I have news! Cookie and I are finally busting out of this dingy rent house and moving to a new place. It’s not a farmhouse with loads of character, but it is a nice, functional space with an open kitchen and clean white walls. I am so excited.
I haven’t wanted to whine, but I’ll tell you now that my distaste for my current kitchen has grown over the cookbook-making process to complete abhorrence. It’s dark in there, no matter what wattage I use in the single overhead light. The water from the faucet tastes funny to me, so I go back and forth to the bathroom tap all day. The grout falls off between tiles under my feet. It’s gross and dungeon-like and the last place I want to be.
Needless to say, it’s become a career hazard, and I’m psyched to finally have an exit plan. Woohooooo! I’m going to be much more inspired to cook up new recipes for you guys in there, and to invite friends over for dinner. I can’t wait to decorate, too. I’m eager to sell the stuff I don’t love and transition from an eclectic thrift-store look to a more grown-up, cohesive style. It’s time.
Enough about me; I have a pasta salad recipe for you. It’s prime time for fall picnics, and this light and fresh pesto pasta salad is just the ticket. Inspiration for the recipe came from a new cookbook called Vegan Goodness by Australian food blogger Jessica Prescott of Wholly Goodness. The book offers over 60 plant-based recipes, accompanied with bright and colorful photos that show off the beauty of the ingredients and final dishes. Carrots can be so pretty, can’t they?
I am pretty lousy at cooking a recipe straight from a book, and I tinkered with this quite a bit. I added more pesto and cherry tomatoes, and changed up some of the add-ins—her recipe calls for sautéed mushrooms and asparagus, but I can’t find asparagus this time of year, and I didn’t love it with mushrooms alone.
Instead, I added olives, and chickpeas, and cheese, which are all lovely, but I’ll let you choose your own adventure with this one. Enjoy, and please let me know how this recipe turns out for you in the comments!
Watch How to Make Pesto Pasta Salad
Pesto Pasta Salad
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 10 mins
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 6 to 8 servings 1x
- Category: Salad
- Method: By hand
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegetarian
This pesto pasta salad recipe is bursting with fresh flavor. It’s light, healthy and easy to make. Perfect for picnics and potlucks! Recipe yields 6 to 8 side servings.
- 1 pound whole grain pasta (fusilli, rotini, penne or farfalle)
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
- 3 handfuls baby arugula or spinach
- Optional cheese: Crumbled feta cheese, little mozzarella balls or diced mozzarella or grated Parmesan
- Optional additions: ½ cup thinly sliced Kalamata olives and/or 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained (or 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)*
- ½ cup packed fresh basil leaves
- ½ cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- ¼ cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
- 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta until al dente according to package directions. Before draining, reserve about ½ cup pasta cooking water, then drain and immediately rinse the pasta under cool water to prevent the noodles from sticking to one another. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl.
- Meanwhile, to prepare the pesto: In a small skillet, toast the pepitas over medium heat, stirring often, until they are fragrant and making little popping noises, about 5 minutes. Pour half of the pepitas into a bowl for later (we will use them as garnish).
- Pour the remaining pepitas into a food processor. Add the basil, parsley, lemon juice, garlic and salt. Process while slowly drizzling in the olive oil, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary, until the pepitas have broken down to create a pretty smooth sauce.
- To assemble the pasta salad, pour all of the pesto over the pasta and toss until the pasta is lightly and evenly coated, adding a tiny splash of reserved pasta cooking water if necessary to thin it out. Then add the cherry tomatoes, arugula, remaining toasted pepitas, and any optional add-ins (olives, chickpeas and/or cheese).
- Toss again to combine, then season to taste with pepper. If the pasta needs more flavor, add salt, to taste, or a splash of lemon juice. If the flavors are too bold, let it rest for a few minutes, and add a little splash of olive oil if necessary to tone down the rest.
Recipe adapted from Vegan Goodness by Jessica Prescott.
*Change it up: You can use pine nuts, walnuts or almonds in the pesto instead of pepitas (although the dish will no longer be nut-free, if that matters).
Make it gluten free: Use your favorite gluten-free pasta.
Make it dairy free/vegan: Just don’t add any cheese!
▸ Nutrition Information
Congratulations, Kate!! I’m so excited for you! Good luck with moving!❤️
Thank you, Abbie! Hope you are having a great day.
