Salads/ Vegetarian & Vegan

Red Pesto Pasta Salad

Simple and quick to make, this red pesto pasta salad is creamy and so flavorful thanks to sun-dried tomatoes. Perfect for game days and BBQs!
Red pesto pasta salad topped with sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan and basil.

Last Updated on February 7, 2022 by Betty Davies

Creamy and tangy, this red pesto pasta salad is not shy in the flavor department. This easy to make recipe comes together quickly, and is topped with sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan and fresh basil for a fresh and delicious bite. It’s the perfect accompaniment for cookouts, pot lucks and picnics, as well as a tasty side dish for your weeknight meals.

Overhead shot of red pesto pasta salad served in a large bowl on a wooden chopping board.

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Pasta salads are always a crowd pleaser, and this one is vibrant in both taste and color. Simple to make, this is a perfect option if you have a hungry crowd to feed.

The sun-dried tomato red pesto brings a wonderful tangy flavor to this dish, and pair that with a little mayo, some parmesan and fresh basil and you have one awesome pasta salad on your hands.

Be sure to try my Bacon Blue Cheese Pasta Salad and Cajun Pasta Salad too!

Why you will love this recipe!

  • Make ahead: This will easily keep in the fridge for a couple of days so it’s a great option if you are looking for dishes for a gathering. It also means that you can enjoy it as a side, or even as a lunch, throughout the week.
  • Quick and easy: Just cook the pasta and toss it in the dressing. You can make up a huge batch in very little time!
  • Everyday ingredients: I pretty much had all of the ingredients in my pantry to whip this up, so you have no excuses!
  • Great for a crowd: This recipe makes up a big batch of pasta salad so it’s great for game days, parties and cookouts. The recipe is easily halved.
  • Dietary info: This red pesto pasta salad is vegetarian.
Red pesto pasta salad served in a large bowl with two serving spoons.

Ingredients

  • Pasta: I used baby pasta shells, but most short pasta shapes will work well. Penne, fusilli, macaroni and bow tie are all great options.
  • Red Pesto: Red pesto is made of a base of sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers. It has a rich and bright flavor that wonderfully bold.
  • Mayonnaise: A little mayo creates a nice creamy dressing.
  • Rice wine vinegar: This is a mild vinegar that helps to balance out the creaminess without being too overpowering. Apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar would also work great.
  • Parmesan: Add in some freshly grated parmesan to the dressing, plus some for the topping for extra cheesy-ness.
  • Sun-dried tomatoes and basil: Added to the top of the pasta salad for a nice pop of color and enhanced flavor.

How to make red pesto pasta salad

Be sure to scroll down for the full recipe!

  • Mix together the red pesto, mayo, rice wine vinegar and some of the parm (photo 1).
  • Add the cooked pasta and toss to coat in the dressing (photo 2).
  • Top with sliced sun-dried tomatoes, fresh parm and basil (photo 3).
Three step by step photos to show how to make the recipe.

Recipe Variations

This red pesto pasta salad is pretty awesome as it is, but it’s easy to adapt to suit your tastes.

  • Swap the red pesto for a green pesto, or try it with my Pistachio Pesto or Lemon Basil Pesto for a herbier dish.
  • Make it a fuller meal by adding in some cooked shredded chicken.
  • Make it gluten-free by using your favorite GF pasta.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you make pasta salad without mayo?

I much prefer to add some mayo to this pasta salad for a nice creamy texture. I find it also helps to get the pasta nicely covered in the dressing. You can totally skip it if you prefer, if you do, the flavor of the red pesto will be more prominent which is not a bad thing.

How do you prepare pasta for a cold salad?

Cook the dried pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water. Cook until al dente (tender but with a little bite), then drain it in a sieve or colander. Rinse the pasta under cold running water immediately so that it stops the cooking process and can be tossed in the mayo dressing.

How long does it keep?

This pasta salad will keep well in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. If you are planning to make it ahead of time I’d leave off the toppings so that they don’t dry out. Keep it covered tightly and give it a stir before serving. Because this salad contains mayo, it’d best not to leave it at room temperature for more than two hours.

A spoon in a large serving bowl of red pesto pasta salad.

Serving Suggestions

This red pesto pasta salad is a great addition to any gathering, whether it be a BBQ, pot luck or game day. It’s great to serve up as a side with chicken, beef and seafood and it’s delicious straight out of the bowl! Try it with:

Recipe Notes and Tips

  • Take care not to overcook the pasta. It should be al dente. If it’s overcooked it will fall apart when tossing it with the dressing.
  • Once cooked, rinse the pasta with cold water. This will stop it from overcooking and it shouldn’t be tossed with the mayo when still warm as the dressing can split.
  • I found that I did not need to add any addition salt or pepper to the finished dish as the red pesto is so flavorful, but taste before serving and add some if you wish.
Close up of the sun-dried tomatoes on top of the salad.

This red pesto pasta salad is a real flavor explosion thanks to those sun-dried tomatoes. Quick and easy to make, this side dish is a real show stopper!

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Red pesto pasta salad topped with sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan and basil.

Red Pesto Pasta Salad

Simple and quick to make, this red pesto pasta salad is creamy and so flavorful thanks to sun-dried tomatoes. Perfect for game days and BBQs!
Print Pin Rate
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Diet: Vegetarian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 10 servings
Calories: 295kcal
Author: Betty Davies

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried pasta (baby shells, macaroni, penne etc) (450g)
  • 1 jar red pesto (7.4fl oz / 218ml)
  • ½ cup mayonnaise (115g)
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan (4 tablespoons)

To serve

  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
  • 2 sun-dried tomatoes (thinly sliced)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil (thinly sliced)

Instructions

  • Cook the pasta in boiling salted water til al dente.
  • Drain the pasta and run under cold running water. Set to one side.
  • In a large serving bowl, whisk together the red pesto, mayonnaise, rice wine vinegar and ¼ cup of grated parm til well combined.
  • Add the cooked pasta to the dressing and toss til well coated.
  • Top with more grated parm, sliced sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil.

Notes

  • Take care not to overcook the pasta. It should be al dente. If it’s overcooked it will fall apart when tossing it with the dressing.
  • Once cooked, rinse the pasta with cold water. This will stop it from overcooking and it shouldn’t be tossed with the mayo when still warm as the dressing can split.
  • I found that I did not need to add any addition salt or pepper to the finished dish as the red pesto is so flavorful, but taste before serving and add some if you wish.

Nutrition

Calories: 295kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 9mg | Sodium: 331mg | Potassium: 121mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 189IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 74mg | Iron: 1mg

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