This pesto pasta salad is loaded with fresh asparagus, spinach, and peas. Add some chicken, pesto, and ziti and you get a summer-fresh pasta salad that is ready in 30 minutes. It’s great for potlucks, BBQs, and other summer parties. Or make it for a light meal during the week.
Pesto pasta salad with all the green veggies tossed together with pesto, pasta, and store-bought rotisserie chicken because it’s summer, and if we don’t have to turn on the oven that is a very good thing.
Technically, it’s a side dish but there’s no reason you can’t serve it as a main dish for dinner or lunch. There are probably rules about these things to which I say, “break ’em”. It’s summer – serve it for breakfast if you want. It’s all good.
So, let’s talk about it…
- Ziti or other short pasta shape like rotini, penne, fusilli, farfalle, or cavatappi.
- Thin asparagus
- Basil pesto
- Lemon juice and zest
- Frozen peas
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Fresh spinach
- Shredded rotisserie chicken – you can also use leftover grilled chicken!
For the pesto, you can make your own pesto or store-bought. You will need one cup so if you use my pesto (linked above in the list) you will need to add an extra 1/4 cup of olive oil to stretch it for this recipe.
For the chicken, you could omit it and double up on the asparagus for a vegetarian experience. It also feels more side-dishy that way.
About the salt. I don’t add additional salt because the chicken is already seasoned and the pesto plus the extra parm adds salt. You can always add some extra salt if you think it needs it.
How to Make Pesto Pasta Salad
Boil the ziti in a large pot following the package directions. One minute before it’s done add the asparagus. They will cook just a little bit so they are still crisp but tender and, at this point, the pasta will be al dente. Drain the ziti and asparagus.
I like to cool the pasta to room temperature before tossing it with everything else. Just spread it out (with the asparagus) on a baking sheet and it will cool off in about five minutes or so.
Prepare the pesto sauce (or open the container- yas) and pour it into a large bowl. Add all of the ingredients and toss, toss, toss until everything is evenly coated in the pesto. And, yes, you can add the frozen peas as is. They will thaw while you are tossing the salad together – no need to thaw them ahead of time.
Other Ways to Dress it Up
You can add to this salad with all sorts of things (or switch things out) – here are some ideas you might like to try:
- Add some bite-sized fresh mozzarella cheese or you could try some crumbled feta cheese.
- Any kind of pesto will work with this recipe. Check out my posts with lots of homemade pesto recipes for more ideas.
- Try swapping the spinach for arugula.
- Toss in some tomatoes like diced Roma tomatoes, grape tomatoes, or cherry tomatoes.
- Add some thinly sliced fresh basil leaves and chopped pine nut for garnish.
- Some sliced kalamata olives or chopped artichoke hearts would add a different flavor.
- You could also add some roasted zucchini.
- Some finely diced red onion would add some color. Or try some sliced green onions.
I prefer this pasta salad at room temperature soon after it’s made. It will keep in the refrigerator for a few days, but it tends to dry out because the ziti will absorb the pesto. So, toss it with a little extra pesto or olive oil if it needs it.
Summery, light, and full of green goodness. No matter when you serve it, this pesto pasta salad recipe is delicious.
P.S. Want to get new recipes sent directly to your inbox? Sign up for the Weekly Newsletter and get my free email bonus!
More Pasta Salad Recipes
Want more summer salad recipes? Of course, you do!
- Italian Pasta Salad
- BLT Pasta Salad
- Tortellini Pasta Salad
- Orzo Pasta Salad
- Creamy Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad
This pesto pasta salad is loaded with fresh veggies like asparagus, spinach and peas. Add some chicken, pesto and pasta and you get a summer-fresh pasta salad that is ready in 30 minutes.
- 8 ounces ziti
- 10 ounces thin asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces (see note)
- 1 cup (8-oz) pesto
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- Juice of one lemon
- 1 cup frozen peas (see note)
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
- 3 cups spinach, chopped
- 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken (see note)
- Boil the pasta following package directions. In the last two minutes, add the asparagus. Drain the pasta and asparagus and spread them out on a baking sheet to cool to room temperature.
- In a big bowl, toss the pesto with all of the ingredients. Garnish with more Parmesan cheese, if you like.
- I think this salad tastes best at room temperature. Leftovers will keep for a few days in the refrigerator, but the pasta will absorb the pesto so the salad might be a little dry. You can add a little more pesto or olive oil to refresh it.
If you use thick asparagus you should cook them a few extra minutes. For the peas, you don’t need to thaw them first. They will thaw quickly as you toss the salad together.
If you want to omit the chicken just double up on the asparagus for a vegetarian pasta salad. You might want to add some additional salt if you do this.
The nutrition estimate doesn’t include the extra Parmesan cheese for the garnish.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Category: Salads
- Method: Toss
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size: 1/6 of recipe
- Calories: 437
- Sugar: 4.1g
- Sodium: 536.7mg
- Fat: 22.1g
- Saturated Fat: 4.6g
- Unsaturated Fat: 16g
- Trans Fat: 0.1g
- Carbohydrates: 26.9g
- Fiber: 4.3g
- Protein: 22.6g
- Cholesterol: 37.4mg
Keywords: pesto pasta salad, chicken pasta salad
Post updated from the archives. First published in June 2020.