Karen @ Seasonal Cravings
How exciting for you! Hope you love your new kitchen and can keep cooking all your gorgeous dishes!
Thank you so much, Karen!
I’m so happy for you that you and Cookie are getting to move to a new place! You deserve someplace that’s as sunny and sweet as you are. Wishing you all the best!
Oh, and btw…’can’t wait to try this recipe – sounds yummy!
Sharmin, you’re sweet. Thank you! I hope you love this one.
Rhian @ Rhian's Recipes
This looks great! I have a copy of Vegan Goodness at home too!
Yay! Thanks, Rhian!
Lisa | Garlic + Zest
Congratulations on your new bright kitchen! That’s so exciting and I’m so jealous! My kitchen is so dark, that I have to take photos in my pantry, which has a window and some decent light. This pasta salad is just what I want for a Saturday on the patio!
Thank you, Lisa! I can’t wait. I am always running back and forth between my second bedroom (“studio”) and the kitchen, so I feel your pain!
Hi Kate. I am so glad that the move is making you inspired!!!! Your recipes are worth trying as they are really clean and fresh.
Thanks for sharin. I will surely make this one
Thank you so much, Tess! I can’t wait to cook in my new space. I hope you love this pasta salad!
Hello Kate, I’ve never commented here before but I love your blog and I use your recipes all the time! I have a question about olive oil. Lately I’ve heard a lot about how regular olive oil at a grocery store is not really the real thing and is often a cheap substitute. I was wondering if you have looked into this at all and if you might have an olive oil that you recommend? Congratulations on your new home, I can’t wait to start trying the recipes that come out of your new kitchen!
In the past, Kate has recommended California Olive Ranch olive oil. It comes in dark bottles and is sourced entirely from California. I buy it exclusively and it’s wonderful!
Thank you Madeline!
Thank you, Becky! Great question, Madeline. California Olive Ranch is my favorite. I’ve actually toured their fields and production facilities and they’re super passionate about their products. American olive oils are far more likely to be true, 100% olive oils than imported oils, which are often cut with low-grade oils. The latest research shows that real, high quality extra-virgin olive oil actually has a pretty high smoke point, too—between 400 and 425 degrees.
Sara @ Last Night's Feast
This looks beautiful! What a perfect light dinner.
GiselleR @ ExSloth.com
Sucks that you haven’t been loving your space so yay for finding one that suits you :D Can’t wait to see what you come up with in the new kitchen!
Also, I’ve been obsessed with pasta dishes and pesto recently so this is right up my alley <3
Michelle @ Vitamin Sunshine
Love that pesto recipe! It’s such a great addition to anything– makes a meal just taste special. I have a great watercress recipe I use a lot– so peppery and fresh.
Thanks, Michelle! I agree, pesto is great on just about everything. I never thought to add watercress!
Katie - IndyChef
We loved testing this recipe out in the Indychef kitchen, as HUGE lovers of pasta and especially for our midweek family meals we found this tasty and delicious and everyone loved it!
Awesome! Thanks, Katie!
Yay for the new house, Kate! I feel your pain about a kitchen that makes it tough to work in, I hope to move to a newer, shinier place next month myself :) This salad looks lovely!
Thank you, Gayatri! Maybe we can commiserate about the moving process next month. ;) Sounds like it will be worth it for both of us!
oh so excited for you – good luck in your new and may you have health to enjoy cooking in your new kitchen..x
opps good luck in your new home :)
Thank you, Brenda! :)
I made the salad, and it’s great! The only issue is that the pesto turned out extraordinarily sour! I followed some advice online, and I added some stevia to it. Great dish overall though!
Thanks, Anastacia! The pesto is bold and will mellow out a bit with time. I’m glad you made it work for you!
Beautiful, looks great!
Kate (as well)
I couldn’t believe you were able to survive and cook amazing food in a house that you actually didn’t like! I enjoy cooking but always refuse to cook in a kitchen that I don’t like (especially when there is no window for sunlight and good food pics).
After reading your post, I realised I was just giving myself excuses and being lazy. Your stories are so inspirational!
I’ve always wanted to have my own place with big windows and everything white marble. And now I know I’ll cook until that day comes!
