The Kitchn: Make a big batch of pesto pasta salad, eat it all week long
Few weeks go by during the summertime months that I don’t have a big bowl of pasta salad in my fridge. This saucy pesto number (my family’s current favorite) is as verdant and vibrant as they come — corkscrew noodles are dressed with a vibrant basil pesto sauce, then tossed with sweet, juicy cherry tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, and pearls of fresh mozzarella.
Pasta salad lasts for days in the fridge, making it great for potlucks and picnics. But this year, with large gatherings off the table, you can still take advantage of its make-ahead qualities by serving a batch for Sunday dinner and again for lunches throughout the week. It’s the tastiest form of meal prep there is.
While other pasta salads span the spectrum of overly oily to dry and flavorless, this version is dressed to perfection, thanks to a flavorful jazzed-up pesto sauce. If your patio garden is quickly turning into a jungle of basil stalks, make your own pesto with a shower of Parmesan and pine nuts, and a glug of good olive oil. There’s also no shame in leaving the pesto-making to the pros and buying a bottle from the store instead.
Before tossing the pesto with the pasta, you’ll add three simple upgrades: lemon juice, mayo and spinach. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice brightens the pesto’s flavor, a spoonful of mayo adds body to the sauce without weighing it down, and blending in a few handfuls of baby spinach is an easy way to work in veggies — and keeps it green for days.
This pasta salad is best served at room temperature, but the lemony basil flavor is still strong straight from the fridge.
Pesto Pasta Salad
Serves 8; makes 9 cups
1/2 medium lemon
5 ounces baby spinach (about 5 cups)
1/2 cup basil pesto