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Pesto pasta salad

Nagi Maehashi
My pesto pasta salad rules are simple – don’t skimp on pesto, don’t be shy with olive oil, cook the pasta beyond al dente and add the smallest dab of mayonnaise to give it a touch of luxe as well as improving leftovers.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course, Side Dish, side salad, starter
Cuisine Italian, Mediterranean
Servings 5 People
Calories 663 kcal


  • 350 G spiral pasta fusilli, or other of choice, 3 1/2 cups
  • 1 tbsp tbsp salt for cooking pasta


  • 2 tbsp pinenuts toasted (sub walnuts, cashews, almonds)
  • 2 cups cups tightly packed basil leaves
  • 1 small garlic clove minced
  • ½ cups cup parmesan finely grated
  • ½ tsp cooking/kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 7 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or 50/50 grapeseed/olive oil


  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise S&W, else Hellman’s, Note 2
  • 250 g 1 heaped cup cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • 220 g baby bocconcini drained, cut in half
  • 40 G tightly packed baby rocket/arugula leaves
  • ½ tsp cooking/kosher salt
  • ▢ Small basil leaves optional garnish


  • Cook pasta – Bring 3 litres of water to the boil with the salt. Cook for the pasta packet time + 1 minute. Drain in a colander, rinse under cold water. Shake off excess water well, then allow to fully cool and dry.
  • Pesto – Place all ingredients in a tall jug just large enough to fit the head of a stick blender. Blitz under pretty smooth. Not a green smoothie, we still want some visible green bits! but not chunks.
  • Toss – Place pasta in a bowl, scrape in the pesto. Add mayonnaise then toss well. Add bocconcini and tomato, toss gently just to disperse. Add rocket/arugula and toss just to disperse.
  • Serve – Transfer into a serving bowl. Scatter with basil leaves, if using. Serve!


Serves 4 to 5 as a meal, or 8 to 10 as a side (or more, if this is part of a larger banquet!)
1. Pesto – Homemade really is superior, but if you need to use store bought, use just shy of 1 cup. Try to get it from the fridge rather than aisle – fresher!
2. Mayonnaise is not intended to make this a creamy pasta salad. It just adds “juiciness” and prevents it from drying out – because dry pasta salads is a pet peeve of mine! If you don’t want to use mayo, add an extra 2 tablespoons of olive oil instead.
3. Baby bocconcini – small, soft mozzarella balls. They have a mild flavour, ie not salted. Fabulous in pasta salads, especially with pesto pasta salad!
4. Leftovers will keep well for 2 days though it does lose the vibrant green colour. Keep in the fridge in a very airtight container (this will preserve greenness as best as possible). Always bring to room temperature before eating, for best flavour and
this recipe is sponsored by Mediterranean Supermarket 
Keyword italian, italian dish, mediterranean cuisine, mediterranean pasta dish, pasta, pesto pasta