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Pesto pasta salad is the great Ina Garten’s pesto pasta pea salad with the volume turned up.  Crispy bacon, mozzarella pearls and halved cherry tomatoes are the perfect additions to this already wonderful recipe. The tomatoes brighten up the dish along with the peas. The mozzarella pearls mellow out the bite from the pesto. Then there’s bacon, which makes everything better. In the world of pasta salads, this recipe reigns supreme.


The Pesto

Making homemade pesto can be intimidating but having a good food processor eliminates all doubt. I highly recommend making your own pesto over store bought. The intense flavor that is produced from homemade pesto is what makes this such a standout dish. You’ll need a lot of basil. I recommend the brand 80 Acres Farms. Grab three 2-oz packages. The rest of the ingredients are straightforward: garlic, pine nuts, walnuts, salt, pepper, olive oil and parmesan cheese. I like to use a light tasting olive oil. And be sure to use grated parmesan cheese.


The Creamy Pesto Sauce

Once the pesto is pureed in the food processor you’ll add frozen spinach, fresh lemon juice and mayonnaise. The frozen spinach needs to be fully thawed and squeezed of all its water. The recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. You’ll need 2 lemons to ensure you get enough. Finally, use a high quality mayonnaise. I recommend the brand Hellmann’s.



The Pasta Salad

There’s a lot of componenets to the pasta salad but everything can be made at the same since you’re utilizing the oven for baking bacon, food processor for making the sauce and stove for toasting the pine nuts and boiling the pasta. Be sure not to overecook the pasta noodles. Bow tie pasta and rotini become al dente at different times, so they must be prepared in separate pots. Rinse the pasta in cold water to stop the cooking process and dry out before adding to a large bowl for tossing. Luckily the mozzarella pearls get thrown in straight from the package and the cherry tomatoes just need to be halved after rinsed. The recipe comes together in less than an hour (not including thaw time for the spinach and peas).


Pesto Pasta Salad

Al dente pasta with a creamy pesto sauce, savory crumbled bacon, mini mozzarella balls, toasted pine nuts, sweet cherry tomatoes and parmesan cheese.
5 from 1 vote
Course Side Dish
Servings 12


Pasta Salad

  • 3/4 lb rotini noodles al dente
  • 3/4 lb bow tie pasta al dente
  • 1 lb bacon cooked, crumbled
  • 1 1/2 c peas thawed
  • 1/2 c pine nuts toasted
  • 12 oz cherry tomatoes halved
  • 8 oz mozzarella pearls
  • 1/2 c parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp pepper


  • 5 c basil leaves packed
  • 1/4 c pine nuts
  • 1/4 c walnuts
  • 9 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1 c paresan cheese grated

Creamy Pesto Sauce

  • homemade pesto sauce
  • 10 oz frozen spinach thawed and squeezed dry
  • 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 c mayonnaise


  • Boil pasta in separate pots of salted water until al dente. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
  • Prepare bacon. Line an extra large sheet pan with parchment paper. Line bacon up with no space in between. Bake on the top rack at 400 for 30 minutes flipping halfway through. Cool and cut.
  • Toast 1/2 c pine nuts in a dry saucepan over medium heat until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Stir often. Remove from pan. Set aside.
  • Halve cherry tomatoes. I recommend the Ruby Rows brand from Kroger.
  • Prepare the pesto by adding 1/4 c pine nuts, 1/4 c walnuts and garlic to a food processor. Process for 15 seconds. Scrape the sides of the food processor bowl.
  • Add basil leaves, salt, pepper. With the food processor running, slowly add the olive oil through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the parmesan cheese and process for one minute.
  • To the pesto add spinach and lemon juice. Process for 20 seconds. Add the mayonnaise and process another 20 seconds.
  • Add pasta, bacon, mozzarella pearls, peas, halved cherry tomatoes, toasted pine nuts and parmesan cheese to a large bowl. Pour in the creamy pesto sauce and toss until everything is combined.
  • Best served immediately. If storing, cover the surface of the pasta salad with cling wrap and foil on the rim of the bowl. Place in the refrigerator until serving time.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!