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This pesto pasta salad features homemade kale pesto, fresh mozzarella cheese, and cherry tomatoes. It’s not only easy to make, but it’s bursting with flavor, feeds a crowd, and keeps for days in the refrigerator. It’s a great make ahead recipe– the flavor is best on day 2 or 3!

pesto pasta salad in a glass bowl

Today’s pasta salad takes advantage of spring and summer’s bounty with fresh basil and lots of cherry tomatoes. (By the way, if you love these flavors– you will FLIP for this creamy pesto shrimp recipe.) We love adding a little crunch with pine nuts, but chopped walnuts would be equally as fabulous especially since walnuts are in the pesto itself. We can’t praise this recipe enough– it’s our summer anthem in the form of food.

Why You’ll Love This Pesto Pasta Salad

  • Easy to make
  • We use homemade kale pesto
  • Lots of texture in every bite
  • Bright and colorful
  • Fresh and flavorful
  • Feeds a crowd
  • Convenient make-ahead recipe
kale basil pesto in a food processor

Kale Pesto

For today’s pesto pasta salad, we’re using homemade kale pesto. It’s just like basil pesto, but instead of basil we use kale. This kale pesto is extremely versatile– it’s fantastic on grilled meats and fish, warm pasta, in sandwiches, as a dip, and especially on cold pasta salads. You can even use it in place of regular pesto on pesto pizza.

It’s also bursting with flavor thanks to bright lemon juice and garlic. We’ll also add parmesan cheese, walnuts, a little basil, olive oil, and salt. It tastes much better than store-bought– there is nothing like fresh pesto and you know what? It’s so much easier to make than you think. Just a few pulses in your food processor or blender does the trick.

Basil goes into the pasta salad itself, so if you want to simply use regular basil pesto instead of kale pesto, go for it.

Other Ingredients You Need For Pesto Pasta Salad

In addition to homemade kale pesto, you need 5 more ingredients:

  • Pasta: We like to use elbow pasta so the pesto can really seep into the noodles.
  • Basil: Fresh basil leaves add lots of flavor.
  • Cherry Tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes add color and texture.
  • Mozzarella: We like to use cubed mozzarella cheese, but shredded cheese or mozzarella balls would also work.
  • Pine Nuts: Pine nuts add a delicious crunch! You could also use chopped walnuts since walnuts are in the pesto itself.
pesto pasta salad with mozzarella and tomatoes in a glass bowl
pesto pasta salad in a glass bowl

What To Serve with Pesto Pasta Salad

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pesto pasta salad in a glass bowl

Kale Pesto Mozzarella Pasta Salad

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 10 servings 1x
  • Category: Pasta Salad
  • Method: Cooking
  • Cuisine: American


This kale pesto mozzarella pasta salad is not only easy to make, but it’s bursting with flavor, feeds a crowd, and keeps for days in the refrigerator.



Kale Pesto

  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 1 cup fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup (65g) chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup (50g) freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • juice of 1 lemon (2 Tbsp)
  • 1/4 teaspoon – 1/2 teaspoon salt

Pasta Salad

  • 1 pound dry pasta (elbow, bow tie, rotini, etc)
  • handful fresh basil
  • 2 cups (300g) halved cherry tomatoes
  • 6 ounces mozzarella, cubed (or shredded or mozzarella balls)
  • 3/4 cup (105g) pine nuts (or chopped walnuts)


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, make the pesto. Combine kale, basil and walnuts in a food processor. Pulse until greens and nuts are finely chopped. Scrape down the sides, then add olive oil, parmesan, garlic, lemon juice, and salt. Start with 1/4 teaspoon and add more to taste. Run the processor until everything is blended together. Set aside.
  3. Stir the remaining pasta salad ingredients in with the pasta. Toss with pesto. Add more basil and pine nuts if you wish (I like lots of basil).
  4. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Tastes best on day 2 or 3, so it’s perfect to make ahead of time!

Keywords: Kale Pesto Mozzarella Pasta Salad

pesto pasta salad in a ceramic bowl with a fork

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Do you think there’s anything one can sub for the pine nuts in the actual salad? I’m not a fan. Would more walnuts, like from the pesto, work? Looks delicious either way. Can’t wait to try this one 🙂

  2. What kind of kale did you use for the pesto? I’m partial toward dinosaur kale but maybe curly would blend better?

  3. This looks amazing!! Regarding the pesto sauce, about how much would you say this recipe makes? And how long would you say the sauce would keep on its own in the fridge? Thanks Sally!

    1. I’d say about a cup– and I’ve had someone the fridge for a week. Still great!

  4. This looks amazing! Do you think I’d be able to swap out the kale for spinach? Thanks!

  5. Could I use pine nuts instead of walnuts for the pesto? How much would I need to use?

  6. Hi ive just made the pesto and it looks amazing but tastes extremely bitter, it mightve been the garlic i thought three cloves were excessive .. What should i do?

    1. This is a really old comment but I thought I’d reply anyways in case anyone else had the same problem. I’ve made it twice now, and the first time mine was a little bitter and spicy (but still good!), and dried out pretty quickly. Second time I made this I fixed these by using baby kale (to cut down on the bitterness), 1 large clove of garlic (the first time I used 3 as well, but they were big cloves and I think that was the problem), a little extra lemon and a teeny extra salt. Vwalla!

  7. Question – mine really soaked up the pesto and is kind of dry now (on day 2). Any suggestions? Thanks!!

  8. I’ve made this twice now and it is, hands-down, my favorite pasta salad recipe! I actually don’t care for traditional pasta salad, so this is my new go-to for parties.

  9. This was delicious!!! Added a few more tomatoes and used 8oz of fresh mozzarella, and it was perfect. I forgot to get good Parmesan and risked using the kraft grated kind we had in the fridge already and was STILL blown away by the flavor of the pesto. Great recipe – will definitely make again! (Next time, will probably get good Parmesan even though it was fine with the cheap stuff, and probably toss in some roasted broccoli at the end to increase the veggie content; but again, perfect as written.) Thanks for posting this recipe!

  10. Fantastic! I just had WLS and made and adjusted a few ingredients.

  11. Easy lunch to keep in the refrigerator all week while we’re in self- during this troubling time. It’s delicious as written. Thank you for providing your readers with the best recipes, SAlly. Dessert AND dinner recipes the whole fam loves.

  12. Love the kale pesto! I just made this and ate a bunch of spoonfuls. Now I’m letting it sit in the fridge but I suspect I’ll be eating it all day. Not sure it will make it to day three.
    I added twice as much mozzarella. Don’t tell anyone…

  13. I can’t use pine nuts because the person is allergic to tree nuts. Any other suggestions?

  14. We used Barilla Veggie Rotini. That extra touch of veggies and the freshness of from scratch kale pesto helped made this feel like a not-terribly-unhealthy pasta salad. It was indulgent without being too heavy. Definitely a keeper!

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