Lemon Pesto Pasta Salad

This simple pasta salad is filling, tasty and perfect for barbecues and picnics. It travels well, tastes better with time and is a real crowd pleaser.  The pesto recipe that is used to dress the salad is a versatile recipe on its own. You can use it to flavour warm pasta dishes, in soups or even as a spread on a wrap or sandwich.

Everybody sing with me “You can win friends with salad!  You can win friends with salad!”…okay, this is probably lost on non-Simpson fans.  But the gist of it is that salads can be loved by all. They don’t have to be just vegetable based, full of kale and greens (although I love those salads). When appealing to a crowd of hungry omnivores, you have to expand their thinking to what salad means.  Pasta salad is a great way to do that. Much like when you are making a warm pasta dinner, pasta is a great canvas to introduce a worthy serving of vegetables.

Pesto as Dressing

Pasta Salad Pesto DressingEveryone should have a go to pasta salad on hand, that doesn’t include a good old glug of bottled salad dressing to pull it all together.  This salad uses pesto as the dressing, which packs a lot of flavour, colour and nutritional benefits without added sodium, sugars, harmful oils or ‘natural flavours’ that are as nondescript as they are not natural. In order to make this pesto as palatable for those we are trying to win over with our salad, I cut down on the amount of basil by adding the more delicate flavoured parsley and replaced traditional pine nuts (with their strong, distinct flavour) with walnuts.  Further, because this is a plantiful dish I omit the parmesan cheese and replace the flavour with lemon.

The Pasta

You can make this pasta with whichever shape you want, and whichever kind you can tolerate. I use a gluten-free pasta to make it digestible for everyone, but you can opt for a whole grain pasta, or even a tri-coloured vegetable flavoured pasta.

I made this salad for those people around your table who might be salad-averse, not big fans of pesto and who need a little more substance in their salad.

Get Those Veggies In There (it is a salad after all)

Pasta Salad Veggie OptionsYou can add in whichever other vegetables you have on hand, or want to introduce to your family.
In this one, I have a sister who is not a fan of onions, and a couple of kids
who don’t like tomatoes. So the red onions are cut thinly so they don’t overpower, and I only included 1/2 cup of tomatoes.  Also using red onion and halved tomatoes makes them easy for them to pick out and leave for the rest of us to eat.

Some other great additions (or substitutions) in this recipe would be:

  • Slightly steamed asparagus
  • Green beans (raw or slightly steamed)
  • Black olives
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach

Let me know what kind of veggies you like in your Lemon Pesto Pasta Salad!

Lemon Pesto Pasta Salad
Lemon Pesto
Lemon Pesto
  1. In a food processor, layer the ingredients in the order listed. Blend all of the ingredients together until a smooth sauce is created. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
Pasta salad
  1. In a large bowl combine the pasta and vegetables.
  2. Pour the pesto over the salad ingredients and toss well to coat everything evenly.
  3. Serve and enjoy!

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