Bowl of cold pesto pasta salad with tomato, arugula, olives and red onion.

Cold Pesto Pasta Salad

  • Author: Deryn Macey
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 10 mins
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: Salad
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

This cold pesto pasta salad is so easy to make and packed with zesty flavour, you’ll have it on repeat all summer long! 



For the Basil Pesto

  • 2 cups basil leaves (40 g)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil (45 mL)
  • 2 garlic cloves (10 g) 
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast 
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice (45 mL)
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 24 tbsp water
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the Pasta Salad: 

  • 450 g fusilli or rotini pasta 
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (285 g) 
  • 1 cup black olives, sliced and pitted (180 g)
  • ½ cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups fresh arugula (70 g)


  1. Cook the Pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta according to package directions.
  2. Drain & Rinse Pasta: Once the pasta is cooked, drain completely and run under cold water to prevent pasta from sticking. Transfer into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Blend Pesto: Meanwhile, add all of the basil pesto ingredients to a mini food processor or small blender and blend until smooth. Start with 2 tbsp of water and if needed, slowly add a little more to adjust the consistency to your preference. It can be thicker like a traditional pesto or thinned for more of a salad dressing consistency.
  4. Mix Salad: Add the pesto to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mix well to distribute the veggies through and coat everything in sauce.
  5. Serve: Divide evenly into 6 bowls, finish with a drizzle of olive oil or spinkle of parmesan or feta cheese, if desired and enjoy. 


I used a 325 mL can of sliced, black ripe olives. You can use less or more to your preference. Substitute kalamata olives if you like.

Other veggies that work well in this recipe as additions or substitutes are cucumber, artichokes, capers, sun dried tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli or green peas.


  • Serving Size: 1/6th of recipe
  • Calories: 383
  • Sodium: 174 mg
  • Fat: 10 g
  • Carbohydrates: 62 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 12 g

Keywords: summer pesto pasta salad, cold pesto pasta salad