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Cold Pesto Pasta Salad {Easy Summer Side}

Bright, refreshing, and flavorful. This is a summertime pasta salad you'll turn to again and again.

Loaded with fresh flavor, this pasta salad has plenty of summer veggies and is the perfect use for your homemade pesto.

pesto pasta salad in mixing bowl

❤️ Why you’ll love this recipe

  • Absolutely Delicious: With the richness of basil pesto and the freshness of roma tomatoes and black olives, each bite offers a burst of flavor.
  • Quick & Easy: In just over an hour (including chill time), you’ll have a delightful dish ready to go.
  • Customizable: Love adding your personal touch? This recipe is easy to tweak to your heart’s desire.
  • Perfect for Gatherings: Whether it’s a BBQ, picnic, or potluck, this dish is sure to be a hit.

This is an overview of the ingredients. You’ll find the full measurements and instructions in the printable recipe at the bottom of the page.

ingredients on wooden board.

You’ll need the following for this summer side dish:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • White balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Ditalini pasta (or your preferred pasta shape)
  • Roma tomatoes
  • Black olives
  • Red onion
  • Pre-made basil pesto (here’s my favorite pesto recipe… no pine nuts!)


Step One: make dressing

small bowl with pesto dressing.

Get a pot of salted water boiling and toss in your pasta. Follow what the package says, aiming for that perfect al dente. Once done, give it a quick cold rinse to pause the cooking.

Mix up the basil pesto, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.

Step Two: add dressing and veggies

mixing bowl before and after adding veggies to pasta salad.

Transfer the cooled pasta to a large bowl. Add the dressing, ensuring it covers the pasta evenly. Now, introduce the roma tomatoes, black olives, and chopped red onion to the mix. Gently stir everything to ensure even distribution of ingredients.

Step three: mix and chill

finished dish.

To allow the flavors to settle and integrate, cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. It’s essential to chill the salad to get the best flavor combination. Before serving, give it one last stir to redistribute any settled dressing.

🥫 Storage instructions

Fridge: Keep it in an airtight container. It’ll stay fresh for 3-4 days.

This recipe does not freeze well

👩🏻‍🍳 Expert tips

  • Use fresh homemade basil pesto if possible – it makes a world of difference.
  • For an extra flavor kick, try marinating the onions in the balsamic vinegar for about 10 minutes before adding.
  • Don’t rush the chilling process – it’s key for all the flavors to meld.
  • If you don’t have white balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar or plain white vinegar will do.

📘 more cold summer side dish Recipes

🍽 Serve it with

  • Grilled chicken or shrimp
  • A fresh green salad with a light vinaigrette
  • Garlic bread or crusty baguette
scoop of finished pasta salad on wooden spoon.

📖 Here’s the recipe

finished pasta salad with pesto.
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Cold Pesto Pasta Salad

Print Recipe
Bright, refreshing, and flavorful. This is a summertime pasta salad you'll turn to again and again.
Prep Time:10 minutes
Cook Time:10 minutes
Chilling time:1 hour
Total Time:1 hour 20 minutes
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  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar (white wine vinegar is fine too!)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces ditalini pasta any shape okay
  • 1 cup diced roma tomatoes
  • ½ cup black olives pitted and sliced
  • cup red onion finely chopped
  • ¼ cup pre-made basil pesto


  • Cook the Pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package instructions until al dente. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
  • Prepare the Dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the premade basil pesto, extra-virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Adjust the seasoning as desired.
  • Add the Dressing: Pour the prepared pesto dressing over the orzo mixture. Toss well until all the ingredients are coated with the dressing.
  • Combine the Remaining Ingredients: Combine the cooked and cooled orzo halved cherry tomatoes, sliced black olives, and finely chopped red onion.. Toss the ingredients gently to mix them together evenly.
  • Chill and Serve: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the pesto pasta salad for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together. Before serving, give it a gentle toss to ensure the dressing is distributed evenly. Serve cold as a delicious and refreshing pasta salad.


Note: You can customize this pesto pasta salad by adding other vegetables like roasted bell peppers, artichoke hearts, or fresh baby spinach. Feel free to get creative and adjust the ingredients according to your preferences.


Calories: 153kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 134mg | Potassium: 79mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 33IU | Vitamin C: 0.5mg | Calcium: 12mg | Iron: 0.5mg
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: pesto pasta salad
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 153kcal
Author: Katie Shaw
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