The recipe for this pasta salad with pesto is from "The Complete Make-Ahead Cookbook." Photo by: Daniel J. van Ackere/America's Test Kitchen
July 17, 2019 11:18:20 AM
More light and refreshing than a cream-based sauce or a chunky ragu, pesto makes for an excellent accompaniment to pasta during the hot summer months.
It couldn't be simpler to make; just process fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, salty Parmesan cheese, and extra-virgin olive oil together in a food processor.
However, a few challenges arose when we tried to transform the simple sauce into a cold pasta salad topping. When we tossed the pesto directly with hot pasta the sauce became separated and greasy as the pasta cooled.
We found that spreading the pasta on a baking sheet for about half an hour before adding the pesto was enough to adequately combat the problem. To help prevent the pesto from turning dark over time we added a handful of baby spinach, which set the bright green color, but was mild enough in flavor to let the basil shine.
Finally we found that adding some mayonnaise was the perfect way to give our pesto the clingy, thick texture ideal for a pasta salad.
We finished off our salad by reserving some of the toasted pine nuts to add a nice nutty crunch and tossed in sweet cherry tomatoes for a bright burst of freshness. Other pasta shapes can be substituted for the farfalle.
PASTA SALAD WITH PESTO
Start to finish: 1 hour 15 minutes
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 pound farfalle
Salt and pepper
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups fresh basil leaves, lightly bruised
1 cup baby spinach
3/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (3/4 cup), plus extra for serving
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
12 ounces cherry tomatoes, quartered
Nutrition information per serving: 482 calories; 250 calories from fat; 28 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 9 mg cholesterol; 316 mg sodium; 47 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 11 g protein.