This bowtie pesto pasta salad recipe is a deliciously creamy, chilled salad to enjoy all summer.

It’s a quick and easy side that goes with anything.

plated Bowtie Pesto Pasta Salad

Best Bowtie Pesto Pasta Salad

  • Refreshing and full of flavor, this pesto pasta salad recipe is a favorite summer side.
  • Pesto pasta salad is an eye-catching and elegant addition to picnics, potlucks, and BBQs.
  • Turn it into an entree salad with the addition of sliced summer sausage, grilled shrimp, or salmon.
lemon , pine nuts , bow tie pasta , oil , parmesan, garlic and basil with labels to make Bowtie Pesto Pasta Salad

Ingredients and Variations

Pasta – Ridged pasta like bow tie, rotini, penne, fusilli, or small pasta shells are perfect for the pesto to cling to. Spinach or cheese tortellini are also excellent choices for a heartier salad. Switch out the pasta altogether for healthy and low-carb cauliflower florets.

Peas – Fresh spring peas, sugar snap peas, or frozen peas all work in this recipe.

Pesto – Homemade pesto is surprisingly easy to make and it’s so versatile. But if time is short, feel free to use a pre-made jar of pesto sauce.

Nuts – Pine nuts can be pricey and hard to find. Omit them altogether or replace them with walnuts (use half the amount or the flavor will be too strong).

Variations – This salad can be a new recipe every time you make it. Cherry tomato halves, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, cucumber slices, diced red onion, shredded carrots, or sliced kalamata olives will add extra color and crunch. Top the finished salad with a sprinkle of parmesan, feta crumbles, or bocconcini (aka mozzarella) balls for a Caprese-style salad.

Bowtie Pesto Pasta Salad with pine nuts

How to Make Basil Pesto

  1. In a food processor, add basil, parmesan, pine nuts, and lemon juice.
  2. Pulse until finely chopped.
  3. Slowly pour in olive oil while running the food processor.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.

How to Make Pesto Pasta Salad

  1. Cook pasta to al dente and rinse in cold water, as directed in the recipe below.
  2. Defrost peas while the pasta is cooking.
  3. Assemble salad by tossing the pasta and peas in a large bowl with half the pesto, adding more as desired.
close up of Bowtie Pesto Pasta Salad

Storing Pesto Pasta Salad

  • Make bowtie pesto pasta salad ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Keep leftover bow tie pesto pasta salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
  • Leftover homemade pesto can be frozen for up to one month. Use it in other recipes such as chicken, pizza, and bruschetta.
easy Bowtie Pesto Pasta Salad in a bowl

More Superb Summer Salads

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Pesto Pasta Salad in a white bowl
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Bow Tie Pesto Pasta Salad

This bow tie pesto pasta salad is light and refreshing. It's perfect for a BBQ or a summer evening dinner.
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 11 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author Candace



  • 1 cup packed fresh basil plus more for garnish (add spinach or cilantro if short)
  • 1 clove garlic (1 large, or 2 small), chopped
  • ¼ cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3 Tablespoons pine nuts plus more for garnish (can substitute walnuts)
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon juice fresh
  • cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


  • Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente (still a little firm). Drain and add cold water (and ice if you wish) to cool pasta completely.
  • While pasta is cooking, add frozen green peas to strainer and run under water to defrost.
  • Start preparing pesto. Wash and dry basil. 
  • In a food processor, add basil, garlic, parmesan, pine nuts, and lemon juice. Pulse until finely chopped. Slowly add olive oil to running food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • In a large bowl, toss pasta and peas. Add about half of the pesto and toss, adding spoonfuls of pesto at a time until dressed to your liking.
  • Garnish bowl with pine nuts and herbs if desired.


  • Leftover pasta salad will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days and 1 month in the freezer. 
4.95 from 20 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
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Nutrition Information

Calories: 330 | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 68mg | Potassium: 222mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 525IU | Vitamin C: 18.3mg | Calcium: 70mg | Iron: 1.5mg

Nutrition information does not include optional ingredients or garnish and is an estimate. It may change based on actual ingredients and cooking methods used.

Course Salad
Cuisine American

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This recipe was inspired by Serious Eats.


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About the author

I am a wife, mother of two, and professional accountant. I love fantastic food, and it is so often the center of our lives, from everyday dinner, to family gatherings, and special evenings at fabulous restaurants. I have always loved cooking and baking, with my mom and grandma, and now, with my daughter and son. I love trying new recipes while enjoying my favorites too. I’m so happy to share them with you.
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Recipe Rating


  1. 4 stars
    I am wondering what brand of bowtie pasta you used? They look huge! I prefer the larger ones over the small ones., so if you can make a recommendation, it would be much appreciated. Thank you!

    1. Hi Jane! The ones in these pictures are a little bigger than the ones I buy at the grocery store (I usually buy whatever is on sale, but not the mini ones). I bought these ones at an Italian supermarket. You can find some of the larger ones here on Amazon as well. It seems to me that the Italian brands are a bit larger than the typical grocery store varieties. Hope that helps, Jane. Enjoy the recipe!

    2. 5 stars
      Hi Jane, I use Barilla brand of bowties… That brand the bowtie pasta seems a little bugger then the other instore brands…

  2. 5 stars
    I absolutely love pesto, I’m not sure why I never thought of putting it on a pasta salad before! This is a new favorite for us!