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Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad

This recipe delivers creamy pesto pasta salad for a crowd! This beautiful tri-color rotini pasta salad has pesto dressing and crunchy veggies and is easy to make for 25 to 50 people. Make in advance for easy preparation and stress-free quantity cooking. This salad is especially perfect for a potluck, summer barbecue, or garden party.

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prepared pesto pasta salad recipe in glass bowl

About this recipe

My creamy pesto pasta salad has all straight-forward ingredients that are easy to find and affordable. Also, the flavors here are crowd-pleasing favorites: tender pasta, creamy dressing, and crunchy veggies.

I have this recipe written as a side salad, but you can easily add cooked chicken or diced ham to transform this into a main dish salad as well.

prepared pesto pasta salad recipe in glass bowl

About the ingredients

All the ingredients are listed in the recipe card below, but here are just a couple extra notes.

I used green bell pepper, grape tomatoes, red onion, and broccoli as the veggies, but these can be changed up to whatever is fresh and available to you.

chopped tomatoes, onion, and green bell pepper in bowl

For the broccoli, use fresh broccoli rather than frozen. By adding the broccoli to the boiling water for the last minute of the pasta cooking, we are able to cook the broccoli (but not overcook) in the same pot!

Whereas most pasta comes in 16-ounce (1-pound) boxes, for some reason tri-color pasta comes in a 12-ounce box. So, just be aware that if you use a different pasta (such as macaroni or regular rotini), the box will be 16 ounces rather than 12 ounces.

cooked tri-color rotini pasta and broccoli in colander

Country-style Dijon mustard is a variety that is a mixture of Dijon and whole grain mustard. If not available, simply substitute the 1/4 cup country-style Dijon mustard with 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard plus 2 Tablespoons whole grain mustard.

Note that this recipe uses white wine vinegar which is less assertive than regular white vinegar.

pesto salad dressing prepared in metal bowl with wood spoon


Can meat be added to this salad?

Yes. Diced ham or cubed cooked chicken would be lovely in this salad.

Can this recipe be made in advance?

Yes. This recipe can be made a day in advance.

Can this salad be made with gluten-free pasta?

Yes. I recommend using a good GF pasta, like Ronzoni or Barilla. I do not recommend using a chickpea or veggie-based GF pasta for this salad because they can turn gummy. Otherwise, proceed with the recipe as written.

prepared pesto pasta salad recipe in glass bowl
prepared pesto pasta salad recipe in glass bowl

Need a meal idea? Serve creamy pesto pasta salad with Deviled Egg Sandwiches for a lovely lunch!

prepared pesto pasta salad recipe in glass bowl

Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad

Creamy pesto pasta salad is a tri-color rotini pasta salad that is easy to make for a crowd of 25 to 50 people.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Italian-inspired
Keyword: pesto pasta salad, tri-color rotini pasta salad
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Calories: 227kcal
Author: Erica
Servings: 25


  • 24 oz tri-color rotini pasta
  • 2 heads broccoli cut into florets (see Notes)
  • 2 large green bell peppers diced
  • 2 pints grape tomatoes halved (see Notes)
  • 1 red onion diced

For the pesto salad dressing


Cook the pasta and blanch the broccoli

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  • Add the pasta to the boiling water. Set timer to cook 1 minute past al dente (reference package directions for cook time).
  • When there is 1 minute left for the pasta to cook, add the broccoli florets to the boiling water with the cooking pasta.
  • Drain the pasta and broccoli and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking. Drain well.

Make the pesto salad dressing

  • In a bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the pesto salad dressing.

Assemble the salad

  • In an extra large bowl or hotel pan, toss together the pasta, broccoli, bell pepper, tomatoes, onion, and pesto salad dressing.
  • Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving.


As written, this recipe makes 25 servings as a side salad. If serving as a main dish, this recipe yields 14 servings.
One head of broccoli yields 3-4 cups florets and weighs about 9 ounces.
If making more servings of this recipe (i.e. with more than 2 pints grape tomatoes), I don’t halve the tomatoes. I just leave them whole.
Note that the equipment recommendations are just recommendations. Extra-large or commercial-sized equipment is not required for batch cooking.


Calories: 227kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 13mg | Sodium: 513mg | Potassium: 145mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g

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One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    We loved this salad so much and I am excited to share it with you. As always, I am happy to answer any questions!

5 from 1 vote

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