Here’s our favorite Spinach Pasta Salad recipe! This pesto pasta salad includes spinach, pasta, creamy pesto dressing, and parmesan.
Every family has their favorite recipes, and this spinach pasta salad has been a popular choice in my family for over 20 years! Someone brings it to almost every family gathering, from summer barbecues to holiday dinners.
What You’ll Find In This Post
- Spinach Pasta Salad Ingredients and Substitutions
- How To Make Spinach Pasta Salad
- Make Ahead and Storage
- Others Want To Know
- What Goes With Spinach Pasta Salad
Spinach Pasta Salad Ingredients and Substitutions
One of the reasons we make this pesto pasta salad so often is that you only need five ingredients to make it!
- The recipe calls for mini penne pasta because it works really well in the salad. The smaller size noodles get dispersed evenly throughout the baby spinach. Plus, it is easier to get a forkful of pasta and spinach.
- That being said, mini penne isn’t always available, so the next most used pasta is regular penne.
- You can substitute the penne with any pasta you want to use. Other popular choices include orzo, farfalle, rotini, or even tortellini!
- We use store-bought pesto to make this salad even easier to prepare. You can use your favorite pesto brand.
- Or you can make homemade pesto if you prefer.
- Put 1 cup of basil leaves, 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup pine nuts, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/8 teaspoon of salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper into a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped.
- With the food processor running, slowly pour 1/4 cup olive oil into the spout in a steady stream. Process until the pesto reaches the right consistency, scraping the sides as needed.
- The mayonnaise is used to create a creamy pesto dressing. It adds a tangy flavor and a creamy texture.
- You can substitute some of the mayo with sour cream or Greek yogurt.
- Baby spinach is tender and small in size. It is perfect for this simple spinach salad!
- The smaller size makes it easy to pick up with a fork along with some of the pasta.
- You can substitute the baby spinach with regular spinach in a pinch, but you’ll need to remove the stems and chop or tear it into smaller pieces.
- Shredded parmesan cheese adds a salty, nutty flavor and a chewy texture to this salad.
- Freshly shredded parmesan is often found in the deli department of the grocery store.
- We do not recommend using shelf-stable grated or powdered Parmesan from a green shaker can for this recipe.
How To Make Spinach Pasta Salad
You will love how easy this salad is to make. Once you have the pasta cooked, all you need to do is mix everything together!
- Bring 4-6 quarts of water to a boil. Add salt if desired.
- Add the mini penne to the boiling water.
- Boil for 9-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Drain the mini penne and rinse it with cold water.
Creamy Pesto Dressing
- Put the pesto and mayo in a small bowl.
- Stir until the two ingredients are combined into a creamy dressing.
Pesto Pasta Salad
- First, put the baby spinach in a large bowl.
- Then, add the cooked, cooled penne, creamy pesto dressing, and shredded parmesan.
- Stir until everything is well coated.
This simple spinach salad can be turned into many different salads depending on what you have on hand! You can add protein, swap out the pasta for another kind, or add additional veggies.
Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad
- Adding protein can turn the salad into a meal instead of a side dish!
- Cook and dice one to two chicken breasts and add them to the salad.
- You may need to make extra dressing since you are adding additional ingredients.
Pesto Tortellini Salad
- Tortellini is stuffed pasta. The most common fillings are cheese and spinach. You may also be able to find one that includes meat.
- Start by cooking the tortellini according to the instructions on the package.
- Then, use the cooked tortellini in place of the mini penne keeping the remaining ingredients the same.
Tomato, Mozzarella, and Spinach Pasta Salad
- Tomatoes and mozzarella are delicious additions to this salad! For the best results, use cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella balls. You may also slice them in half if desired.
- Then, make the penne pasta salad as directed, and add 1 cup of cherry tomatoes and 1 cup of fresh mozzarella balls.
Make Ahead and Storage
This spinach penne salad holds up well when you prepare it ahead of time, making it a great choice to bring to a friend’s house or family gathering. Also, you can even make the salad to bring to work for lunch!
- Make Ahead: Some of the creamy pesto dressing gets absorbed overnight by the pasta, so it is best to leave the dressing separate until closer to serving time. Other options include making extra dressing to add before eating the salad or enjoying it as it is.
- Refrigerator: Store the salad in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
- Freezer: This salad does not freeze well.
Others Want To Know
Pesto is an Italian sauce made with fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil. It is blended together into a thick paste-like consistency.
Yes, store-bought pesto is a great timesaver, but you can make homemade pesto if you prefer.
You can add any of your favorite raw veggies! Some popular choices include tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers, and olives.
What Goes With Spinach Pasta Salad
- Sausage and Peppers is a simple and tasty dish that can be served with pasta, rice, or a hoagie.
- This creamy Tuna Noodle Casserole with a crunchy Ritz cracker topping is a classic comfort food that’s perfect for a weeknight family dinner.
- Our Air Fryer Chicken Tenders recipe is crispy, juicy, and easy to make. Skip the drive-thru and make your own at home!
- This Sweet and Spicy Chicken is a delicious and easy-to-make dish that the whole family will love. Serve it with your favorite sides or on a salad.
Spinach Pasta Salad
- Cook the mini penne according to the instructions on the package. Rinse with cold water and drain.
- Mix together pesto and mayonnaise.
- Put the baby spinach in a large bowl. Add the cooked penne, creamy pesto, and parmesan. Stir until coated.