Pesto Pasta Salad with Sundried Tomatoes starts with fusilli pasta, and is tossed with fresh basil, creamy pesto and juicy cherry tomatoes. Walnut pieces are added for crunch and the pasta salad is finished off with grated parmesan cheese. This easy pasta salad is an excellent side dish for your next cookout or family gathering!
Pesto Pasta Salad with Sundried Tomatoes is the perfect summer side dish, but it can also be enjoyed anytime of year! I originally developed this recipe in July when basil and cherry tomatoes are in season. However, the delicious combination of flavors can be enjoyed in July or in January.
This pasta salad recipe does not contain mayonnaise, which is another reason why this is an excellent side dish for a summer party. You can pack this up and not worry about any creamy ingredients going bad while you're transporting it to your summer cookout.
I absolutely love the combination of flavors in this recipe and it's no secret that I LOVE pesto. If you're a regular reader of mine, you've surely noticed that pesto comes up a lot in my recipes!
- Pasta - I recommend using a fusilli noodle. Fusilli noodles are spiral shaped noodles that hold onto sauce really well. I photographed my ingredients with Rao's Homemade pasta. I highly recommend this brand! They are an authentic Italian brand that only uses premium ingredients. You truly can taste the difference in the flavor and texture of the pasta. If you don't have any spiral noodles then penne or shells would work well too.
- Sundried Tomatoes - Sundried tomatoes have an intense umami flavor. Due to the savory & rich flavor, a little goes a long way! I used sundried tomatoes packed in extra virgin olive oil. You can also find sundried tomatoes that are in a plastic bag and not packed in oil. These tomatoes need to be rehydrated with a little bit of water before using.
- Grated Parmesan Cheese - This recipe calls for an entire cup of grated parm! The parmesan coats the noodles, absorbs some of the oil from the pesto and sundried tomatoes and adds gritty texture to every bite.
- Fresh Basil - What is a summer meal without fresh basil? In the hot, summer months, I find myself adding basil to anything and everything I can. If you aren't growing your own basil, you can find it in abundant quantities at summer farmer's markets and also year-round in the produce section of the grocery store. When you bring your fresh basil home, do NOT put it in the refrigerator. If you do, the leaves will turn black and wilt. Store fresh basil like you would keep fresh flowers. Trim the ends and place them in a cup with some water on your kitchen counter.
- Basil pesto - If you enjoy making your own pesto then by all means, whip up your own batch of fresh basil pesto for this recipe. I don’t always have the ingredients on hand for homemade pesto sauce though, so I always have a jar of DeLallo Simply Pesto Traditional Basil in my kitchen cabinets. DeLallo brand basil pesto can be found in the grocery store in the pasta aisle near the marinara sauces.
- Cherry Tomatoes - I opted for a combination of yellow and red tomatoes. Use whatever you prefer! The cherry tomatoes add sweetness and pops of color to the pesto pasta salad.
- Walnuts - You will need walnut halves/pieces for this recipe. You can purchase them already chopped, or chop them up yourself. The walnuts add a mild, earthy crunch.
- Large soup pot to cook the pasta in
- Large mixing bowl
- Cutting board & chopping knife
- Measuring cups
This is a super simple recipe that can be whipped up in under 30 minutes. It can be made a day in advance or an hour and a half before you want to serve it. The prep time and effort is minimal - making it one of my favorite recipes!
- Cook your pasta.
- Chop up the cherry tomatoes, fresh basil leaves and sun dried tomatoes.
- Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
- Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.
- Serve the tomato pesto pasta salad with grilled chicken, broiled cod or alongside a juicy steak!
- Take a heaping cupful of the sundried tomato pasta salad and serve it over fresh salad greens.
- Take this to your next BBQ, cookout or potluck.
- Serve alongside my Roasted Dijon Chicken Thighs, Air Fryer Turkey Tenderloin, Air Fryer Frozen Salmon, or my Slow Cooker Pulled Pork.
Variations and Substitutions
- Pasta - Feel free to swap out the fusilli pasta for penne, macaroni shells or farfalle!
- Nuts - If you need this recipe to be nut free, then leave out the walnuts. You could also swap the walnuts for sunflower seeds or pine nuts so that you don't lose out on that crunch.
- Sun dried tomatoes - Not everyone appreciates the earthy, rich taste of sundried tomatoes. You could leave them out or substitute in roasted red peppers instead.
- Cheese - If you don't have parmesan cheese but don't want to lose that extra flavor, I would try adding some feta cheese or fresh mozzarella balls instead.
- Dairy free - To make this recipe dairy free, substitute in a dairy free parmesan cheese and a vegan pesto. Nutritional yeast is also a common substitution for parmesan cheese.
- Gluten free - Making this recipe gluten free is super simple. Just switch out the wheat-based pasta for a gluten free pasta!
I think any of the following additions would be delicious in this pasta salad. Versatility is one of the reasons why I love making pasta salad!
- Veggies - Green peas, red peppers, roasted eggplant or fresh mushrooms.
- Protein - Grilled shrimp, grilled chicken, white beans or crispy tofu.
- Olives - Green olives or Kalamata olives
Store this sun dried tomato pesto pasta salad in a sealed container in the refrigerator. This can be made up to a day in advance of serving. It will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.Print
This salad will keep in the refrigerator in a sealed, air-tight container for up to 3 days.
This pasta salad is vegetarian as their is no meat in this recipe. It is not vegan though. This is a cheese packed pasta salad! I did not make my pasta salad gluten free, however you could easily make this recipe gluten free by using gluten free pasta.
You could add a layer of pesto to any sandwich or wrap. Top roasted chicken or broiled fish with a dollop of pesto. Many of my recipes call for a pesto mayo spread. You could also use it as a marinade for veggies or chicken.