Pesto Pasta Salad with Peas

by | Aug 22, 2019 | All, Side Dishes

This Pesto Pasta Salad with Peas filled with tomatoes and pine nuts is the perfect side dish to anything that comes off the grill.

Small white bowl with black trim filled with pesto pasta salad. Garnished with cut cherry tomatoes and parmesan cheese.

 There are many great things about Minnesota that make us take in these brutal winters, (although this wet, cold spring is really making me question our choice of where we live), but one of the biggest reasons for me is just around the corner: Summer.

Summer in Minnesota is a pretty glorious thing.

We have gorgeous lakes, warm weather, and people come out of the woodwork. True, there are a few mosquitoes, but you have to take the good with the bad.

And when it’s nice out, I like to be hanging outside with the family instead of stuck in the kitchen cooking, which is why this Pesto Pasta Salad with Peas is my go-to summer side dish.

Top down image of Pesto Pasta salad with tomateos and peas on a white plate with a bowl of parmesan cheese on the side.

Pesto Pasta Salad with Peas (say that 10 times fast) is a fabulous partner to anything that comes off the grill.

It’s packed with a punch of flavor from the pesto sauce and bright color from the juicy tomatoes. (Double bonus if the tomatoes come from the farmer’s market!)

But the best part is you can make it ahead of time and eat it at room temperature or chilled. How’s that for a no-fuss pasta salad? And since it’s not loaded with heavy mayo and has spinach hidden in the pesto sauce, it’s even a tad healthy to boot.

How to make a good pasta salad

All good pasta salads start with pasta that is cooked correctly. Follow these tips to get perfect pasta every time.

  1. Fill a large pot with water. Make sure that you have enough to cover the pasta. This recipe calls for a half-pound of pasta so I use 2 quarts of water.
  2. Cover the pot and bring the water to a rolling boil.
  3. Stir in 2 teaspoons of kosher salt.
  4. Add pasta and cook to al dente stage. Follow the directions on the package.

Why do I need to salt the water when I cook pasta?

Do you ever wonder why pasta that you eat in a restaurant always tastes better? It has been seasoned properly.

The only time you can season the pasta itself is while it is cooking.  2 teaspoons of kosher salt may seem like a lot, but the pasta only absorbs a fraction of it. 

So be sure you don’t skip this step. Otherwise, you will end up with pasta that doesn’t have any flavor.

What does it mean to cook it to al dente?

Al dente literally means “to the tooth” in Italian. When pasta is cooked al dente, it is easy to bite into but is still firm. Start your timer and cook pasta according to the package al dente directions. Check it by biting into to it. If it is still firm but not crunchy it is done! If not, check again after 30 seconds.

Overcooked pasta is gummy and soft and will ruin your pasta salad recipe.

Should I rinse the pasta after it is done?

YES! And you want to do that for 2 reasons.

  1. It stops the cooking process so you don’t end up with overcooked pasta. No one likes a mushy pasta salad.
  2. It rinses off the starchy film that coats the pasta after cooking. Rinsing it will keep the pasta loose, otherwise, it will clump together.

Simply pour the cooked and rinsed pasta into a large bowl and add the dressing and toss to coat. It may seem soupy, but don’t worry! All of that great flavor absorbs into the pasta.

Pesto Pasta Salad with a white bowl garnished with fresh tomatoes, pine nuts and parmesan cheese.


Check out all of our side dishes!

Pesto Pasta salad mounded in small white bowl with black trim. Garnished with fresh tomatoes and parmesan cheese.

Looking for more pasta salad recipes?

Tomato Feta Pasta Salad Recipe– Garnish with Lemon®

Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad Recipe– Garnish with Lemon®

Classic Macaroni Salad– Garnish with Lemon®

Easy Orzo and Chickpea Salad– Garnish with Lemon®

Taco Pasta Salad– Tidy Mom

Chinese Coleslaw– Shugary Sweets

Yield: 6-8 servings

Pesto Pasta Salad with Peas

Top down image of Pesto Pasta salad with tomateos and peas on a white plate with a bowl of parmesan cheese on the side.

This gorgeous and delicious pasta salad is a great addition to your summer bbq menu.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 27 minutes


  • 1/2 pound short pasta noodle, cooked and drained to package directions
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cups pesto
  • 1/2 frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cups Greek Yogurt
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and place in a bowl with the olive oil. Cool to room temperature.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor or blender, add the pesto, spinach, and lemon juice. Pulse until combined. Add the Greek yogurt and pulse until completely incorporated.
  3. Season the pesto mixture to taste with salt and pepper, then add the pesto mixture to the cooled pasta. (You may not need all of the pesto mixture.)
  4. Coat the pasta with the sauce, and add the Parmesan, peas, grape tomatoes and pine nuts.
  5. Stir and serve at room temperature or chilled.

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Nutrition Information:


9 cups

Serving Size:

1 1/2 cups

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 251Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 11mgSodium: 264mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 9g

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This Pesto Pasta Salad with Peas filled with tomatoes and pine nuts is the perfect side dish to anything that comes off the grill.

This Pesto Pasta Salad with Peas is a make-ahead salad recipe that is great with anything from the grill! 

We're the creative juices behind Garnish with Lemon. In the past 8 years, millions of people have sipped & snacked on our recipes. Need easy, delicious party food and drinks for your next shindig? You’ve come to the right place.

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About Lisa

Hi, I’m Lisa! Looking for the party? It’s probably at my house. Nothing brings me more joy than sharing good food with friends and family. That and a seriously good cocktail.


  1. Avatar

    So summery!! It makes me want to take the cover off the grill and have a good old fashioned cookout. Yum!

    • Avatar

      There isn’t anything better, is there? Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  2. Avatar

    Love it! For me personally I’d take out the peas and add more tomatoes! Great recipe 🙂

    • Avatar

      Thanks, Adam!

  3. Avatar

    I’ve been to Minneapolis and loved it! So many good restaurants up there! This pasta dish looks delish, love pesto 🙂

  4. Avatar

    I’ve decided that pesto just makes everything better. This pasta salad would make such a great side for a Mother’s Day BBQ!

  5. Avatar

    I absolutely love your recipe! I am writing vegetarian recipe round ups on my blog in 2018 (to encourage people to try meatless monday- everyone has to start somewhere) and would love to feature you. You can check out my blog (for beginner environmentalists) at Is it alright if I share this link to your recipe?


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