The Ultimate Pesto Pasta Salad

The Ultimate Pesto Pasta Salad

Think you know all about pesto pasta, think again because this is the ultimate pesto pasta salad. Get the recipe below. 

From student staple to gourmet meal

Like many people, I discovered the wonderous dish that is pesto pasta when I was student. When a new term started and my parents offered to do me a big food shop I’d buy huge 5 kilogram bags of pasta and a shed load of pesto. It was the perfect lunch, dinner, or post clubbing snack and for 3 years I pretty much lived off of the stuff. As I moved out of student digs and eventually into my own flat, pesto pasta remained on the menu. It’s just so easy to pack up for lunch or to make after a long tiring day at work. But, since my student days this humble pasta dish has turned into something more nutritious and vibrant than just a stodgy bowl of carbs.

To make my ultimate pesto pasta salad you need a couple of fresh ingredients (your favourite lettuce leaves and some cherry tomatoes) as well as a range of antipasti (artichokes, black olives and capers). You can use any type of pasta you like but at the minute I love to use either rigatoni or ditali. Ideally you want a pasta shape that will let the pesto cling to it but that is also small enough to be scooped up with the rest of the ingredients in a single bite.

As for the pesto, I predominantly use a simple basil pesto – sometimes store bought, sometimes home made. Any green pesto will do, so feel free to experiment with carrot top pesto, wild garlic pesto or even fennel top pesto. The reason I suggest picking a green pesto is that the base is usually a herb or other green leaf which serves as a seasoning for this dish. A red pepper pesto for example would be an overwhelming flavour and we want to compliment the other ingredients in the dish rather than compete with them. If I’m using store bought pesto my favourite is Sacla’s Vegan Basil Pesto.

Each ingredient in this salad serves its own purpose which is why its so bloody good. I’ve tried a few times to throw in a few extra veggies, a cucumber here, a sweet pepper there, but the recipe you see below needs no tinkering with. It’s earthy, it’s salty, it’s sweet and it’s sour. Each mouthful is a burst of flavour and textures. I’ve packed this for picnics, served it as a side at BBQs and it’s a regular meal for us on weekday evenings. It’s fancy enough to serve to guests but also simple enough to be a quick and easy meal when you’re in a rush! What more could you want?

If you’re feeling extra fancy, a sprinkling of parmesan finishes the dish off nicely. Find out how to make your own vegan parmesan here.

A big bowl of pesto pasta salad

The recipe

A big bowl of pesto pasta salad

The Ultimate Pesto Pasta Salad

Think you know all about pesto pasta, think again because this is the ultimate pesto pasta salad.
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Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Dinner, lunch, Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 people


  • 200 grams pasta
  • 4 tbsp pesto
  • 150 grams mixed lettuce leaves
  • 14 cherry tomatoes halved
  • 85 grams sliced black olives (drained weight)
  • 250 grams sliced artichoke hearts (drained)
  • 2 tbsp capers (drained)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp parmesan optional


  • Cook the pasta according to it's instructions.
  • Drain and stir through the pesto before allowing to cool completely.
  • In a large bowl add the pesto pasta to the rest of the ingredients (except the parmesan if using) and toss until well combined.
  • Serve with a sprinkling of parmesan if desired.
Keyword artichokes, black olive, capers, cherry tomato, lettuce, pasta, pesto
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