Ok folks, it doesn’t get much easier or tastier than this dish, my easy pesto pasta salad! The satisfaction and fullness from the pasta, the energy from the beans and the flavors from the pesto and tomatoes make this one of the best dishes you can have in your repertoire. I have been making this pesto pasta recipe the exact same way since I was in college and I am not tired of it yet.
What I needed back then (and still do today) is a dish that I could easily make and pack up and bring with me on campus (at the time) or work and would fuel me for an entire day and this dish does just that! The only cooking you need to do is cook the pasta and the rest is just assembling (including the pesto).
This is proof that great meals can be assembled! This meal is perfect for a meal at home or as a take along to an outing since it is served at room temperature. It also heat up nicely in the microwave if you prefer it hot.
This pesto pasta recipe has a few usual ingredients (the obvious, pesto and pasta) and a few new ingredients (Italian beans, tomatoes and one other ingredient that I bet you would never guess.) I am going to break down all of them.
Now to the pesto, if you have a favorite brand that you like then by all means use that if it is easier for you. Just make sure it is a good one. If you want to make your own, I have a wonderful pesto recipe that I have been using for years and I love it. This is the pesto I love adding to this pasta.
If you do decide to make your own pesto, I highly suggest making a double batch and freezing some it until you need it. Why go through all that work for one batch when you can essentially make 2 batches in the same amount of time. I am always thinking of these shortcuts in the kitchen.
I have made and bought my own pesto and there is no shame in store bought. In fact it is a real time saver for quick meals to keep some in your pantry.
The Cannellini Beans:
Now that we have talked about the pesto, it is time to discuss the other ingredients. This recipe also calls for cannellini beans which can totally be optional, however, I highly recommend them in this dish.
It makes the pasta go from just a regular pesto pasta to a high energy dish. The beans are really good for you and the creaminess from these Italian beans goes so well with the flavors in this pesto pasta.
Tomatoes are the fresh ingredient that balances this pesto pasta and keeps it feeling light. I also happen to love tomatoes and the combination of pesto and tomatoes is a match made in heaven!
For this recipe, you can use any tomatoes you like. I will use large tomatoes that I dice up if that is what is in the house. Sometimes I may have cherry or grape tomatoes and in that instance, I slice them in half into more manageable bite sized pieces.
The Secret Ingredient:
There is only one more ingredient we haven’t talked about. The ingredient that you will see that is a little different in my recipe from other pesto pasta recipes is the addition of balsamic vinegar. This to me is very important and it really adds a depth of flavor that I feel pesto over pasta lacks.
Pesto on its own is bold a full flavored but once it is mixed with pasta it dulls the flavors a bit. The balsamic vinegar helps wake those flavors back up and adds a faint touch of sweetness in the background. It is just a little that you add so don’t worry that it will be too much.
- 1 box of pasta choose a shape that holds the pesto well like corkscrew or penne
- 1 cup homemade pesto Here is the recipe for my pesto. If you want to buy your pesto, I love Sacla which I find in the Italian section of the grocery store.
- 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
- 15 oz can of cannellini beans rinsed well and drained
- 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cook pasta according to the package instructions
- In a large bowl, combine the drained beans, pesto, tomatoes and balsamic vinegar
- When pasta is fully cooked, strain and add it to the bowl
- Toss pasta and ingredients together well to combine
- Taste for seasoning and see if salt or pepper is needed