Pasta salad often gets a bad rep as the cold, soggy, mayo-covered, tasteless side that graces barbecues, catered office lunches, potlucks, and mediocre parties everywhere. Forget what you think you know about pasta salad—we’re here to redeem this staple with Chef Giuseppe’s delicious, easy pasta salad recipe. Skip the mayo, load on homemade pesto (don’t be intimidated, it’s an easy sauce for pasta), add in sweet Taggiasca olives, and finish off this simple pasta salad with bocconcini mozzarella. Save this recipe and get ready to make it on repeat—you’re about to become everyone’s favorite party guest.
Easy Pasta Salad With Homemade Pesto
1 pound dry pasta (any shape will do—pick your favorite! We like to use bowtie, penne, fusilli, or rotini)
1 pint cherry tomatoes
large bunch basil
½ cup toasted pine nuts
1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
1 garlic clove
1 pint bocconcini mozzarella (or a large ball cut into pieces)
¼ cup pitted Taggiasca olives
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.
2. While the water boils, rinse all produce. Pick basil, discarding stems. Halve cherry tomatoes. Crush garlic clove. Zest lemon and then halve.
3. Season boiling water generously with salt. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions.
4. While the pasta cooks, add basil (saving a few leaves for garnish), half of Parmigiano Reggiano, half of pine nuts, garlic, lemon zest, and ¼ to ½ cup olive oil to a food processor or blender. Pulse until smooth.
5. Once pasta is cooked reserve 1 cup pasta water and drain. Return pasta to the pot.
6. To the pot with pasta add the pesto, tomatoes, and olives and stir to combine. Add pasta water a little at a time until the pesto becomes saucy and clings to the noodles.
7. Garnish with remaining Parmigiano, pine nuts and torn basil. Enjoy!
This pasta salad can be served hot, warm, or cold—it’s dealer’s choice! If you’re planning on serving it hot, wait until the last moment to add the mozzarella so it doesn’t melt. When serving warm or cold (like at a barbecue, picnic, or even as a workday lunch), your sauce should be a little more liquidy when tossing. This ensures your pasta doesn’t dry out as it cools, so add more pasta water to the sauce.
Looking for more easy pasta recipes? Check out some of our favorites:
Story contributed by Plated Recipe Developer Giuseppe Iacopelli.
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