Studded with bright green asparagus, sweet peas, decadent bacon, and fresh pearls of mozzarella, Pesto Pasta Salad is a flavorful side dish or light dinner, perfect for spring and summer celebrations!
Last week, I got a hankering for pasta salad. It's a warm weather staple around here, and I don't think I've enjoyed it since last September. But I do believe it's high time to change that! Am I the only one who's way excited to say a definitive adios to winter?! I've been so enjoying the verdant green of spring, the bluebonnets and assorted beautiful wildflowers, the warm-but-not-yet-scalding temps, the copious amounts of allergy-inducing pollen, the return of the relentless mosquitos -- oh, wait a minute.
Anyway, I decided to concoct a new Pesto Pasta Salad recipe starring a few springtime ingredients that would carry right on through summer. And I'm so pleased with the way it turned out! Plus it was super-duper easy to throw together, and that's always a bonus.
Basically I boiled my pasta to al dente in plenty of salted water. I threw in my fresh asparagus for the last couple of minutes until blanched bright green. I cooked and drained my peas and roasted my bacon in the oven. And then I tossed it all together with some fresh (albeit store-bought) pesto that I'd thinned with a bit of red wine vinegar and olive oil. Simple, straightforward, and scrumptious!
Once the basil in my herb garden gets a-going, I can't wait to remake this recipe with homemade pesto. For this version, I bought a tub of freshly made pesto in the refrigerated case of the grocery store. I previously tried making this pasta salad with jarred pesto, and while it tasted just dandy, it wasn't as bright green as fresh pesto and, consequently, wasn't quite as pretty in the finished pasta salad.
This would be the perfect side dish to celebrate spring or kick off the opening of grilling season. It would also make a delicious light supper to enjoy while sitting outdoors on a warm, lovely evening. In fact, it's so good it might even make you forget about your constant sneezing and those mosquitos about to carry you away... 😉
Pesto Pasta Salad
Pesto Pasta Salad
- 16 ounces bacon, cooked until crispy, drained, & chopped
- 1 pound orecchiette, or other small pasta
- 1 pound fresh asparagus, thin spears, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces with tough ends trimmed off
- 2 cups frozen peas, cooked & drained
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella pearls , drained
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups (8 to 12-ounces) pesto, homemade or store-bought, fresh or jarred
- 2 to 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add orecchiette and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally, according to package directions. Three minutes before the pasta is done, add the asparagus pieces. Finish cooking until pasta is al dente and asparagus is blanched. Drain in a large colander and rinse until cool under cold water.
- Transfer pasta and asparagus to a very large bowl; add peas and mozzarella pearls. Transfer pesto to a medium bowl and stir until smooth. Whisk in 2 to 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, to taste, and just enough extra-virgin olive oil to thin out the pesto to a dressing-like consistency. Pour pesto dressing over the pasta salad ingredients, gently toss ingredients to combine and coat, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Just before serving, stir in the bacon, reserving a bit to sprinkle over the top for garnish.
- My favorite method for cooking is bacon is oven roasting. Place an oven rack in the center position, preheat the oven to 400°F, and cover a large roasting pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Arrange the bacon pieces in a single layer so that they're just touching. Roast bacon for 15 to 20 minutes or until it's crispy (watch closely towards the end and keep in mind that thicker pieces of bacon may take longer to crisp up). Use tongs or a fork to remove bacon to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.
- If your asparagus is on the thicker side, you will probably want to add it to the boiling pasta 4 minutes before it's done.
- The asparagus tips will cook a bit quicker than the smooth sections of the spears. So if you prefer, you can add the smooth spear pieces to the boiling water first, and then toss in the tips for the last minute of cooking time.
- If you want more control over the cooking of your asparagus and don't mind dirtying another pot, you may boil your asparagus in a separate pot and then drain and plunge into a bowl of ice water once done.
- If you can't find small pearls of fresh mozzarella, you may buy larger balls and cut them in halves or quarters (or a whole piece of mozzarella cut into 1-inch cubes).
More Pasta Salads
- Caprese Orzo Salad
- Tortellini Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Basil, & Fresh Corn
- Chicken Berry Pasta Salad with Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Tomato Cucumber Pasta Salad with Avocado