close up overhead view of pesto pasta salad with cranberries, smoked turkey, and arugula.

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Why I love this pesto pasta salad

It’s nothing new, but I’m on a bit of a pesto kick again. I don’t think its I’ll ever get tired of, and I’m always trying new and unique flavors, like my artichoke pesto and my cilantro pesto.

I made a batch of spinach pesto, instead of treating myself to a big bowl of pesto pasta, I decided to try something different. Something with a little bit fall-inspired (hello, cranberries) and a little bit of summer – pesto pasta salad.

It’s inspired by a pasta salad that was on the menu of a restaurant where I used to work years and years ago – one of my favorites to have on my lunch break.

The addition of the smoked turkey is, in my opinion, so unique, and the salad itself requires very little chopping. I even tossed in a few handfuls of arugula for some extra green.

Here’s what you’ll need to make it

Equipment

Ingredients

  • Smoked turkey – Always check the ingredients on deli meat. They can be a source of hidden dairy!
  • Pesto sauce – You’ll also want to make your own pesto, unless you can find a cheese-free version at the store (if you do, please tell me about it!)
  • Pine nuts – If you don’t have pine nuts, or don’t feel like buying them, feel free to swap sliced almonds for your pasta salad.

How to make cold pesto pasta salad

Cook the pasta. Boil the pasta in salted water until it’s just past al dente – add about 1 minute to the cook time on the package. When it’s done drain the pasta in a colander and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Chop the salad ingredients. Cube the sliced turkey and dice the onion. Add them to a large bowl with the pine nuts, arugula and cranberries.

Make the dressing. Mix the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth. You can also do this in the bottom of your salad bowl if you want to save a dish to clean.

Toss the salad. Combine everything and stir to coat the pasta and other ingredients with the dressing. Before serving, adjust the seasoning to taste with salt & pepper.

overhead view of pasta pesto salad  in a white bowl on a counter top next to lemon wedges

FAQS and tips for making cold pesto salad

Can you make pasta salad the night before?

Absolutely! It’s a great way to save time or prepare for an event. If you’re making this ahead of time, leave the arugula out and stir it in just before serving to keep it from wilting.

Do you rinse pasta for pasta salad?

Yes. I think its best to rinse the pasta for pasta salad. This helps it cool down and prevents it from cooking to long. It also helps prevent the pasta from sticking together.

How do you keep pasta salad moist?

First, make sure you cook the pasta completely. Also, make sure you dress your salad right away and if the pasta seems dry the next day, mix in a tiny bit of extra mayonnaise.

overhead view of pesto pasta salad in a small white bowl on a counter top

More pasta recipes you’ll love:

Even more pesto recipes:

close up of pesto pasta salad
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Pesto Pasta Salad

This unique pesto pasta salad features smoked turkey, cranberries and toasted pine nuts with a flavorful, creamy pesto dressing. The recipe is so easy and can be made in only 30 minutes. Serve it cold as a refreshing main dish or as a side for your favorite summer recipes.

  • Author: Melissa Belanger
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 12 1x
  • Category: Salads
  • Method: Mixing
  • Cuisine: Italian

Ingredients

Scale

For the pasta salad:

  • 1 pound farfalle pasta
  • 1/2 pound smoked turkey deli meat, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (about 2 ounces)
  • 2 cups arugula

For the dressing:

  • 3/4 cup pesto sauce
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 tablespoon water

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions for al dente in salted water. After straining, rinse with cold water until pasta is completely cooled.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together pesto sauce, mayonnaise and lemon juice.
  3. Add pasta, smoked turkey, cranberries, red onion, pine nuts, parmesan and arugula. Stir until evenly coated with dressing.
  4. Refrigerate until serving.

Keywords: dairy free, easy, pesto, turkey, pasta

Last Updated on November 12, 2021 by Melissa Belanger

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6 Comments

  1. Why would you have Parmesan mentioned in Your instructions? Parmesan is not on your ingredients list from what I can see, plus you say dairy free recipe.