Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad

Pesto is great with pasta whether it's warm OR cold. This creamy pesto pasta salad is a great make-ahead side dish to feed a crowd, or a great dinner all on its own.

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Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad

  • Prep Time: 25 m
  • Total Time: 25 m
  • Servings:


  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves packed tightly
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound campanelle rotini or gemelli pasta
  • 1 cucumber halved and sliced
  • 2 cups red and yellow cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1 orange pepper large dice
  • ½ red onion thinly sliced
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella diced or small balls


  1. Cook pasta according to the package instructions, until it is al dente – about 9 minutes. Drain the pasta and rinse it with cold water to wash off the starch. Transfer the pasta to large bowl and let it cool.
  2. Make the dressing. Using a food processor running with the lid on, drop the garlic and Parmesan cheese down the feed tube and process to fine crumbs. Add the pine nuts and process again. Add the basil leaves and drizzle the olive oil down the feed tube slowly while the processor runs and blends everything together. Add the buttermilk and mayonnaise and process until smooth. Season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Set the dressing aside.
  3. Add the cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, orange peppers, red onion and fresh mozzarella to the bowl with the pasta. Pour the dressing over the top and toss to coat. Season the salad with salt and fresh ground black pepper and serve chilled.
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Comments (11)Post a Reply

  1. Made this for supper tonight. Added a pressure cooked chicken breast. We loved it!! We each had two huge helpings. I liked the dressing so much, I think I will use it for other salads. Thanks much.

  2. Why does the list of ingredients call for 1/4 grated Parmesan but the video shows pieces of Parm going in to the food processor? If I want to use Parm pieces, how many ounces?

    1. Hi Marjorie. When I’m using whole Parmesan, I just eyeball what I think looks like a quarter of a cup. I would guess roughly 1 ounce of Parmesan would yield ¼ cup grated.

    1. Hi Carolyn. You could use walnuts instead of pine nuts or you could leave the nuts out and add a little less oil. They add to the consistency and the flavor, but you don’t have to use nuts if you don’t want to – it will still be tasty.

    My husband has never liked tomatoes and will usually pick them out and push them off to the side. I used the sungold tomatoes and basil from our garden. He loved it and had to admit the tomatoes really added “that something”. It holds up very well as a makeahead dish with no separation or sogginess. Great dish for summer bar-b-que.

    Also love your pizza crust and make it frequently. Hugs to Hazel and LouLou

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