Pesto Pasta Salad

Pesto Pasta Salad

This pesto pasta salad incorporates all of the fresh flavors of late summer. Basil is plentiful and tomatoes are at their peak. I was able to find some beautiful heirloom tomatoes at the farmer’s market. They were sweet and juicy. I was also able to find some purple garlic that was just as pretty as it was tasty. This dish is a go-to in our house and would be perfect to bring to a Labor Day cookout!

This pesto recipe is garlicky and bright with lemon zest. The fresh mozzarella is the perfect addition to the briny kalamata olives. These mozzarella pearls are really wonderful, but any fresh mozzarella could be cut into bite-sized pieces. I prefer to garnish the salad with pinenuts that I toast just until they are fragrant and golden and basil ribbons.

Serving Size: 8


1 pound of penne pasta
1 pint of heirloom cherry tomatoes
1 pint of fresh mozzarella pearls
1 cup of pitted kalamata olives
1/2 cup of grated parmesan
1/2 cup of toasted pine nuts
1 cup of fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 lemon
3 cloves of garlic


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half, roughly chop 3/4 of the basil, zest the lemon, mince the garlic and quarter the olives. Set the remaining basil leaves aside.

On a piece of foil, toast the pine nuts very briefly. When they are golden brown, pour them in a small dish so they do not burn.

In a food processor, add the chopped basil, the parmesan, the garlic, the olive oil, the lemon zest, half of the pine nuts and salt and pepper to taste.

Blend the pesto until it is a smooth consistency.

When the pasta is al dente, remove it from the stove and reserve one cup of pasta water.

Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

Add the pesto to the pasta and mix thoroughly.

Add a bit of pasta water to make sure that the pesto clings to the pasta.

When the pesto pasta has cooled to room temperature, add the mozzarella, olives and cherry tomatoes.

Stack the basil leaves on top of one another and roll them into a tube shape. Slice the basil into thin ribbons.

Garnish with the pine nuts and the basil ribbons and enjoy!