Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad
Creamy pesto pasta salad is a summer favorite! This pasta salad recipe is perfect for picnics, potlucks, or any summer bbq. It’s loaded with crispy bacon, juicy tomatoes, mini mozzarella, arugula, and pasta in a creamy pesto sauce.
This pasta salad is full of flavor and texture and will totally wow a crowd! I love how easy it is to make this recipe, especially if you’re short on time and need a side dish in a pinch. You’ll be making this creamy pesto pasta salad all summer long!
The Best Pasta Salad Recipe Ever
If you’re in Texas, you’re probably familiar with Central Market–HEB’s high-end sister store. Imagine the nicest Whole Foods you’ve ever been to and Central Market is BETTER. They have a large deli section with all kinds of proteins and sides and they make a pesto pasta salad. As soon as I tried it, I knew I had to recreate it.
I made a couple of tweaks to make it my own, but the result was this incredible pasta salad recipe. Imagine if a pesto BLT and a pasta salad merged–this recipe is their love child. All I can say is I’m never not making a pasta salad without crispy bacon and mini mozzarella bits!
How to make Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad
This recipe couldn’t be easier to make! I decided to make my own pesto sauce because I had basil that I needed to use, but you can use your favorite pesto!
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Pesto. You can make your own or use your favorite store bought! Opt for the fresh pesto in the refrigerated section.
- Pasta. My favorite pasta shape for pasta salad is cavatappi but use your favorite.
- Mayonnaise and Sour Cream. The combo of mayo and sour cream makes the perfect creamy base for our sauce.
- Shallot. Finely minced shallot gives the perfect punch of onion flavor without being overwhelming.
- Cherry tomatoes. Find the best and ripest little tomatoes you can!
- Bacon. Crispy bacon chopped and added to this creamy pesto pasta salad is everything.
- Mozzarella. I love using little fresh mozzarella balls (bocconcini), but if you can’t find them you can cut up a larger ball of fresh mozzarella.
- Arugula. Fresh arugula adds beautiful color and a bit of peppery goodness.
- Step one: Start by cooking your pasta in salted water until it’s al dente. Drain and rinse the pasta with cold water, which keeps the pasta from continuing to cook.
- Step two: While the pasta cooks, cook your bacon until crispy. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain off excess fat and then chop it into chunks.
- Step three: Whisk together all the ingredients for the creamy pesto dressing.
- Step four: Toss it all together! Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
Add a Protein to your Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad
It’s so easy to make this creamy pesto pasta salad a complete meal! If you want to beef this pasta salad up, try adding some grilled chicken, grilled shrimp, or even grilled portobello mushrooms.
Marinate your protein of choice in some extra pesto sauce before grilling to really create a cohesive dish. I love using homemade pesto sauce, but use whatever your favorite brand is. Just make sure to select a fresh pesto sauce from the refrigerated section for best results.
Storing Leftover Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad
In the event that you have leftover creamy pesto pasta salad (you may not though!), you can store it in an airtight container for up to 4-5 days.
I don’t recommend freezing pasta salad because the pasta and veggies often times end up a bit mushy. This pasta is at its peak freshness served the day of, so this recipe can easily be halved for a smaller crowd.
More Summer Recipes to Try Now
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Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad
- 2/3 cup pesto sauce
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 1 shallot, finely minced
- 1/3 cup reserved pasta water
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 16 oz cavatappi pasta
- 12 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
- 10 strips bacon, cooked until crispy and roughly chopped
- 2 cups arugula
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta to al dente (usually 2 minutes shy of package instructions). Reserve 1/3 cup of pasta water and drain the pasta. Rinse with cold water until cool. Transfer pasta to a large bowl.
- Whisk together all the dressing ingredients until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Toss the pasta with dressing and the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.