Hearty Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe
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Hearty Pesto Pasta Salad

For the pasta:

1 pound farfalle, ziti or penne pasta

1 tablespoon olive oil

For the pesto:

3 cups basil leaves that have been rinsed and dried

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 small clove garlic, pressed or chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

To finish the salad:

2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes that have been halved or quartered into small bite-size pieces

For the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. When boiling add the pasta and cook to within two minutes of the al dente package directions. Test for doneness -- the pasta should be tender with a very slight bite. Drain and toss with tablespoon of olive oil. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool to room temperature.

For the pesto: Meanwhile place the basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process until a smooth paste but not pureed, about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Transfer to a small bowl and add the cheese.

To finish the salad: Add the tomatoes to the pasta and toss with the pesto. Serve immediately.

Serves 8 to 10 as a side dish.

Additional Ingredients

Add two cups of any of the following:

Fresh mozzarella cut into1/2-inch dice.

Leftover cooked chicken cut into1/2-inch dice.

Asparagus tips cut into one-inch lengths and added to the pasta pot for the final four minutes of cooking.

Cauliflower that has been cut into small bite-sized florettes and added to the pasta pot for the final four minutes of cooking.

Green beans that have been cut into two-inch lengths and added to the pasta pot for the final four minutes of cooking.

Snap peas

Cooked white beans or fava beans

Add one cup of the following:

Crumbled feta cheese

Oil-cured black olives that have been pitted and roughly chopped

Combination suggestions:

Chicken, mozzarella and tomato

Feta and green beans

Snap peas, olives and tomato

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