Spinach pesto pasta salad is perfect for casual summer dinners, made with healthy spinach basil pesto, white beans, tomatoes, mozzarella and olives.
Spinach pesto pasta salad is easy to make and easy to love. Pasta is tossed with healthy and flavorful spinach pesto, plus white beans, tomatoes, mozzarella, and olives...sounds delicious, right?
Looking for more pesto recipes? My favorite is Tuna Pesto Pasta, and I also love Lemon Garlic Shrimp Pasta with Basil Arugula Pesto and Baked Pesto Salmon with Gemelli Pasta.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Pasta: I like using corkscrew noodles like rotini, fusilli or gemelli for this pasta salad because pesto clings to the pasta well. However, you can use any type of short noodle, like shells, macaroni, bowties or penne.
Beans: Any variety of canned white beans work for this recipe, or you can substitute garbanzo beans.
Mozzarella: Fresh mozzarella balls (either cherry-sized Ciliegine or tiny pearl-sized balls called Perline) are easy to add and have mild, creamy flavor. For more flavor, add cubes of fontina, provolone or asiago instead of mozzarella.
Tomatoes: Cherry or grape tomatoes can be added whole or cut in half. I like using a mix of yellow and red for extra color.
Olives: Mild, canned black olives or briny pitted kalamata olives can be used
Pesto: This recipe uses homemade spinach pesto but regular basil pesto (homemade or store bought) works just as well. For homemade, try Almond Pesto made with toasted, slivered almonds.
Other additions: Salami, sun-dried tomatoes and red onion are all delicious additions!
How to Make Spinach Pesto
Making spinach pesto is as easy as making regular basil pesto, plus adding a handful of baby spinach. The ingredients are listed below, however, you'll want to check out the full detailed recipe before you begin: Spinach Basil Pesto
Short-Cut Tip: Just buy 8 ounces of store bought basil pesto, then blend it in a food processor with a handful of baby spinach leaves.
Ingredients You'll Need:
- 2 tablespoons nuts (pine nuts, slivered almonds, walnuts or cashews)
- 1 clove garlic
- ¾ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1 handful raw baby spinach leaves
- 2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Tips for Making Pesto Pasta Salad
- Generously salt the cooking water to add more flavor to the pasta
- Don't overcook the pasta - no one wants mushy pasta salad
- Rinse the pasta in cold water to stop the cooking process, and leave a little water clinging to the noodles. The extra water will help the pesto blend in.
- Reserve a little bit of starchy pasta cooking water to thin the pesto, which will help it coat the pasta better
- Don't be shy with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon to perk up the flavor
Cross you fingers for leftovers, because pesto pasta salad is even better the next day!
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More Cold Pasta RecipesPrint
Spinach Pesto Pasta Salad with White Beans, Mozzarella and Tomatoes
Spinach pesto pasta salad is perfect for casual summer dinners. It's made with deliciously healthy spinach basil pesto, white beans, tomatoes, mozzarella and olives.
This recipe was originally published June 30th, 2020 and updated July 26, 2021.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 10
- Total Time: 30
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
- Category: pasta
- Method: Boil
- Cuisine: Italian American
- Diet: Vegetarian
- 1 batch spinach pesto (add 2 extra tablespoons olive oil so the pesto isn’t too thick)
- 8 ounces dried pasta (use your favorite short noodle, like cavatappi, rotini, fusilli, shells, macaroni, etc)
- 1 can white beans, drained
- 8 ounces cherry tomatoes (whole or halved)
- 8 ounce small mozzarella balls (ciliegine or perline)
- One 6-ounce can black olives, drained (or 1 cup pitted kalamata olives)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- First, make a batch of spinach pesto. For cold pasta salad, the pesto shouldn’t be too thick, so add 2 extra tablespoons of olive oil.
- Cook the pasta in generously salted water for the amount of time instructed on the box, being careful not to overcook. The pasta shouldn’t be too soft!
- Before draining the cooked pasta, reserve ¼ cup of the pasta cooking water.
- Drain then rinse the cooked pasta in cold water to cool it off. Leave a little bit of water clinging to the noodles; the water will help the pesto blend in better.
- In a large bowl, mix the pesto with 2 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water to thin out the pesto. Add the cooked pasta, and toss well to coat.
- Gently mix in the white beans, tomatoes, mozzarella balls and olives.
- Season generously with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon.
I prefer to eat pasta salad at room temperature, because the flavors are more pronounced and the texture is better. If you eat the salad cold, straight from the refrigerator, you’ll probably need to add more salt and lemon juice to perk up the flavor.
Keywords: spinach pesto, spinach pesto pasta salad, pasta salad