes.
  • If using frozen corn and peas, place them in a colander and run them under warm water until thawed. Drain them thoroughly before mixing into the pasta salad.
  • You can also mix in the remaining pesto, pine nuts and arugula if you would like to serve it immediately without chilling.

Meal Prep and Storage

  • To Prep-Ahead: Make the salad but keep the arugula, pine nuts, and ¼ cup of pesto separate. Mix in just before serving. Please note, some gluten-free pasta will get harder after 48 hours.
  • To Store: Keep this pesto pasta salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.

Nutrition

Calories: 417kcal, Carbohydrates: 46g, Protein: 11g, Fat: 22g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 3mg, Sodium: 551mg, Potassium: 252mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 1162IU, Vitamin C: 8mg, Calcium: 93mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Made this recipe?Leave a comment below!
5 Secrets to Healthier Family Dinners
Tips & recipes for getting yummy — and healthy — meals on the table.

You May Also Like

Thanks for
Stopping By!

I’m London! Join me as we cook up nourishing meals for you and your loved ones and learn a few healthy cooking tips and tricks!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Sometimes I use pasta salad as a side dish to go with whatever meat I am cooking. Other times I add meat to the pasta salad to make it a one pot meal. I usually use canned tuna or chicken either canned or shredded leftovers.

    1. That’s a great idea, Terry! I haven’t made one with canned tuna yet, I’ll have to try that out next! Yay!! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment and rating 🙂