This easy, summery pasta salad features classic caprese flavors and a homemade pesto!
For the Pesto:
- 1/4 cup shelled walnut pieces
- 2 packed cups fresh basil leaves
- 1 packed cup fresh kale leaves
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- kosher salt to taste
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (you might not use it all)
For the pasta salad:
- 1 pound pasta (we used fusilli)
- 2 heaping cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella pearls, drained
- 2 ounces prosciutto (about 4–5 large slices)
- salt to taste
MAKE THE PESTO:
- Add walnuts, basil, kale, garlic, parmesan, and a pinch of salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine and roughly chop.
- With the food processor running, slowly stream in olive oil. Add a few teaspoons at a time until your pesto is relatively smooth, but not runny. You may not need all of the oil.
- Set pesto aside while the pasta cooks. If you’re making the pesto ahead of time, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days until you’re ready to assemble the pasta salad.
PREP THE PASTA SALAD:
- Cook pasta in very salty water until al dente.
- Drain cooked pasta, then pour it into a large mixing bowl. Add the pesto a bit at a time and mix until the pasta is evenly coated. We typically use all of our pesto here, but you can mix in half the pesto and then give it a taste to make sure you want more! Set the bowl aside for 30-40 minutes to let the pasta cool to room temperature.
- When pasta has cooled, add mozzarella pearls and stir to combine. If you’re making this pasta salad ahead of time, transfer the pasta to an airtight container in the fridge for 1-2 days until you’re ready to assemble.
- An hour or so before you’re ready to serve, heat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the prosciutto on a baking sheet lined with a nonstick baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 7-10 minutes or until prosciutto is darkened and crispy. Prosciutto tends to crisp up pretty quickly, so keep an eye on it. Let prosciutto cool until you’re ready to serve.
When you’re ready to serve, add quartered cherry tomatoes to pasta salad and toss to combine. Use your hands to crumble the crispy prosciutto across the pasta salad. Taste and add salt if necessary (the prosciutto is very salty – you likely won’t need any extra salt!) Serve immediately.
If your pasta salad is dry after assembly, toss it with an extra drizzle of olive oil.
Substitutions. This recipe is very forgiving – adapt it to use what you have on hand! The fresh kale adds a bit of bitterness to this pesto: for a mellower sauce, swap extra basil for some or all of the kale. You can also blanch and drain the kale before making the pesto if you like, but we find you don’t really need to add that extra step. Omit the parmesan cheese in the pesto if you like. Use pine nuts in place of walnuts, or leave the nuts out entirely.
Additions. Add grilled corn, roasted veggies (sweet potato, butternut squash, zucchini), chickpeas, sliced olives, or any other pasta salad veggies you love!
To make this vegetarian, omit the crispy prosciutto and be sure to use a parmesan cheese made without rennet.
To make this vegan, omit the parmesan, mozzarella, and prosciutto. You can add chickpeas or grilled corn in place of the mozzarella pearls if you like!
Keywords: potluck, cookout, summer