Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad is perfect as a side or a main dish all summer long! Easy to customize, this mayo free creamy pasta salad is the perfect weeknight dish. You’ll definitely need to stock up on basil!
I love basil. Every summer, I try and grow some and inevitably kill it. On account that basil seems to be the most simple plant to grow and maintain, it really says something about the strength of my black thumb.
Last year I was doing pretty well, but then spiders decided that they wanted to live in my basil, so I was done. Nope. I don’t do spiders. I willingly abandoned my basil and bought it from the store all summer.
Thankfully, it doesn’t matter where you get your basil for this recipe. This creamy pesto pasta salad is a family favorite. We honestly make it at least once a week.
How to customize creamy pesto pasta salad:
You can also switch up this recipe to your family’s taste – sometimes we mix in grilled chicken or Italian sausage. Others I add in artichoke or olives. Here are some ideas!
- Add a protein. Try grilled chicken, sausage – we’ve even used mini meatballs!
- Add more veggies. Chopped fresh summer veggies, grilled veggies like zucchini or mushrooms.
- Fun additions like olives, artichokes, or sundried tomato are all great additions.
- Get a bonus veggie kick with my vegetable pesto sauce.
Can I make Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad ahead of time?
Yup! The ricotta keeps the basil from browning much, so it stays green pretty well. You can easily assemble the night before.
Another option is to make the sauce and cook the pasta the night before, then just assemble in the morning.
How long does this dish keep?
I recommend 3-4 days max in the fridge. After that, the pasta can get a little bit funky.
Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad
Creamy pesto sauce is mixed with whole grain pasta, mini mozzarella, roasted peppers and tomato for the perfect summer dish. Though, we actually eat it all year round!
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Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad
- 1 lb pasta of choice
- 2 cups loosely packed basil
- 1 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese
- 1-3 crushed garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Pepper to taste
- Optional: cherry tomatoes sundried tomatoes, roasted pepper, fresh mozzarella
Cook pasta as per the directions, then drain, rinse, and toss with a little bit of olive oil to avoid sticking. Allow to cool.
Add all ingredients other than the optional add-ons to a blender or food processor and process until smooth.
If needed, add salt and more pepper. Sauce should be thick, but if it’s too thick add 1 TBS more oil and process.
Mix pesto with toppings and pasta and serve.
This creamy pesto sauce is also amazing on warm pasta, as a spread on sandwiches, and with shredded or chopped chicken as a chicken salad.
So tell me – can you keep a plant alive? What’s your favorite herb? Let me know in the comments!
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