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.

Bow Tie Pesto Pasta Salad in a white bowl with basil, pine nuts and peas

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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!

Pesto Uses

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.

Bow Tie Pesto Pasta Salad with Peas in a white bowl garnished with peas, basil and pine nuts, with a lemon in the background

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).

Ingredients for Bow Tie Pesto Pasta salad including olive oil, bow tie pasta, pine nuts, basil, parmesan, garlic and lemon

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!

close up of Bow Tie Pesto Pasta Salad with peas and pine nuts with lemon garnish

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!

a bowl of Bow Tie Pesto Pasta Salad with peas, pine nuts, and basil, with lemon and a garlic bulb in the background

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

This Bow Tie Pesto Pasta Salad with Peas 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.
4.95 from 18 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
Or to leave a comment, click here!

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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Bow Tie Pesto Pasta Salad with peas garnished with basil and pine nuts in a white bowl

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!