30-Minute Dinner/ Dinner/ Party/ Salad

Pesto Pasta Salad

30 August 2022 By Aleksandra

Pesto pasta salad is quick to make but packed with so much flavor. Al dente pasta, lemony basil pesto, mozzarella, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, peppery arugula, parmesan, and crispy prosciutto. It’s great for lunch or you can take it to a potluck party or a picnic! This salad is definitely a crowd-pleaser!

A close up photo of pesto pasta salad on a white plate.

Ingredients

Below you will find information about the ingredients and how to prepare the recipe. For the measurements and detailed instructions scroll down to the printable recipe card.

Here’s what you need to make pesto pasta salad:

Labeled ingredients for pesto pasta salad.
  • Pasta – use any medium-sized pasta that you like. I used spirals (fusilli), but bowties or penne would also work.
  • Pesto – you can always use store-bought but I would really encourage you to make this homemade lemony basil pesto. It’s so full of flavor and really brightens up the whole salad.
  • Parmesan – parmesan shaved into thin strips using a vegetable peeler. Pecorino cheese would also be delicious here.
  • Arugula – has a nice peppery flavor and works really well with this salad. You can also use spinach.
  • Tomatoes – I used mini San Marzano tomatoes but you can also use grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes.
  • Cucumber.
  • Mozzarella – I used mini mozzarella balls since they look so nice but you can also use regular-sized mozzarella cut into small cubes. Buffalo Mozzarella would be even better but it’s more expensive.
  • Crispy Prosciutto – make a perfect topping for this salad – ultra crispy, salty, porky, so delicious – you won’t have enough of it!

What you could also add:

  • crispy toasted flaked almonds would also be great as a topping for this salad
  • olives
  • sun-dried tomatoes
  • artichoke hearts
  • pepperoncini peppers for some heat
  • corn

For the lemony basil pesto you will need:

Labeled ingredients for basil pesto.
  • fresh basil
  • lemon juice and zest
  • olive oil
  • fresh garlic
  • parmesan cheese (freshly grated for the best flavor)
  • nuts – you can use pine nuts, almonds, or walnuts

This recipe for basil pesto has been developed specifically for this recipe. It would be too runny and too lemony to use, for example, on a toast. It works perfectly in this pasta salad recipe. If you’d like to try a more traditional pesto recipe, check out this recipe for basil pesto.

You could also make parsley pesto (more affordable than basil pesto) or arugula pesto and use it in this recipe but you would need to make it more runny (add more olive oil) and lemony (add lemon zest and more lemon juice).

How to make pesto pasta salad step by step

Pasta in a pot. Basil pesto in a food processor.

STEP 1: Cook the pasta al dente (it should have a bite to it) according to the package instructions. Drain and let cool slightly. Add to a large bowl.

STEP 2: Make pesto: wash basil and gently pat dry the leaves. Add all the ingredients for the pesto except the olive oil into a food processor. Process until almost smooth. Add the olive oil and gently pulse until just combined (don’t mix it at high speed). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Prosciutto ham in a black skillet.

STEP 3+4: Make crispy prosciutto: you can make it on the stovetop or in the oven. On the stovetop: heat some oil in a non-stick pan, when hot place the prosciutto slices (can’t overlap) and cook over medium heat on both sides until browned and crispy. In the oven: preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C), line a baking sheet with parchment paper, lay prosciutto slices in a single layer (can’t overlap). Bake for about 12 minutes or until browned and crispy. Transfer to a plate (it will become more crispy while cooling).

Chopped vegetables and mozzarella on a chopping board. All the ingredients for the pesto pasta salad in a white pot.

STEP 5: Prepare the remaining ingredients: Cut tomatoes and mozzarella balls in half, peel and slice the cucumber, wash and dry arugula, cut parmesan cheese into very thin slices using a vegetable peeler.

STEP 6: Assemble: Add all the ingredients except prosciutto to the pasta and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Top with crumbled crispy prosciutto.

Enjoy!

This summer pesto pasta salad tastes good hot or cold.

Pesto pasta salad on a white plate. Blue kitchen cloth in the background.

Storage

This pasta salad is best on the day it’s made. It will keep without problems for a couple of hours if you’d like to take it to a potluck/picnic but add the arugula just before serving so it’s still fresh and not wilted.

Crispy prosciutto should also be added just before serving so it stays crispy. You can mix it into the salad just before serving, but I usually just sprinkle it on top.

More delicious summer salad recipes

A close up photo of pesto pasta salad on a white plate.

Did you make this recipe? RATE THE RECIPE or tell me in the COMMENTS how you liked it! You can also add a photo of your dish. It would make me very happy and will help other readers. Thank you!!

Pesto Pasta Salad

Pesto pasta salad is quick to make but packed with so much flavor. Al dente pasta, lemony basil pesto, mozzarella, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, peppery arugula, parmesan, and crispy prosciutto. It’s great for lunch or you can take it to a potluck party or a picnic! This salad is definitely a crowd-pleaser!
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Pesto pasta salad on a white plate.
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Prep Time 23 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 556kcal
Author Aleksandra

Ingredients

for the pasta salad:

  • 8 oz (230g) spiral pasta (fusilli) or bowties
  • 1 cup pesto from the recipe below or store-bought
  • 6 slices (85g) prosciutto crudo
  • 20 grape or cherry tomatoes
  • a handful arugula
  • 1/2 English cucumber
  • 20 mini mozzarella balls
  • 1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese cut thinly with a vegetable peeler
  • salt and pepper to taste

for the lemony basil pesto:

  • 3 packed cups (45g) basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup (45g) grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts or almonds/walnuts
  • zest grated from 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Cook the pasta al dente (it should have a bite to it) according to the package instructions. Drain and let cool slightly. Add to a large bowl.
  • Make crispy prosciutto: you can make it on the stovetop or in the oven. On the stovetop: heat some oil in a non-stick pan, when hot place the prosciutto slices (can't overlap) and cook over medium heat on both sides until browned and crispy. In the oven: preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C), line a baking sheet with parchment paper, lay prosciutto slices in a single layer (can't overlap). Bake for about 12 minutes or until browned and crispy. Transfer to a plate (it will become more crispy while cooling).
  • Make pesto: wash basil and gently pat dry the leaves. Add all the ingredients for the pesto except the olive oil into a food processor. Process until almost smooth. Add the olive oil and gently pulse until just combined (don't mix it at high speed). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Add pesto to pasta and toss to combine.
  • Prepare other ingredients: Add cut in half tomatoes, cut in half mozzarella balls, sliced cucumbers, arugula, shaved parmesan cheese (sliced thinly with a vegetable peeler).
  • Toss everything together. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice if needed.
  • Crumble crispy prosciutto over the salad.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • This recipe for basil pesto has been developed specifically for this recipe. It would be too runny and too lemony to use, for example, on a toast. It works perfectly in this pasta salad recipe. If you’d like to try a more traditional pesto recipe, check out this recipe for basil pesto. You could also make parsley pesto (more affordable than basil pesto) or arugula pesto and use it in this recipe but you would need to make it more runny (add more olive oil) and lemony (add lemon zest and more lemon juice).
  • This salad tastes good hot or cold.
  • Calories = 1 serving (1/4 of the recipe). This is only an estimate!
Course Main Course, Salad
Cuisine American
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