This Strawberry Pesto Pasta Salad is the perfect summer side dish! Made with fusilli tossed with homemade pesto, fresh sliced strawberries, candied walnuts and fresh mozzarella pearls.
I’m on a bit of a pasta salad kick over here, Taco Pasta Salad last week and Strawberry Pesto Pasta Salad today! Truth is, everyone loves a good pasta salad and they make the perfect summer side dish!
Strawberries may not be the first thing to pop into your head when you are thinking about pasta salad, but just trust me on this one! The fusilli is cooked al dente and tossed with homemade pesto for the base. To that we add sweet sliced strawberries, homemade candied walnuts and fresh mozzarella cheese. Strawberries pair really nicely with basil, so the pesto sauce is the perfect compliment. Fresh mozzarella is always a welcomed addition to any summer pasta salad and the homemade candied walnuts add the perfect addition of sweetness as well as a much needed crunchy texture.
How to make Homemade Pesto
The main ingredients in homemade pesto are fresh basil and olive oil. Many recipes call for pine nuts and I love making pesto with pine nuts, but they are much more expensive and harder to find than walnuts. For this particular recipe since we are also making candied walnuts it is more convenient, and just as delicious, to use raw walnuts in our pesto.
To make the pesto you just combine all the ingredients in your food processor and process it until smooth – basil, walnuts, parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon juice and salt!
How to make Easy Candied Walnuts
These candied walnuts are so delicious, be careful or you might just eat them all before they make it into the pasta salad! They are simple to make in less than 10 minutes on your stove top. Start by melting butter in a skillet over medium heat, add sugar and salt and dissolve it in the butter. Add raw walnut pieces and toss them in the sugar mixture until well coated. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes until the sugar and walnuts turn golden brown, be careful to continue to stir while they are cooking so they do not burn. Transfer the toasted, candied walnuts to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to cool and harden, be sure to spread them out so they they are do not harden together in a big clump!
How to Serve Strawberry Pesto Pasta Salad
Once you have the pesto and candied walnuts made this pasta salad comes together in a flash! You can make the pesto and candied walnuts in advance. The pesto will keep fresh in the fridge up to 3 days and the candied walnuts can be stored in a cool place in a glass jar on the counter top for up to a week. The pasta salad itself should be assembled right before you are going to serve it or bring it to a party. The strawberries do not hold up well in the pasta salad for more than a few hours, so it is best to serve it asap once it is assembled!
Strawberry Pesto Pasta Salad is a great option for a summer BBQ. It is the perfect pairing for grilled chicken, steak or even hamburgers and hot dogs!
This Strawberry Pesto Pasta Salad is the perfect summer side dish! Made with fusilli, homemade pesto, fresh sliced strawberries, candied walnuts and fresh mozzarella pearls.
4oz fresh basil, stems removed
1/4 cup raw walnuts
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup white sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup raw walnut pieces
1 pound fusilli pasta
1 pound strawberries
8oz fresh mozzarella pearls
Add the basil, walnuts and parmesan cheese to the bowl of your food processor
Process on high for 1-2 minutes
Keep the food processor on and slowly pour in the olive oil
Continue to process until pesto is smooth
Add the lemon juice and salt to taste
Set pesto aside
Prep a baking sheet or other flat surface and line with a piece of parchment paper
Melt the butter over medium heat in a skillet on the stove top
Working with a wooden spatula, add the the sugar and add a pinch of salt to the butter, mix
Add the walnuts and use the wooden spatula to move them around to coat in the butter sugar mixture
Keep cooking, stirring constantly until the walnuts and sugar are lightly browned, but not burnt
Spread the walnuts out on the parchment paper to harden, make sure they are not all clumped together
Walnuts will take about 15 minutes to cool and harden
Prepare pasta according to package instructions for al dente
Drain the pasta and run under cold water to cool
In a large bowl toss the cooled pasta with the pesto
Remove the stems and slice the strawberries, add them to the pasta salad, toss
Slice the mozzarella pearls in half and add them to the pasta salad, toss
Add the cooled candied walnuts, toss
Serve and enjoy!
Keywords: #pastasalad, #pastasaladrecipes, #summerpastasalads, #pestopastasalad, #strawberrypastasalad
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