This tasty pesto pasta salad with feta, olives and sun-dried tomatoes is easy to make, and packs up perfectly for lunch!
I'm not really one for New Year's resolutions, but I am trying to eat better and spend my money more carefully this year. One change that really helps in both of those areas in packing my snacks and lunch for work.
When I looked back at how much money I spent on fast food last year, I was really disappointed in myself...
Don't get me wrong, I have no issues with spending money on food - but this wasn't even food that I wanted to eat. Most of what I spent my money on last year was low-quality fast food that I bought out of desperation, usually because I had very little time to eat and hadn't brought anything with me.
Obviously, that didn't do anything good for my wallet or my waistline, so this year I'm trying to do better.
I brought this pesto pasta salad to work the other day, and one of my co-workers commented on how good it looked. Then another came in and asked me if my mom had made it for me (nope). Then someone else came in and said it looked so much better than the sub they had just bought.
And I thought to myself... what's the big deal? This is just a bowl of pasta with pesto and some stuff from the antipasto bar at the grocery store.
It turns out that sometimes the most simple recipes are the ones that really resonate with people. And pretty much anything looks better than a store-bought sub with mysterious bland chicken from a crappy fast-food chain... We really need a better fast food option near our workplace!
Anyhow, this pesto pasta salad recipe is so easy, you really don't even need to read the full recipe below.
Simply boil any small sturdy pasta that you enjoy. I used rigatoni, but fusilli, rotini, penne, orecchiette or even macaroni would work. Top with whatever you like. I went with feta cheese, but those tiny bocconcini balls would be great too. I used sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and marinated artichoke hearts. You might want want to try fresh cherry tomatoes, green peas, red onions, pine nuts or some leftover chicken breast in there too. Then toss with basil pesto (store-bought is fine, but I like homemade) and you're done.
I don't make this recipe exactly the same every time. I usually use what I have in my fridge, or buy what's in season at the grocery. Feel free to play around with it until you figure out what your favourite ingredients are.
I know that many people will want an actual recipe for this pesto pasta salad though, so I'm including it below. Print it out, scribble all over it and make it yours.
The only real tips for this recipe is to make sure you salt your pasta water well (that's your one chance to season the pasta on the inside). Also, follow the cooking instructions on the package to make sure you don't overcook it (the cooking times will vary depending on the type of pasta you use).
If you want to give the pasta a quick rinse after cooking to prevent the pasta from sticking together, you can. I don't bother, because I want my pesto to stick to the pasta. If you chose to, just remember that rinsing is something you only ever do when making pasta salad. NEVER rinse your pasta if you're making a warm pasta dish! You want your sauce to stick to the pasta. Also, be sure to drain the pasta really well before adding the pesto, or it will be a soggy mess.
As for the veggies, don't worry about cutting everything evenly. I like having bigger pieces of artichokes, but smaller pieces of sun-dried tomatoes. It doesn't really matter what they look like, and nothing needs to be cooked so it's ok if they're not cut evenly or are similar in size.
Once everything is tossed together, you can serve it at room temperature. Leftovers pack up well in a glass container (so you don't have to worry about the pesto staining the container).
That's about it! If you give this pesto pasta salad recipe a try, let me know how it turns out for you in the comments below.
Pesto Pasta Salad
- Large Pot for Pasta
- Large Bowl
- 4 cups rigatoni, (can use white or whole grain)
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus extra for seasoning if needed
- ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
- ½ cup roasted bell peppers, diced
- ¼ cup marinated artichoke hearts, diced
- ¼ cup olives, sliced (Kalamata, or your favourite)
- ½ cup feta cheese, diced or crumbled
- ¼ cup basil pesto
- black pepper, to taste
- Fill a large pot with water and set on stove. Bring to a boil. Season water with 1 tsp of salt and stir to dissolve.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Remove from heat, drain well and place in a large bowl.
- Add the tomatoes, peppers, artichokes, and olives to the bowl. Top with the pesto and stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
- Serve at room temperature.
Please read the blog post for detailed tips and explanations.
Nutrition Disclaimer: please note that the nutritional information for this recipe is only an estimate, and has been calculated using a plugin.