Flavorful Pesto Pasta is quick and easy to make with just 5 ingredients in 15 minutes! It is the perfect pasta salad for potlucks and parties, or busy weeknights. Enjoy on its own or with your favorite proteins for the perfect main dish or side!

Pesto pasta tossed with cherry tomatoes and black olives.

Get ready for an absolute flavor explosion in this Pesto Pasta Salad recipe. It’s fresh, flavorful and it can be on the table in just about 15 minutes. Yes, that quick!

This is an easy mix of farfalle pasta, cherry tomatoes and black olives, all tossed in basil pesto and finished off with feta cheese. Pesto pasta is 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! It makes enough to feed a crowd and leftovers are great the next day!

Everything to love about this recipe

  • It’s so simple. This recipe has very few ingredients – only five, but still so much flavor and texture.
  • Quick! If you’re really being speedy, you can totally have your pasta salad 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 mixed in 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 extra-virgin olive oil or even water and it will moisten everything back up.

This salad was fantastic! Took to a potluck and received rave reviews from those who tried it. This will definitely be made again!

— Liz
Farfalle pasta mixed with cherry tomatoes, pesto and feta cheese.

Ingredients needed

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 pesto pasta recipe:

  • Pasta. Any type of pasta works well. Rigatoni, penne, fusilli, rotini, spaghetti, elbows and farfalle (also known as bowtie pasta) are good options. To make this recipe gluten free, use a gluten-free pasta.
  • 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. Add a delicious salty, savory taste. 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.
  • Fresh basil leaves. Optional, for garnish. You could also garnish with fresh parsley.

Buying pesto

According to Taste of Home, here’s the 3 best store-bought pesto sauces out of 10 popular brands. We find that buying the fresh pesto in the refrigerated section is tastier than the jarred pesto.

Pasta, feta cheese, black olives, cherry tomatoes and pesto divided into small bowls.

How to make this recipe

If you need a quick and tasty dish for a potluck or picnic, this is your solution! Al dente pasta is tossed with zesty feta cheese, sliced black olives, and tomatoes (or roasted red pepper), all coated in a flavorful basil pesto to create the perfect side dish or vegetarian main. 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.

  1. Cook pasta. Boil the pasta according to package directions in a large pot of salted water until al dente.
  2. 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!
  3. 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, we usually don’t need to add salt.
  4. 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! You can also add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for brightness and/or a sprinkle of red pepper flakes for a little spice.

Frequently asked questions

What goes good with pesto pasta?

Pesto pasta tastes amazing with everything from steak and chicken to fish. You can make this pesto chicken pasta by stirring chopped or shredded chicken into the salad. You could also serve this atop baby spinach, arugula or kale to increase the veggie goodness. Served as a main course, it pairs nicely with a fresh green salad or our favorite Italian Salad.

Is pesto pasta meant to be eaten cold?

This is one of our favorite dishes to bring to a party or potluck because it’s great served warm, cold or left out at room temperature.

Do you add pesto to hot or cold pasta?

Pesto can be added to hot or cold pasta. It is helpful to reserve ¼ to ½ cup of the pasta water and add some of it to the pasta and pesto mixture as you’re stirring everything together. The reserved pasta water makes the oils from the pesto stick to the pasta better.

Can you eat pesto straight from the jar?

Absolutely! Pesto can be used straight from the jar and should never be heated too much or cooked, as it can degrade and it will not taste as fresh.

Tips & variations

  • 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. Really any noodles will work, even spaghetti! We really like a short pasta, like bowtie pasta, but other great choices are penne pasta or rotini.
  • Cheese. Instead of feta, try a different type of cheese such as fresh mozzarella balls, grated fontina or parmesan cheese.
  • Nuts. Feel free to add some nuts for crunch! Pepitas, toasted pine nuts, walnuts or slivered almonds would be delicious.
  • Make it creamy. In the mood for a rich, decadent dish, made with heavy cream? Try this irresistible creamy pesto pasta recipe!

Serving suggestions

  • With fresh greens. Scoop a few large spoonfuls atop fresh baby spinach or another type of greens. Add a drizzle of olive oil as needed to dress the salad.
  • Bread. A slice of crusty bread goes is delicious with any saucy pasta! This would be great with with Rosemary Garlic Bread or Focaccia.  
  • Meatballs. Looking to add a boost of protein? Turkey Meatballs or Beef Meatballs would be so incredible!
  • Chicken. We often serve this with cooked chicken or shredded rotisserie chicken stirred in with all of the other ingredients.

Make ahead & storage

  • Make ahead. You can make this recipe up to 6 hours before you plan on serving it. Store it covered in the refrigerator. Like most foods, it’s best served immediately but will still taste great if it needs to be served later.
  • Storing leftovers. Place any leftovers 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.
Two white bowls filled with farfalle pasta mixed with basil pesto.

Once you try this pesto pasta, you’ll find yourself making it on a regular basis – it’s just SO good!

More easy dinner recipes

Looking for more quick & easy meals? Here’s some favs:

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. Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list to receive more healthy delicious recipes straight to your inbox.

Pesto pasta tossed with cherry tomatoes and black olives.
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Pesto Pasta

Flavorful Pesto Pasta is quick and easy to make with just 5 ingredients in 15 minutes! It is the perfect pasta salad for potlucks and parties, or busy weeknights. Enjoy on its own or with your favorite proteins for the perfect main dish or side!
Author: Kim


  • 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 or basil and black pepper, if desired. This pasta is great served warm, room temperature or chilled. Enjoy!


*Use any favorite pasta variety. Bowtie, Fusilli or Penne work best. For a gluten-free option, try a chickpea or brown rice pasta. 
**Any variety of feta works, but I typically use fat free.
Serving: 1cup, Calories: 248kcal, Carbohydrates: 24.9g, Protein: 8.1g, Fat: 12.8g, Saturated Fat: 1.6g, Monounsaturated Fat: 0.6g, Cholesterol: 4.1mg, Sodium: 499.2mg, Fiber: 1.5g, Sugar: 1.1g, Vitamin A: 1040IU, Calcium: 123mg, Iron: 1.2mg

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