Thanks for sharing your life with us :)
Question- If I substitute almonds, do I still have to toast(step 2)?
Loved the pesto pasta salad. I usually do not make or eat pasta salads because I find them bland. NOT THIS ONE. I made the pesto per recipe but switched out the seeds for walnuts because I had them. Otherwise I followed the recipe exactly as written and was rewarded with tons of flavor and textures. Will make again! Thanks.
We did this recipe this week- but with store bought pesto for ease. Super tasty recipe and crazy quick to prepare. Thanks!
Thanks for another great recipe- this will be added to my rotation of salad dressings and sauces. Happy New Year!
You’re welcome, Russell! I’m happy this made it into your rotation. & Happy New Year to you, too!
Hi! Is this something that could be made ahead of time and eaten for lunches all week? Maybe just leave out the spinach and add when it is served each time?
Hi, Beth! I think that’d work well, maybe storing the pesto separate, too, would help keep the pasta’s texture a bit better.
Looking forward to making this. I made pesto during the winter and froze it. So I will plan to use that pesto… how much would you say to put into the recipe?
Good idea! I’m guessing about 2/3 cup.
Kate, just wanted to let you know that I prepared this for a dinner we shared with good friends earlier in the week. I had never tried pepitas, and the pesto made with them is awesome!!! After having read all the reviews, I did opt to reduce the lemon juice to 3 tablespoons. I did not include the optional olives or chickpeas, but did add maybe 1/8th of a cup of Go Veggie Vegan Parmesan Topping when mixing the salad together. We all loved the salad, but the 5 star rating is especially because my husband, definitely not a vegan or vegetarian, doing the taste test to make sure it was okay to take to our friends’ home without any tweaking, said it was DELICIOUS!!!! Thanks, this will be a go-to recipe!
Hooray! I’m glad this one passed the test, Kris. :)
Really excited to make this – so many yummy things. I’m trying to get ahead on planning a picnic – how long will it keep in the fridge do you think?
Hey Sara, it’s best when served soon after making, but it’ll keep pretty well for several days in the fridge.
Besides loving this salad, this is my go-to vegan pesto recipe! We use it for our garlic, broccoli, tomato vegan pizza. Sometimes I sub pine nuts for the pepitas for a different flavor. Either way, it’s a top-notch recipe!
Thanks, Melanie! It’s useful for so many dishes.
Gosh, I really wanted to love this recipe (I’ve LOVED everything of yours so far!) because it’s packed full of a lot of individually yummy ingredients, but for me, it just didn’t come together as a whole. I’m not sure what I’d add to make it feel a bit more cohesive though. My husband suggested simplifying it by using only the pesto, pasta, and tomatoes. Anyhow, thanks for all of the wonderful recipes!
I’m sorry this one didn’t work out as well, Marina. :/
I can’t wait to try this recipe! Can you tell me what food processor you use? I need to buy one. I am loving your new cook book…it is really inspiring me!! I am dairy and gluten free so I love and appreciate how you label each recipe so clearly. Thank you!
Hi! is the parsley necessary?
If you’re averse to parsley, I think you could just omit it altogether.
Or can I sub spinach for parsley?
Probably, yes! If you’re looking to fill in for the missing greens, I think spinach will work fine. Just stay away from baby spinach- the stems tend to be bitter, so it could affect the taste.
Hello – thank you for sharing this recipe. I am thinking of making this for a summer party we are having. If I make the morning of the party, adding the arugula right before serving do you think that would be ok? Refrigerating the tossed pasta until then? Thank you!
Yes, I’d store the greens separately and add just before serving. Let me know how it goes!
Worked out just perfect for my daughter’s 3rd birthday party/BBQ. Best part–the kids wolfed it down without one complaint about vegetables or the color green! Thank you, it’ll be on our menu again for sure.
Awesome! Thank you, Julia!
If I want to use almonds instead of pepitas, should I roast them?
I think it’d work great either way, Wendy, but I’m partial to roasting!
This recipe was so easy to make and very yummy! Kate thanks so much for making it easy to eliminate meat from my diet. I use your website almost every day of the week to cook :) You go girl.
You’re welcome, Caroline! I’m so glad my blog has been so helpful for you.
