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Italian Pasta Salad with Lemon Pesto Dressing

5 from 6 votes
Total Time: 20 mins

This is the best Zesty Italian Pasta Salad, and it comes complete with a homemade Lemon Pesto Dressing. It is easy to make, enough to feed a crowd, and full of fresh flavor.

Zesty Italian Pasta Salad

Pasta salads are a summer staple, am I right?! You will not find a pasta salad more addicting and jam packed with fresh flavors than this one. It has zesty lemon, pesto, mozzarella, sundried tomatoes, pepperoncini peppers, green onion, and of course bow tie shaped pasta! It is great for barbecues, pool parties, and family reunions. Everyone will be asking for the recipe.

Zesty Italian Pasta in a large bowl ready to be mixed with the Lemon Pesto Dressing.

Ingredients for Zesty Italian Pasta Salad with Lemon Pesto Dressing

  • Farfalle Pasta: More recognizably known as Bow-Tie Pasta. You will want to cook the pasta as specified on the package and rinse with cool water.
  • Fresh Spinach
  • Pepperoncini Peppers: Be sure to remove the tops and seeds before dicing them.
  • Sundried Tomatoes
  • Scallions
  • Mozzarella Cheese: Pearls work best in this pasta salad, just make sure you drain the oil from them if they come packaged in oil. Alternatively, you can buy a log and chop it into bite sized pieces or use shredded mozzarella cheese as well.
  • Homemade Lemon Pesto Dressing: This is made using pesto, extra virgin olive oil, lemons zested and juiced, red wine vinegar, honey and salt and pepper.

How To Make Italian Pasta Salad In 3 Easy Steps

  1. Prep the ingredients. Start by cooking your bow tie (Farfalle) pasta to al dente and rinsing with cool water. While the pasta is being prepared, dice the Pepperoncini peppers, sundried tomatoes, and green onions into bite sized pieces. You will also want to wash your lemons, zest, and juice them.
  2. Shake up the dressing. You will need to grab yourself a well sealed glass jar, I used a 16 ounce canning jar. Add your pesto, extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, lemon, zest, honey, salt and pepper to your glass container. Securely place the top on and shake vigorously until it is well combined.
  3. Make the salad. In a large bowl add the pasta along with all the other toppings: fresh spinach, pepperoncini peppers, sundried tomatoes, scallions, and Mozzarella cheese pearls. Pour over the dressing and toss the salad until everything is evenly distributed and coated in the dressing. Refrigerate the pasta salad for a few hours prior to serving.
Ingredients- Spinach, Banana Peppers, Sundried Tomatoes, Onions, Mozzarella, Pasta Noodles. Lemon Pesto dressing on the side.

3 Tips For the Best Italian Pasta Salad

Shake up an extra batch of the homemade Lemon Pesto Dressing. It is great to pour over leftover pasta salad to refresh it. Leftover dressing also tastes great on lettuce salads, in stir fry, to marinade chicken, etc. Don’t forget to shake it really good prior to using it (the fats separate from the oils).

Make recipe substitutions to suit your needs. For gluten free sub out the noodles for gluten free noodles of your choice. If you are dairy free omit the Mozzarella cheese. If you don’t like any of the toppings, leave them out or trade them out with something you do like.

Always refrigerate your pasta salad prior to serving it. Refrigerating the pasta salad for a few hours allows the flavors to marinate and develop. You definitely do not want to skip this part.

A big bowl of Zesty Italian Pasta Salad with Lemon Pesto Dressing

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I make this Italian Pasta Salad and dressing ahead of time? Yes! All you have to do is prepare the dressing in a jar and the pasta with toppings in a large bowl (store both of them covered and in the refrigerate). Do not mix the dressing and pasta salad together until you are ready to serve it.

Do I have to use Bow Tie (Farfalle) pasta? Not at all. For a similar pasta I would go for elbow macaroni, Fusilli, Gemelli, or other small shapes.

What is the best type of pesto to use? I prefer to make homemade pesto but store-bought is more than okay to use as well. I am loving this Homemade Basil Pesto recipe because it requires only 5 ingredients and there are loads of tips and information on making your own pesto.

Bowl of Zesty Italian Pasta Salad with two plates full of pasta salad.

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Two plates loaded with the Best Italian Pasta Salad

Italian Pasta Salad with Lemon Pesto Dressing

Elizabeth Swoish
This Italian Pasta Salad with Lemon Pesto Dressing is zesty, addicting, and jam packed with fresh flavors- lemon, pesto, mozzarella, sundried tomatoes, just to name a few. It is easy to make and enough to feed a crowd of people.
5 from 6 votes
Total Time 20 mins
Course Appetizer, Salad, Side Dish
Servings 12
Calories 273 kcal

Ingredients
  

Lemon Pesto Dressing

  • 5 ounces pesto
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 lemons; juiced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • salt & pepper; to taste

Italian Pasta Salad

  • 16 ounces Bow Tie (Farfalle) pasta
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • cup Pepperoncini peppers; diced
  • cup sundried tomatoes; diced
  • cup scallions; diced
  • 1 package Mozzarella pearls

Instructions
 

  • Cook the Bow Tie (Farfalle) pasta as specified on the packaging and to al dente. Once fully cooked, rinse with cool water and set aside.
  • Prepare the dressing by adding the pesto, extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest, honey, salt and pepper to a large jar.
  • Shake vigorously until well combined.
  • To a large bowl add the cooked and cooled bow tie (Farfalle) pasta, spinach, diced Pepperoncini peppers, sundried tomatoes, scallions, and Mozzarella pearls.
  • Pour the Zesty Lemon Pesto Dressing over the salad and mix until evenly distributed.
  • Refrigerate the pasta salad for a few hours to marinate (and amplify flavors) before serving.

Notes

Storing information: 
  • In the refrigerator, covered for up to 4 days.
 
Making Ahead of Time:
  • The dressing can be stored in it’s jar in the refrigerator for up to 7 days head of time. 
  • The pasta and toppings can be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days ahead of time. 
  • Be sure to keep the dressing separate from pasta salad and refrigerated. Shake the dressing well prior to combining it with the pasta salad.
Keyword EASY APPETIZERS, EASY SIDES, MEAL PREP, ONE BOWL, PARTY FOOD, PASTA, SALAD, VEGETABLES

If you make my Zesty Italian Pasta Salad with Lemon Pesto Dressing, don’t forget to leave this recipe a rating, comment, or like. Tag me on social media using the hashtag #EntirelyElizabeth when sharing your own personal photos making this recipe. I would love to see your version and know your thoughts!

***updated 5/17/2022

By Elizabeth Swoish on May 25th, 2021

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