This colorful Pesto Pasta Salad features a zippy lemon basil pesto salad dressing, along with bowtie pasta, sundried tomatoes, asparagus, artichoke hearts, and more lemon zest…it’s overflowing with flavor and color and pizazz!
Lemon Basil Pesto Pasta Salad…you know you can’t resist a pasta salad with a name like that. It’s superb and has a unique balance of flavors that complement each other and really pop in your mouth.
This may be my favorite pasta salad ever!
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Lots of fresh spring bounty is included in this pesto pasta salad: asparagus, peppers, basil pesto, lemon zest, along with artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes.
With a mix of fresh and canned ingredients, you will have to do some chopping–but it’s so worth the effort!
- Basil pesto – you can buy this pre-made
- Fresh lemons – do not skimp on fresh lemons, you will lose a lot of flavor if you do
- Fresh parsley
- Red and green bell pepper
- Extra Virgin Olive oil – be sure you use high quality olive oil
- Pasta – I like bowtie but you could use penne or even elbows
- Sundried tomatoes – use the julienned tomatoes in oil
- Canned artichoke hearts
How to make pesto pasta salad
Step 1. Start by blanching the asparagus for about 45 seconds. This means you boil the asparagus until just crisp tender, then immediately plunge it into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
Pro tip: You should have a bowl of ice water ready before the water starts boiling so you can immediately plunge the asparagus into the ice water to stop the cooking process, and then immediately remove it from the ice water and drain well.
Step 2. While the asparagus is cooling, cook the pasta according to package directions, drain it well and put it in a large bowl.
Step 3. Once the asparagus has cooled, chop it into one inch pieces.
Step 4. To the cooked pasta, add a can of drained artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, the chopped asparagus, and peppers.
Step 5. Make the pesto salad dressing: Add fresh lemon juice and zest to a cup of basil pesto, then mix in chopped shallot and garlic along with chopped parsley and about a tablespoon of olive oil.
Whisk together until smooth and then stir into the pasta.
And keep it on file for Christmas—with all the pretty red and green, every time I look at this dish I think of Christmas!
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Pesto Pasta Salad
- 1 cup basil pesto
- Juice and zest from 1 lemon
- Additional juice from 1/2 lemon
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb bowtie pasta
- 1 lb fresh asparagus
- 1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
- 2 cups julienned sundried tomatoes in oil, drained
- ½ red pepper, chopped
- ½ green pepper, chopped
- Place all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together until smooth.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside in large bowl.
- Blanch asparagus for 40-45 seconds. Remove immediately and plunge into ice water, then drain on paper towels. Chop cooled asparagus into one inch pieces and add to pasta. Add drained artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, and peppers to pasta. Add dressing and stir gently until well mixed.
This dressing is adapted from a Rachael Ray pesto pasta salad recipe and is so, so good.
Update Notes: This post was originally published May 28, 2011, and on March 4, 2019, was updated with one or more of the following: step-by-step photos, video, updated recipe, new tips.
Need more help? Check out The New Rules of Pasta Salad.
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