Kalyn's Kitchen

Pesto Pasta Salad (with regular or low-carb pasta)

Pesto Pasta Salad is a delicious pasta salad that’s easy to make and you can use traditional pasta or low-carb pasta, whichever you prefer.

PIN Pesto Pasta Salad to make it later!

Pesto Pasta Salad in serving bowl, low-carb version made with Palmini pasta

A few weeks ago I made Low-Carb Italian Pasta Salad using Palmini Pasta, and it was such a success. And then I remembered this ultra-easy vegetarian Pesto Pasta Salad back in the archives and wondered how it would work with the same Palmini Linguini I used in the new pasta salad recipe. And it was a winner! I know the traditional pasta version of this salad does have some fans, so I’m just updating this post so it gives you both options. Make traditional pasta salad with the Rotini pasta I used in the original salad, or make the new low-carb Pesto Pasta Salad using Palmini pasta; your choice!

And no matter which version you prefer, if you already have some of my Basil Pesto with Lemon or a jar of my favorite Kirkland Basil Pesto, this might be the easiest pasta salad you’ve ever made! And except for the pasta, the recipe uses pantry ingredients that you might have in the house.

Pesto Pasta Salad finished salad in serving bowl

What’s the difference between the two recipes?

Shown above is the original Pesto Pasta Salad made with rotini pasta. The only difference between the ingredients for the two recipes is the type of pasta used. However, the salad with Palmini makes fewer servings because the Palmini Pasta is more expensive and I didn’t want to create a recipe that needed two cans! The Palmini Pasta version is gluten-free, the version with Rotini pasta has gluten, but could be made with gluten-free pasta.

What is Palmini Pasta?

Palmini Pasta (affiliate link) is a type of low-carb pasta made from hearts of palm. The pasta variations made by Palmini include Linguini, Angel Hair (which is more like thin spaghetti), and Lasagna. Kara and I have enjoyed experimenting with the Palmini Pasta products, and we really like the flavor of them. And one benefit to them is that because the Palmini noodles don’t absorb the dressing, the low-carb version of this salad stayed good in the fridge for a few days!

Does Palmini Pasta need to be precooked?

After experimenting with several recipes, Kara and I definitely prefer cooking the Palmini pasta for five minutes in boiling, salted water before using it in a recipe. We feel the pre-cooking gives the hearts of palm a more “pasta-like” texture.

What ingredients do you need for this recipe:

Pesto Pasta Salad process shots collage

How to Make Pesto Pasta Salad:

(Scroll down for complete recipe with nutritional information.)

  1. For either type of pasta, bring a medium-sized pan of water to a boil, adding a little salt.
  2. For Palmini Pasta, drain the noodles well and cut apart with kitchen shears. (For Rotini pasta, just open the box!)
  3. Cook the pasta exactly 5 minutes for Palmini Pasta, or about 9 minutes for regular Rotini Pasta.
  4. While pasta cooks, drain roasted red peppers well. (I found peppers already in strips, but slice or chop if needed.)
  5. Drain a can of black olives and cut in half.
  6. When pasta is cooked, drain pasta well and let cool about 10 minutes.
  7. Combine pesto and vinaigrette dressing to make the dressing. 
  8. After the pasta cools , stir in enough dressing to coat the pasta. (You may not need all the dressing, but save the rest in case you want to add it later.)
  9. Combine the dressed pasta, red bell pepper, and olives. Cover the bowl and chill in the fridge 1-3 hours.
  10. To serve, mix in freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a little more dressing if desired.
  11. Serve slightly chilled or at or room temperature.
  12. Both versions of this will stay good in the fridge for a few days if you’re lucky enough to have some left over.

Other ingredients you could use in this salad:

  • diced marinated artichoke hearts
  • marinated mushrooms, cut in half
  • grilled vegetables of any type such as zucchini, mushrooms, onions, or summer squash
  • cubed fresh mozzarella cheese

More High-Carb or Low-Carb Pasta Salad Recipes:

Zucchini Noodle Mock Pasta Salad
Pasta Salad with Italian Sausage
Low-Carb Italian Pasta Salad
Pasta Salad with Fried Kale, Tomatoes, Olives, and Feta

Pesto Pasta Salad in serving bowl, low-carb version made with Palmini pasta

Pesto Pasta Salad

Yield 6 servings
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Additional Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 25 minutes

This easy Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe has olives and roasted red peppers and uses pantry ingredients you probably keep in the house. You can make this with regular or low-carb pasta, whichever you prefer.

