Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta Salad

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta Salad, the main companion to yesterday’s pesto recipe, the bread to the butter. The tangy and rich pesto mingles with sharp and buttery castelvetrano olives, creamy quest fresco, and toasty chopped almonds to make a perfect polyamorous relationship of flavors in one dish. Move over Sister Wives.

I mention the pasta salad in the pesto post but it started from a very simple build of pasta and pesto and turned into this masterpiece. I firmly believe that a more complex sauce like pesto doesn’t need 10-15 added mix-ins that you’d normally see in a classic macaroni salad. I opted for 3 to play with and highlight the flavors in the pesto:

Castelvetrano olives – honestly one of the greatest olives out there that’s readily available, crisp but buttery with a briny note that can only come from a good olive. I buy mine from two places for cost reasons: costco if you can find the massive jar that’s like $8 or $10 that will make probably 6 batches of this salad or whole foods olive bar, fill the 8oz container with the pitted option, draining the brine as you scoop them up so you don’t pay for the weight of the brine, and that should be enough for this recipe plus maybe a couple more to snack on.

Queso Fresco – look for this with the mexican cheeses, sometimes it’s in the same section as regular cheddar etc but if it’s not there check over by where they carry chorizo. It comes in a 10 oz wheel, you’ll use all 10 oz for this recipe. It doesn’t have a strong flavor, but it’s subtle and the squeaky texture makes it the perfect addition to a pasta salad, R.I.P. baby mozz.

Almonds – Now, I know what you’re thinking, is this post sponsored by almonds, there’s 1 1/2 cups all together with the pesto and mix-ins. The answer is no but it could be, CA almonds please call me. The toasted almond flavor with the tangy pesto and buttery cheese and olives? heaven. Try it, trust me, love u.

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta Salad
Serves 6-8 easily more if you’re bringing to a BBQ or party

1 lb pasta of choice, I used a mezza rigatoni but you could totally use a classic elbow macaroni or queen of pasta cavatappi, use what your heart tells you.
heaping cup of halved Castelvetrano olives
heaping cup of chopped toasted almonds (dry roasted almonds at trader joes are perfect and I’ve found to be the best price)
1 10oz wheel queso fresco, chopped into 1/2″ cubes of cheese, I sort of show the breakdown of how I chop it in the instagram reel
heaping cup of sun dried tomato pesto
salt to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt well. Add your pasta and cook according to the time on the box.

Once the pasta has cooked, drain it and rinse well with cold water until the pasta is no longer hot or warm. This stops the cooking of the pasta and washes off starch to make sure the pasta isn’t one giant clump when you go to mix everything together.

While the water boils and pasta cooks, prep all the ingredients. Halve the olives, cube the cheese, roughly chop the almonds

Carefully mix the cooled and rinsed pasta with the mix-ins and heaping cup of the pesto until fully combined, adding more pesto if necessary. After everything has been mixed taste for salt, this is important! it will all determine on how salty the mix-ins are for you so you might have to salt a couple times to get it right, but a well salted pasta salad is key to having a flavorful pasta salad.

Store wrapped in the refrigerator and serve, can sit out at room temperature for probably an hour or two but I would wrap it up to make sure it doesn’t dry out. Will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

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