You only need 5 ingredients and 15 minutes to make this easy Pesto Pasta dish! It is the perfect pasta salad for summertime parties or busy weeknights. And it’s my go-to for a quick and easy dinner. Not only does my whole family love it, but it makes a large amount and that means a ready-to-go lunch for the next day.
This salad was fantastic! Took to a potluck and received rave reviews from those who tried it. This will definitely be made again!— Liz
This quick pesto pasta salad is a must-have for all of your summer gatherings. It’s fresh, flavorful and it can be on the table in just about 15 minutes. Yes, that quick!
This pesto pasta recipe is an easy mix of farfalle pasta, cherry tomatoes and black olives, all tossed in basil pesto and finished off with feta cheese. It’s also super versatile, so feel free to add other favorite ingredients and even chicken for a boost of protein. I love that this dish is full of tons of great flavors and textures, yet is easy enough to be whipped up at a moment’s notice. My kids love it too! In fact, it’s my son’s very favorite meal! The fact that it can be a side or a main entree is a plus for this mama’s busy schedule and I’m sure it will be for yours as well!
The mouthwatering mix of tender noodles, delicious basil pesto, tangy feta and all the veggies is a winning flavor combination sure to impress your family and friends. Here’s everything you’ll need to make this recipe:
- Pasta. Any short pasta works well. Rigatoni, penne, fusilli, rotini, elbows and farfalle (also known as bowtie pasta) are good options.
- Basil pesto. Homemade pesto or store bought, if you want to save some time. My favorite store-bought pesto is Kirkland from Costco. Tastes like fresh pesto and the bright color can’t be beat!
- Black olives. I love the salty, savory taste that black olives add. Any olive will work nicely — use your favorite. Kalamata olives are a great alternative option and if you’re not a fan, simply omit.
- Feta cheese. This salty addition pulls everything together in this salad. If you have the choice between buying a block or crumbled feta at your grocery store, always stick with the block. The containers of crumbled feta typically have powdered cellulose, which causes the feta to be harder and taste a bit drier. (It also results in shorter shelf life.) Here are some tips for navigating supermarket feta cheese.
- Cherry tomatoes. While any tomatoes will work, we love the sweetness and juiciness of cherry or grape tomatoes. Quarter large cherry tomatoes or halve smaller ones.
How to make this recipe
If you need a dish for a potluck or picnic, this pasta salad is a must. Al dente pasta is tossed with zesty feta cheese, sliced black olives, and tomatoes (or roasted red pepper), all tossed with a flavorful basil pesto to create the perfect side dish. Your friends and family will definitely be asking you for the recipe of this delicious salad.
It could not be easier to throw together. Here’s the simple method:
Full, printable recipe at the bottom of the page.
- Cook the pasta. Boil the pasta according to package directions in a large pot of salted water until al dente.
- Chop the veggies. While the pasta is cooking, chop the tomatoes and prepare the other ingredients. This keeps things moving quick and decreases prep time. You’ll have this whole salad ready to go in mere minutes, which is pretty awesome considering it can last in the fridge for about 5 days!
- Toss all ingredients. Once the pasta has cooked, drain it and run it under cold water to quickly cool it off. Then, place all of the ingredients along with the drained pasta in a large bowl. Toss with the pesto until all ingredients are well coated. Taste and add salt, if needed. With the saltiness of the pesto sauce and feta, I usually don’t need to add salt.
- Serve. You can serve this at room temperature or chilled. To chill, refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Garnish with fresh basil and crumbled feta cheese and enjoy!
Everything to love about this dish
- So simple! This recipe has very few ingredients – only five, but still so much flavor and texture.
- Quick! This pasta salad is SUPER quick to whip up. If you’re really being speedy, you can totally have this ready to serve in 15 minutes.
- Customizable. Make this recipe your own! I personally love halved cherry tomatoes in my salad, but my son is not a tomato fan, so sometimes we use chopped roasted red pepper instead. No biggie!
- Bulk it up! You can add any protein you want and really make it a complete meal. There have been many times I’ve added shredded rotisserie chicken or shrimp and it’s fabulous.
- Leftovers are delicious! This recipe makes quite a large bowl of pasta, so if I’m just serving my family we usually have lots of leftovers. And it’s just as tasty the next day. If the pasta has become a little dry, simply stir in a drizzle of olive oil or even water and it will moisten everything back up.
Tips & variations
- Make ahead. You can make this recipe up to 6 hours before you plan on serving it. Like most foods, it’s best served immediately but will still taste great if it needs to be served later.
- Change it up. If you feel like adding more veggies, some great additions are artichoke hearts, red onion, sautéed zucchini or mushrooms. You can also add a boost of protein by including grilled chicken, shrimp, salmon or cubed salami.
- Pasta types. For this pesto pasta, any short pasta will work. I really like bowtie pasta, but other great choices are penne or rotini.
- Cheese. Instead of feta, try a different type of cheese such as fresh mozzarella balls, grated fontina or parmesan cheese.
- Pesto. If you can find fresh pesto in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, it has much better and bolder flavor than the jarred pesto.
- Nuts. Feel free to add some nuts for crunch! I love adding pepitas, pine nuts, walnuts or slivered almonds.
This is great as a side dish with steak, chicken or fish. Or make this pesto chicken pasta by stirring cubed chicken into the salad. You could also serve this atop baby spinach, arugula or kale to increase the veggie goodness.
Store leftover pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for about 5 days. Before serving again, give it a good stir and moisten it with olive oil or water, as needed.
Once you try this pesto pasta, you’ll find yourself making it on a regular basis – it’s just SO good!
If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment and if your family loves it as much as mine does, be sure to give it a five star ⭐️ rating! Also, tag @kimscravings on Instagram with a picture of your creation. It’s so fun to see what you’re cooking! Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list to receive more healthy delicious recipes straight to your inbox.
- 1 pound pasta*
- 6-8 ounce premade pesto
- 2.25-3.8 ounce can sliced black olives, drained
- 5-6 ounces crumbled feta cheese**
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered or sliced roasted red peppers from a 16 ounce jar
- Cook the pasta al dente in a large stockpot of salted water according to package instructions. Drain pasta, then rinse under cold water for about 20-30 seconds until no longer hot. Transfer the pasta to a large mixing bowl.
- Add all other ingredients into the mixing bowl with the pasta. Toss until all of the ingredients are evenly coated with the pesto.
- Serve immediately, garnished with fresh chopped parsley and black pepper, if desired. This pasta is great served warm, room temperature or chilled. Enjoy!