Growing up, my sister and I considered pasta salad to be “special occasion” food––mostly because we would rarely see it on the table at our house. Or on the picnic table, for that matter.
This isn’t to say that we didn’t have family barbecues––for Memorial Day, the 4th of July, or just a summer Saturday. But alongside our grilled steak or chicken wings on the grill, our side dish of choice was usually (can you guess?) rice.
Woo for being Chinese!
(But really, grill up our ribeye with soy butter glaze, serve it with steamed white rice, and tell me it’s not better than pasta or potatoes).
So yeah, pasta salad. Not a big thing at our house. Instead, we were introduced to the world of pasta salad at neighborhood block parties, summer potlucks, and dinner parties thrown by my parents’ friends. And through my experience eating various pasta salads in my day, I’ve found that there are basically two types:
1) Mayonnaise-based: While they can be good, there is all too often TOO much mayonnaise, and not much else.
2) Olive-oil-based: Usually includes other tasty and interesting ingredients, like chunks of mozzarella, tomatoes, and olives. But the pasta itself is plain and sort of tasteless, so you have to make sure to get tomatoes and olives in each bite of pasta for it all to work.
Today’s Basil Mint Pesto Pasta Salad breaks the mold a bit. Not only is it pesto-based, it also includes an interesting key ingredient––strawberries. I had a big box of them in the fridge, and I had to use them in something. I had just made a big batch of pesto with the huge bunches of leftover basil and mint that I’d bought for another recipe (Thai Chicken Stir-fry with Basil & Mint), and considering how well basil, mint, and strawberries go together in desserts and drinks, I figured I’d throw them all into a pasta salad, perfect for any Fourth of July or other summer gathering.
And despite the doubt that I can sense in your eyes as you read this post, I have to tell you––it works.
Here’s how to make it!
1/3 cup walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, or hazelnuts
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup fresh mint leaves
⅓ cup parmesan cheese
3 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 oz. mezzi rigatoni, or other short-cut pasta
8 sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
Toast the walnuts in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant. Allow to cool completely, and add to the bowl of a food processor, along with the basil, mint, parmesan, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.
Turn on the food processor, and slowly stream in the olive oil until smooth.
Boil the pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
Toss with the pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and grape tomatoes.
Toss in the strawberries.
Basil Mint Pesto Pasta with Tomatoes & Strawberries
- 1/3 cup walnuts (or pine nuts, almonds, or hazelnuts)
- 1 cup basil leaves
- 1 cup mint leaves
- ⅓ cup parmesan cheese
- 3 cloves garlic
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 8 oz. mezzi rigatoni (or other short-cut pasta)
- 8 sun-dried tomatoes (thinly sliced)
- 1 pint grape tomatoes (halved lengthwise)
- Strawberries (quartered)
- Toast the walnuts in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant. Allow to cool completely, and add to the bowl of a food processor, along with the basil, mint, parmesan, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Turn on the food processor, and slowly stream in the olive oil until smooth.
- Boil the pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Toss with the pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and grape tomatoes. Pour into a serving bowl, and top with the strawberries. Serve!