Pesto Pasta Salad

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Mary Ann Addis

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A salad that represents the colors of the Italian flag, and sparks of magic in every bite is a winning dish for me! Great to have as a side or main, at home or at a picnic. I give full permission to splurge on Pecorino, Parmigiani Reggiani, and Mozzarella! Just sayin’!



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Pesto Pasta Salad

A salad that represents the colors of the Italian flag, and sparks of magic in every bite.
Active Time10 minutes
Total Time25 minutes
Course: Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: easy, homemade, mozzarella, pasta, pesto, salad


  • 1 lb Cavatappi or elbow pasta
  • Fresh mozzarella, cubed ciliegine 
  • 10-12 Cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • Kosher Salt


  • ¼ cup Pine nuts
  • 1 clove Garlic
  • 2 cups Basil leaves, packed
  • cup Pecorino Romano, shredded
  • cup Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 Lemon, zest
  • pinch Kosher Salt
  • ⅓-⅔ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil


  • In a large pot, boil water with a generous pinch of salt. Cook two minutes under directed times (al diente). Drain, reserving ¾ cup pasta cooking water.
  • Meanwhile, add the pine nuts to a food processor to create a thick paste. Then add the garlic clove, pecorino, parmesan, lemon zest, and basil. 
  • Scrape the sides of the food processor, and process again while drizzling the extra virgin olive oil. I like pesto to be slightly chunky. Just eyeball the olive oil to your liking. 
  • Cut the cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella to the same size. Alternatively, mozzarella balls, also known as ciliegine, can be cut in half as the cherry tomatoes. 
  • Drain the pasta, and into a large bowl, add the cooked pasta along with the pesto. If too dry, add a little of the pasta water, about a tablespoon. Add the chopped cherry tomatoes and mozzarella, and toss. Eat right away, or refrigerate. Drizzle a little more olive oil, and enjoy!


Since this recipe has minimal ingredients, using the best cheese is essential. 12 months Parmigiano reggiano and Pecorino Romano are sold in most grocery stores. Get a bargain when buying at Costco! A little goes a long way!



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