I made this yesterday for a baby shower at work. It’s a delicious recipe and everybody enjoyed it!! I will have to make it for every pot luck here at work now, my supervisor said. Thanks for the recipe!
Everyone begged for this recipe at my get together! Loved it!
Great! Thanks for sharing it, too!
Can I use store bought pesto as a short cut?
You can. How ever the homemade is worth it! Depending on the thickness of your pesto, you may want to add some additional oil.
My kids loves your recipe for pesto pasta. So easy to make, but yummy❤❤❤
What a great recipe!!! I used my own pesto and it was still good!!!
Thanks for a delicious lunch!
Had a holiday party with gluten-free, vegan and nut-free colleagues. Made this recipe, opting for Barilla gluten-free spaghetti, and skipping the cheese. HUGE hit! Thanks!
You’re welcome! I’m glad it was such a hit with all dietary needs.
After I’ve tried this recipe once, I keep craving for it. It is really good.
I love to hear that!
Let me just say: WOW. I made this for the first time a couple months back for my big family gathering on Mother’s Day. Since we always have way too much food prepared, I thought for sure I’d have some leftover to take home—I swear it didn’t last more than 10 minutes once I put it out on the counter!! My family went nuts. I’ve since made it three more times AND had to give the recipe out to all my sisters.
We’re not vegan so I do usually end up adding a little ricotta to the pesto each time for some creaminess, and of course I throw in all the goods: chickpeas, kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, and some feta. This pesto pasta salad is a keeper FOR SURE.
Hi Cookie & Kate. I just started trying different ideas and came across your recipes which I found fantastic. I will be making a lot of different combinations to trial over a 12 week healthy Lifestyle challenge and will be placing ingredients and recipes in Jars. Keep up your great work.
Thank you, Tracy!
I had a question about assembling the salad. I wasn’t sure if I should wait for the pasta to cool or not. Since it was a weekday lunch, I just did a quick assembly. I have to say that I loved the slightly wilted spinach and the intensity of warmed tomatoes. And the pesto just melted into the pasta.
I’ll try this one again with other variations!
Thank you for sharing, Mary!
Can I make this the day befor or will it be to strong
Hi! You can, but your arugula may wilt and not be as fresh. Let me know what you think!
American cuisine? It looks yummy but Pesto pasta is italian origin.
Hi Katie! Thank you for your feedback. Yes, you are correct about pesto having Italian roots. Although I did take liberties that may not be as traditionally Italian as to why it is labeled different.
Delicious! Made this beautiful salad today with spinach and tossed in a jar of artichoke hearts. Thank you!!
You’re welcome, Susan.
This is so delicious. I made it for my daughter’s 12th birthday party a few weeks ago and it was a big hit. Then I made more the next day as she loved it so much. I’m now making it again. I could eat this every day.
I just made the pesto pasta salad. Oh my goodness!! It’s the best ever! I added in all the optional extras and used cotija cheese instead of the feta since that’s what I had. Thank you Kate! Another winner!!
Hooray! I’m excited you loved it, Sherry. I appreciate your review.
Hi , and thank you for all the great recipes! My question is if you’re using gluten free pasta , such as brown rice pasta, do you think saving and using some of the cooking water would apply as well to enhance the sauce in the same way as semolina pasta?
Hi Maureen, I find using the cooking water with brown rice pasta works similarly to wheat pasta water to get a sauce.
Very delicious! I added cut up Persian cucumbers and a couple splashes of red wine vinegar. I used store bought pesto so it saved me some time.
Thank you for sharing how you adapted this recipe, Lydia! I appreciate your review.
Patricia E Fernandez
Hello! I found your recipe (and wonderful Cookie + Kate blog) while searching for a pasta recipe that called for pesto. Made the recipe using brown rice pasta, arugula, mozzarrella pearls, chickpeas, cherry tomatoes and substituted with carrot top pesto I made at home. Wow. The recipe is amazing. I’m subscribing to your newsletter now and look forward to more. Happy New Year 2022!
Welcome, Patricia! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I appreciate you taking the time to review.
How long will this keep in the fridge?
It’s best right away, but should keep well for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
Just made this yesterday! Amazing & delicious! My 17 year old wants me to make it again!
Made this today bc I needed quick recipe for a family event – used gf pasta and it worked perfectly! Love it!
Great to hear, Jennifer! I appreciate your review.