Pesto Pasta Salad #ProgressiveEats

With summer in full swing and our gardens lush with fresh herbs, it’s the perfect time to start the harvest. With scissors in hand, I clipped my homegrown basil and whizzed it up to use in this terrific, adaptable Pesto Pasta Salad!

Pesto Pasta Salad | Pasta with a pesto dressing and so much more!

Make this Pesto Pasta Salad Your Own

A variation of this recipe appears in Winners, the Junior League of Indianapolis’ first cookbook. I’ve eaten it at numerous parties and even had a batch delivered to my door when I had a newborn in tow. Pretty much all foodies in Indy know of its existence. It’s a terrific recipe, but the pesto dressing is made with dried basil and marjoram. I knew I could improve upon that. Like any pasta salad, this beauty can be made according to your family’s preferences. Artichoke hearts are a must and I love the color contrast of red bell peppers and peas. Adding chicken and pepperoni make this a legitimate lunch (or if you’re me, a just as fabulous dinner). An extra dose of Parmesan would also be nice as would chunks of fresh mozzarella. Tweak away!

Pesto Pasta Salad | Pasta with a pesto dressing and so much more!


Progressive Eats

It’s been a full year since we started this blogger group where 12 of us gather each month to create a party menu or cook to a theme. Barb, our fearless leader, chose herbs for July, and you’ll find the terrific line up below. These innovative blogging friends will have your mouth watering in no time. Be sure to click through to check out the terrific recipes.

Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. This month’s theme is Cooking with Herbs and is hosted by Barb Keibel who blogs at Creative Culinary. With so many marvelous herbs available during the summer, it’s time to start cooking!

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats, a theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out.

We have a core group of 12 bloggers, but we will always need substitutes and if there is enough interest would consider additional groups. To see our upcoming themes and how you can participate, please check out the schedule at Creative Culinary or contact Barb for more information.

Cooking with Herbs

Progressive Eats

Pesto Pasta Salad #ProgressiveEats

Prep time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 10-12 servings

A delicious, highly adaptable pasta salad dressed with pesto and full of meats and vegetables! Adapted from Winners Cookbook.
  • ¼-1/2 cup homemade pesto (recipe below)
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 10 ounces cooked pasta (favorite shape, cooked in salted water, drained and cooled)
  • 10 ounces artichoke hearts, cut in half
  • 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • ¼ cup black or green olives, cut in half
  • ½ a red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large chicken breast, cooked, cooled and cut into chunks
  • ¼ cup pepperoni or salami, cut into bite sized pieces if needed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. Whisk together pesto and mayonnaise. Start with ¼ cup of pesto and add more if desired. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, add the rest of the ingredients except for the salt and pepper. Gently toss with the dressing, taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Serve immediately.
Store leftovers in the refrigerator.
This salad is very adaptable. Leave out ingredients you don't want. Add other vegetables like broccoli, blanched snow peas, green onions, red onions. Change up the pasta shape or use tortellini.

Classic Pesto

Prep time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 6 servings

A classic pesto recipe adapted from Marcella Hazan.
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed, then rinsed and dried.
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • ⅓ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Romano cheese
  1. Place basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and a large pinch of salt in bowl of food processor. Process till smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  2. Mix together cheeses, then add to basil mixture and mix by hand till combined.
  3. If not using immediately, store in refrigerator with plastic wrap pressed over surface.

Pesto Pasta Salad | Pasta with a pesto dressing and so much more!


  1. This is a very refreshing, summery salad Liz! I love it!

  2. This looks delicious, Liz! The perfect summer meal.

  3. What a wonderful dinner salad! I could eat my weight in pasta salad, so it’s probably not a bad idea to add all the vegetables and chicken that you added to yours! lol And I know the pesto must make the whole thing taste so bright and fresh!

  4. One for my list! Without olives obviously 😀

  5. Sounds and looks delicious, Liz! And the pine nut addition is perfect for it. I really like that bowl, great for showing off your salad! Have a good rest of the week!

  6. There is something about a Pasta dish with pesto that says delicious and comforting. A freshly made pesto with pine nuts is the real deal. Loved the play of vegetables and protein together.

  7. This looks amazing. Pinning for my next picnic!

  8. This reminds me of the “Mob Salad” at one of our favorite restaurants. Love anything with pesto! (I also heart Junior League cookbooks! Will have to check out this one.)

  9. What a perfect salad for summer! Pesto salads in the summer are the BEST.

  10. This pesto salad look amazing !!! lovethis plate Lizzy!

  11. Your pesto pasta salad looks so fresh and full of flavours!

  12. Dear Lizzy, this salad is right up my alley for these hot summer days and nights! xo, Catherine

  13. Yes to this for dinner! It’s hard to do, but you have totally outdone those deli pasta salads that always manage to taste so good.

  14. Lynn@Happier Than A Pig In Mud says:

    I love pasta salads and this sounds like a good one! Enjoy those fresh herbs:@)

  15. I LOVE pesto pasta salad . . one of my faves! I could seriously eat this everyday in the summer. . love the chicken breast, and the pepperoni or salami!!! Meat lovers dream!

  16. What a beautiful summer salad Liz – just perfect for this hot weather!

  17. What a great use of basil in your pesto recipe. I always wonder what to do with mine.

  18. This looks wonderful…somehow my copy doesn’t have mayo in it so somewhere along the line someone passed it on to me without the mayo ingredient listed. Probably just as well, lol. Your version looks wonderful!

  19. I love pasta salads in the summertime. This looks delicious. I love the pesto dressing on this salad.

  20. Now this is some delicious eats. I love peas in my pasta salad and love the pesto too. Delicious and perfect for a progressive dinner or any gathering and a perfect dish to pass.

  21. This is a really colourful pasta salad and I think it would make a terrific meal especially on a hot summer’s night. I love pesto so this has all the right flavours for me xx

  22. What an absolutely beautiful summer-fresh, herby pasta salad, Liz! I can understand why it is so well-known and popular in Indy! I love your additions! And yes, artichokes are a MUST in salads! I absolutely cannot wait to try this and will let you know (just how much I’ll love it). Isn’t gardening just the best? Nothing can ever get as fresh and flavorful!

  23. This is the kind of salad I could make into a meal – it sounds scrumptious, especially with the fresh herbs, chicken and pepperoni or salami!

  24. For me, both pesto and pasta salad just scream summer! So a pasta salad with pesto is calling my name – very loudly :-) Serve this with a little baguette and a glass of wine and you have a perfect lunch or dinner.

  25. I love pesto salads, this is a must make!

  26. Fantabulous summer salad fun, Liz! And apparently delicious too ! There is obviously a reason everyone in Indianapolis knows about pesto pasta salad =)

  27. This is such a delicious salad dear Liz! We loved your combination and we won’t change this even a bit!:)
    And you’re right: Now that the summer is in its peak the garden offers so many wonderful things to enjoy!
    Have a beautiful week ahead!
    Panos and Mirella

  28. This along with a slice of crusty bread, crisp white wine and I’m a happy camper!

  29. Thanks for moving this beyond the confines of Indy and sharing it with us Liz; can’t tell you how mu ch I love salads like this. And my Jr. League cookbooks too; they always have the BEST recipes!

  30. Lizzy,
    I have basil growing too. I even have a purple basil. I bet that would make for a very colorful pesto. This is such a lovely recipe.

  31. It’s been a hot few days and this pasta salad makes a perfect summer meal. I could definitely have this 2 – 3 times a week.


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