Breakin’ it down: pesto pasta salad deconstructed

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So if I was organised, I would have posted this recipe for St Patrick’s Day (because it’s green people, yes, just pointing out the obvious – just in case), but I wasn’t, so here it is today.  Come to think of it, on the other hand you could actually say that I am super organised and getting you prepared for next year’s St Patrick’s Day.  Up to you which way you want to look at it…glass half empty or glass half full…your choice.

Anyway, Last weekend I was asked by my mother-in-law to bring a salad to a lunch for our nephew’s first birthday.  I have had this salad in the back of my mind for a while now and have been wanting to make it but the Dr and I have been going low-carb recently so pasta has kinda been off-limits (boo!).

Since our trip to the Cinque Terra in the Liguria region of Italy where pesto is a specialty, I have gone crazy for the stuff.  Prior to tasting it in Italy, I really wasn’t that into pesto to be honest and that’s because I hadn’t eaten the real deal.  The heady scent of freshly pounded basil perfectly balanced with the umami of the parmesan and nuttiness of the pine nuts is just genius!

Deconstructed pesto pasta salad

Serves 6-8 as a side or 4 as a meal

What you need:

  • 3 handfuls of basil leaves (2 for the pesto and 1 to stir through)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • big pinch of sea salt
  • 2 handfuls of toasted pine nuts (1 for the pesto and 1 to stir through)
  • between 40-60g of grated parmesan
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 zucchini, halved and sliced thinly (preferably with a mandolin)
  • 8 baby bocconcini torn into bite size pieces
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 250g fusilli pasta


What to do:

Boil pasta in salted water following instructions on the packet, drain and set aside.

Using a mortar and pestle, start by pounding the garlic clove with a big pinch of sea salt until it has formed a paste.  Start adding the basil leaves and continue to grind followed by the pine nuts.  Once a chunky paste has formed transfer it into a bowl and then stir in the parmesan to your taste (start with half and continue to add).  Then add the olive oil until you loosen the paste a bit and get a saucy consistency

If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can use a food processor but the traditional way is with the m&p and you will get the best flavour using this method.

Brush the slices of zucchini with olive oil and grill using a griddle pan until cooked and there are char marks on the zucchini.  You may need to do this in batches but because they are so thin they don’t take much longer than a minute each side.

Put the pasta in your serving dish, stir through the pesto whole basil leaves, pine nuts, zucchini slices, bocconcini.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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  • Leah

    As a happy consumer, I can vouch for the deliciousness of this salad. I’m a picky vegetarian and had it without the parmesan – still delicious so could be a great vegan option that omnivores would also enjoy.

  • Heidi

    Really delicious…the pieces of baby bocconcini are a superb inclusion!