Ingredients

  • one 12 oz. whole wheat Rotini pasta or one 14 oz. can Palmini Linguini  
  • one 6 oz. can black olives
  • one 12 oz. jar roasted red bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup Newman’s Own Classic Oil and Vinegar Dressing (see notes)
  • 1/3 cup pesto (see notes)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, or more
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. For either type of pasta, bring a medium-sized pan of water to a boil, adding a little salt to the water.
  2. For Palmini Pasta, drain the noodles well and cut apart with kitchen shears. (For Rotini pasta, just open the box!)
  3. Cook the pasta exactly 5 minutes for Palmini Pasta, or about 9 minutes for regular Rotini Pasta. (Check the package for cooking time.)
  4. While pasta cooks, drain the jar of roasted red peppers well. (I found peppers already sliced in strips, but slice or chop if needed.)
  5. Drain a can of black olives and cut in half.
  6. When pasta is cooked the correct amount of time for the pasta you're using, drain pasta well and let cool about 10 minutes.
  7. Combine Newman's Own Olive Oil and Vinegar Dressing (affiliate link), with my Basil Pesto with Lemon or whatever pesto you're using.
  8. After the pasta cools for 10 minutes, stir in enough dressing to coat the slightly-warm pasta. (You may not need all the dressing, but save the rest in case you want to add it later.)
  9. Combine the pasta with dressing, diced red bell pepper, and olives. Cover the bowl and chill in the fridge 1-3 hours.
  10. To serve, mix in 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or more!) and a little more dressing if the salad seems dry.
  11. Serve slightly chilled or at or room temperature.

Notes

I used Newman's Own Classic Oil and Vinegar Dressing (affiliate link) but any low-sugar vinaigrette will work. If you prefer a different commercial dressing, be sure it has less than 2-3 grams of sugar per serving. I used my Basil Pesto with Lemon for this salad, but you can use purchased basil pesto as well.

The usual nutritional information provided is for 4 servings of salad made with Palmini Pasta, but if you don't use the full amount of dressing for that smaller salad, some categories will be lower.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION FOR ROTINI PASTA VERSION (6 servings):

Calories 242, Total Fat 13, Saturated Fat 2.7, Unsaturated Fat 9.7, Cholesterol 6.9, Sodium 452, Carbs 25, Fiber 2.8, Sugars 2.8, Protein 6.8.

Recipe created by Kalyn.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 243Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 3.9gUnsaturated Fat: 13.9gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 677mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 4.2gSugar: 3.8gProtein: 6.2g

If you make this recipe I'd love to hear how it turns out. Leave a star rating or share on social media with the hashtag #KALYNSKITCHEN, thanks!

Pesto Pasta Salad square thumbnail image of finished salad in serving bowl

Low-Carb Diet / Low-Glycemic Diet / South Beach Diet Suggestions:
This easy Pesto Pasta Salad can be low carb or high carb, depending on the pasta you choose. See nutritional information in the recipe for both versions. Pesto is high in fat and the salad dressing, Parmesan Cheese, and olives all have some fat, so this would be a personal choice for the original South Beach Diet. If you did eat it for South Beach, the Palmini pasta version would work for all phases and the Rotini pasta version would only work for Phase 2 or 3.

Find More Recipes Like This One:
Use Pasta Recipes or Salad Recipes to find more salads like this one.Use the Diet Type Index to find recipes suitable for a specific eating plan. You can also Follow Kalyn’s Kitchen on Pinterest to see all the good recipes I’m sharing there.

Historical Notes for this Recipe:
This recipe was first posted in 2010 made with regular Rotini Pasta. After I became a fan of Palmini Low-Carb Pasta I updated the post in 2021 to include a version made with Palmini Pasta.

Pesto Pasta Salad Pinterest Image

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    36 Comments on “Pesto Pasta Salad (with regular or low-carb pasta)”

  1. oneshotbeyond, thank you!

  2. I just love how colorful and vibrant your salad looks.

  3. S., you're welcome!

  4. Oh wow. My husband and I were discussing the need to research a pesto pasta salad today and before I even searched it, I found it on foodgawker staring me in the face. Thank you!

  5. Healthy and Homemade, just sub something else for the olives and you're set!

  6. The colors are gorgeous!! Cannot wait to try this out, I have all the ingredients except olive (but hubby is picky and seems to hate them, so it's fine)

    YUM!

  7. Kim, hope you like it! Spicy pesto would be interesting in this.

  8. What a perfect summer salad! I actually just purchased a wonderful spicy pesto at our local Farmer's Market today, this would be a perfect way to use it!!!

  9. Smilinggreenmom, not sure what you mean? (The pesto doesn't have any eggs?) If you meant to say nut allergies, you could definitely leave out the pine nuts and it would still be good. I might use a bit more cheese.

  10. I love anything with olives! I am so glad you included a link back to the pesto. Our son has egg allergies and I wonder if it would taste okay to eliminate it? I would love to try this and it looks awesome – will use my favorite whole grain pasta called Kamut! Thanks 🙂

  11. Sues, thanks. (Seems like there are a lot of olive-lovers out there!)

  12. I love this! It looks so simple, but delicious. I'm currently obsessed with pesto and do agree that olives make everything better 🙂 Perfect weeknight dinner!

    Sues

  13. Katie, olives make everything better!

  14. My kind of pasta salad – simple, colorful and with olives ;-))

  15. Dara, I did have to try to restrain myself! Gave some of it away so I couldn't eat too much!

  16. I am certain that I would not be able to stop eating this. This is the type of pasta salad that I would keep going back to the fridge for, taking bite after bite.