The pasta salad of my youth involved a bowtie pasta coated in mayonnaise sauce dotted with canned black olives and shredded cheese.  A slightly better version consisted of spirals of pasta coated in Italian salad dressing and canned pimentos.  No wonder I didn’t love pasta salad as a kid.

While this pasta salad has evolved over the years, it started as a means of using up leftover ingredients from a charcuterie plate.  If I had to request a last meal, it would be a charcuterie plate with a bottle of Napa Cabernet.  I just love a meat and cheese plate for dinner.  It allows me to concoct several different permutations of meat, cheese, jam, honey, nuts, and fruit all in the same meal.  The specialty crackers take it to the next level – with the charcoal, rosemary, and nut-laden crackers being among my favorites. 

Like many of my other recipes, this is just a framework of suggestions.  If you don’t have toasted pine nuts, then pistachios would be just as delicious.  If you don’t have time to make homemade pesto, then pick up a jar from Fresh Market or Costco.  

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Pesto Pasta Salad

  • Author: Christina
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 12 servings 1x


This easy pesto pasta salad is perfect for a picnic or baby shower.


Units Scale
  • 2 roasted red bell peppers, sliced in strips
  • 1 pound pasta, cooked
  • 1/2 cup pesto
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup caramelized onions
  • 1/41/2 cup pasta water
  • 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup mozzarella balls
  • 1/3 cup pepper drops (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated parmigiano Reggiano for garnish


  1. First, roast the bell peppers.  Preheat an oven to 425 degrees F.  Line the bottom of a baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat.  Place the bell peppers on the baking sheet.  Roast for 30-40 minutes.  Rotate at least halfway through to get a good char on all sides of the bell pepper.
  2. Remove from the oven and place in a large bowl.  Wrap the bowl in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.  Allow the peppers to completely cool before peeling them.  Remove the top and seeds and discard.  Slide the peppers and set aside.
  3. While the peppers are roasting, make the pasta.  Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Generously salt the water.  Cook one pound of pasta until al dente, usually between 8-12 minutes.  Save 1 cup of pasta water.  Drain the pasta.
  4. Finally, make the pasta salad.  In a large bowl, combine the bell peppers, pesto, toasted pine nuts, caramelized onions, ¼ cup pasta water, sundried tomatoes, and mozzarella balls.  Toss to combine.  Add in the cooked pasta and toss to combine.  Add in more pasta water, as desired.  Season with salt and pepper.  Garnish with fresh grated parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: picnic food, pastas
  • Cuisine: italianish

Keywords: italianish, picnic food, pastas

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