Pasta salads make a great main dish on hot summer days and an easy side dish for a BBQ party. This sun-dried tomato pesto pasta salad is super flavorful and made with a few simple ingredients. The best part is that it comes together in 15 minutes.
This sun-dried tomato pasta salad is the ultimate summer recipe. It's loaded with cherry tomatoes and topped with fresh basil and pine nuts. A combination of flavors made in heaven! It was actually inspired by this tomato pesto gnocchi on the site, which is basically the warm version of this pasta salad.
Why you'll love this recipe
- This pasta salad comes together in 15 minutes only.
- It can easily be scaled up, which makes it the perfect meal for family gatherings.
- The red pesto is made without parmesan cheese and is therefore dairy-free.
- Overall this recipe is vegan, gluten-free and nut-free. It's ideal to accommodate anyone with food intolerances or special diets.
Key ingredients and substitutions
Sundried tomatoes in oil make the base of the pesto. They should be readily available in every grocery store. You want to use both the tomatoes and the preservation oil to make the pesto. If you don't have enough oil, you can add extra virgin olive oil.
Pine nuts are used inside the pesto and as a topping. You can replace them with sunflower seeds.
Tomato paste enhances the overall tomato flavor of the pesto. A tiny bit goes a long way here.
Red wine vinegar adds a slight tartness that tastes great with cold pasta. You can replace it with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Leave it out completely if the preservation oil already contains a lot of vinegar.
Cherry tomatoes are the fresh component of the salad. You can replace them with regular fresh tomatoes as long as they are very firm. You might want to remove the seeds and use only the flesh.
Fresh basil brings out the Mediterranean flavors of this salad.
Fusilli is my favorite pasta shape as they retain the red pesto so well. I use the gluten-free pasta from Barilla and love them.
See recipe card for the full ingredient list and exact quantities.
Add-ins you may like
- Sauteed or grilled vegetables such as zucchini, eggplant, and roasted red bell pepper pair extremely well with this pasta salad.
- Pitted black or Kalamata olives make great additions as well.
- Small or large capers are a staple of Mediterranean cuisine that would complement this sundried tomato pesto pasta salad beautifully.
- Red pepper flakes can add some spice.
- Choose ripe, flavorful cherry tomatoes.
- Use red lentil pasta to make it high in protein.
- Cook the pasta in salted water and adjust the seasoning once everything is tossed together. This is very important to obtain a flavorful pasta salad.
- Make the pasta salad the night before if time allows. It enables the noodles to absorb the flavor of the pesto.
Step-by-step (with pictures)
STEP 1: Cook the pasta. Add the pasta to the large pot of boiling water. Cook them according to package directions. When cooked, drain and rinse under cold water to bring to room temperature in no time.
STEP 2: Make the sun-dried tomato pesto. Add all the ingredients to a small blender or food processor.
Elo's tip: If using gluten-free pasta, cook them a little more than al dente as they tend to get a little hard once they cool down.
STEP 3: Blend until it reaches a pesto-like consistency. Making the pesto while the pasta is cooking will save you a lot of time and allow you to make this recipe in 15 minutes.
STEP 4: Wash the tomatoes and basil. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half (or into quarters if they are large). Roll up the basil leaves and slice them very thinly.
STEP 5: Combine everything. Add the cooked pasta, pesto sauce and tomatoes to a large mixing bowl. Mix with salad servers until the pasta is well-coated.
STEP 6: Top with extra pine nuts and basil. You can also sprinkle some red pepper flakes on top if you like it spicy.
Elo's tip: Add the basil right before serving if you're making the pasta salad the night before.
Watch the video!
Frequently asked questions
On average, 1 serving of pasta equals 2-3 ounces (60-85 g).
This pasta salad will last for 4-5 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Toss everything except the pine nuts and basil. Add those right before serving.
You can freeze this sundried tomato pesto for up to 3 months in an airtight container.
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Sun-dried tomato pesto pasta salad
- ½ cup (80 g) sun-dried tomatoes packed
- ¼ cup (50 g) oil from sundried tomatoes or olive oil
- ¼ cup (35 g) pine nuts or cashews or sunflower seeds, more for topping
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar sub red wine vinegar or lemon juice
- 16 oz (450 g) cherry tomatoes
- Fresh basil
- 4 servings of pasta gluten-free
- Pasta: Bring water to a boil. When the water is boiling, cook the pasta according to package directions. Once it's cooked, drain and rinse it under cold water.
- Pesto: Add the sun-dried tomatoes, oil, pine nuts, tomato paste, and apple cider vinegar to a blender. Blend until the tomatoes a finely chopped. Blend for longer if you prefer a smoother consistency.
- Veggies and herbs: Wash the cherry tomatoes and cut them in half. Wash the basil and slice it very thinly.
- Assembly: Mix the cold pasta and pesto in a large salad bowl. Add in the cherry tomatoes, extra pine nuts, and top with fresh basil.
- On average, 1 serving of pasta equals 2-3 ounces (60-85 g).
- Optionally dry-roast the pine nuts in a pan without oil for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Stir often and watch carefully to prevent them from burning.
- Storage: This pasta salad will last for 4-5 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
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