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Pesto Pasta Salad

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Pesto Pasta Salad
Cultura/BRETT STEVENS/Riser/Getty Images
Pesto and pasta have a natural affinity for one another, making it a classic combination first in Italy and now in America. Traditionally it is made with basil, although you can use a mixture of other herbs such as parsley, as given here. If you are running short on time, pesto is also available ready-made in some large supermarkets. Look for it near the fresh pasta or in produce section.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fusilli (spiral-shaped) pasta
  • 2 cups fresh cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 1/2 cups small bocconcini (marinated mozzarella balls), optional and halved if desired
  • 1 cup diced yellow bell pepper
  • 1 cup sliced black olives
  • Basil Pesto
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces
  • 1 medium clove garlic, crushed and peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preparation:

1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, stir well, and cook according to the package directions until al dente. Drain the pasta, rinse under cold running water, and then drain again. Transfer to a large serving bowl.

2. To make the pesto: In a blender or a food processor, combine the basil, parsley, Romano, olive oil, walnuts, garlic, salt, and pepper. Blend or process until smooth.

3. Add the tomatoes, mozzarella, bell pepper, and olives to the pasta, and toss to mix.

4. Scrape the pesto into the bowl with the pasta and toss to mix and coat. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve right away at room temperature.
 

Recipe Notes

• The pesto can be made ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Let it come to room temperature before using. It may also be frozen. If you plan on freezing the pesto, leave out the garlic and then stir it in just before using.
• Cooked pasta will absorb all of the dressing in a salad very quickly, so be sure to put the two together just before you're going to serve it. Or, reserve some of the dressing to add to the salad just before serving.
• Other than pasta, pesto is great on pizza, stirred into minestrone soup, as a sandwich spread, or used as a topping for grilled steaks, chicken or fish, such as salmon.
• You can easily turn this pesto pasta into a main-dish salad by adding some sliced cooked chicken, grilled shrimp, chopped steak, or cubes of ham. Other tasty additions might be drained canned chick peas or white beans.

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