This Bow Tie Pesto Pasta Salad with Peas is light and refreshing. It’s perfect for a BBQ or a summer evening dinner! This basil Pesto Pasta Salad has been a staple for our entertaining, both at home and for potlucks! And my kids love the bow tie pasta, also known as farfalle. I mean who doesn’t love bow tie pasta salad with pesto?
My husband and I love having friends over. There aren’t many weekends that we aren’t entertaining. Our move to the burbs came with a pool at our house, which means plenty more people over to enjoy this bow tie pasta pesto salad, Kale Quinoa Salad and BBQ hamburgers and hot dogs.
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This cold pesto pasta salad recipe is great because it is easily prepared ahead of time. Bowtie pesto salad keeps well both cold and at room temperature, so it is so easy to take to a potluck pool party, a picnic or even a day at the beach. You can also replace the pesto with Homemade Italian Dressing if you’re looking to change up the flavor or don’t have the ingredients for pesto.
What is Pesto?
The pesto definition is “a sauce of crushed basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil.” My favorite recipe adds a touch of lemon for a fresh, zesty flavor!
This basil pesto sauce can be used to make pesto chicken, pesto salmon, and shrimp pesto pasta. Pesto pizza sure sounds like fun too! We’re using the creamy pesto sauce for one of our very favorite pesto pasta recipes.
How Do You Make Pesto?
The homemade pesto dressing is quickly whipped up in the food processor and uses fresh ingredients. You can substitute pesto ingredients in a pinch too! I have made walnut pesto instead of with pine nuts, and when I was short on basil, I have used spinach or cilantro to make up enough greens, sometimes even making a full batch of cilantro pesto or spinach pesto! When I was out of fresh lemon, I have used bottled lemon juice (start with about half as much juice and add to taste).
Can You Buy Pesto?
If you’re short on time, you can use store bought pesto (or order it on Amazon) to dress this pasta salad. It’ll be our little secret, and no one will ever know! Just add a squeeze of lemon to the pesto before mixing it into the pasta and peas to perfect your pesto bow tie pasta salad.
What Else Can You Add to Pesto Pasta Salad?
You may enjoy topping this pesto pasta salad with feta or sun dried tomatoes. Top the pesto pasta salad with chicken and you’ve got yourself a full meal. It’s lovely with a few cherry tomatoes thrown on top too! Mix in a couple of handfuls of baby spinach for a pesto spinach and pine nut pasta salad recipe you’ll want to make again!
What Do You Serve With Pesto Pasta Salad?
We often serve the Bow Tie Pesto Pasta Salad as a side to grilled chicken, BBQ ribs or pork tenderloin, along with a side garden salad. One of my favorite summer salads is my Red Leaf Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette and fresh dill.
When we have a larger gathering, I always double the bowtie pesto pasta salad recipe, and serve it with other salads, like Italian Salad (made with my amazing Italian Dressing Mix), Thai Quinoa Salad and my absolute favorite Kale Quinoa Salad.
Enjoy this pesto bowtie pasta salad!
Bow Tie Pesto Pasta Salad
- 8 ounces farfalle pasta (bow tie pasta) dry (bow tie)
- 1 ½ cups green peas frozen
- 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
- ⅓ 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.
Nutrition information does not include optional ingredients or garnish and is an estimate. It may change based on actual ingredients and cooking methods used.
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This recipe was inspired by Serious Eats.
Like!! I genuinely thank you.
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!
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!
Hi Jane, I use Barilla brand of bowties… That brand the bowtie pasta seems a little bugger then the other instore brands…
Thank you for sharing Cheryl!
I love this dish! Such a simple but delicious dish to impress at our summer BBQs. Thank you!
We love it for BBQs. So easy to take with you and keeps well!
Absolutely love this past salad, it’s perfect for potlucks!
It is perfect for a potluck Bailey!
Greeting of the day!
Looks delicious! Can’t wait to try!
Thank you Jennifer! It’s always a hit!
This looks amazing Candace!
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!
Love pesto too! It is so great on pasta!