The other day I was really craving a cold pasta salad and while I love my Summer Vegetable Pasta Salad, it required too much chopping for the amount of time that I had available. So, I pulled inspiration from one of my favorite recipes, Roasted Vegetable French Bread Pizzas and made a simple sauce by combining ricotta cheese and pesto, tossed that with some cooked pasta, frozen peas, and a few thin slices of red onion. It was like instant pasta salad gratification! Seriously, it was SO fast.
I love using pesto as a magic ingredient. It’s like a one stop shop for flavor. No need to add garlic, herbs, salt, or oil, because it already has all of those covered! Don’t have any inexpensive pesto at your local grocery? Make a yummy (and inexpensive) parsley pesto, like the one in this recipe for Parsley Pesto Potatoes.
This recipe also let me use up some more of the frozen peas in my freezer, so that was a plus. Some other things you could toss in there if you have them on hand: cherry tomatoes, salad shrimp, rotisserie chicken, sun dried tomatoes, shredded mozzarella, blanched asparagus, or fresh baby spinach.
Pesto Ricotta Pasta Salad
- 12 oz. bow tie pasta $1.25
- 1 cup ricotta (full fat) $1.07
- ½ cup pesto (any variety) $1.88
- 1 tsp fresh lemon zest (optional) $0.38
- Freshly cracked pepper (10-15 cranks of a mill) $0.05
- ½ small red onion (optional) $0.46
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed $0.48
- Boil the pasta according to the package directions. Allow the pasta to cool until no longer hot (5-10 minutes).
- In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, pesto, zest from about ½ of a lemon (1 tsp), and some freshly cracked pepper. Stir until combined. Thinly slice the red onion and allow the peas to thaw.
- Combine the cooked and cooled pasta, pesto ricotta sauce, onion, and peas in a large bowl. Stir until everything is evenly combined and coated in the sauce. Serve immediately.
Step by Step Photos
Start by cooking 12 oz. of pasta according to the package directions (boil for 7-10 minutes). Let the pasta drain and cool. It can still be warm when you assemble the salad, just avoid assembly while it’s still piping hot. I used bow tie pasta, but you could use whatever shape you prefer.
To make the pesto ricotta sauce, combine 1 cup ricotta (full fat is best), 1/2 cup pesto, the zest from about 1/2 a lemon (or about 1 tsp), and some freshly cracked pepper. I used basil pesto, but I think just about any pesto would work here.
BTW, I usually use this brand of pesto because it’s super inexpensive (usually around $3.50 or so for an 8oz. jar). If you can’t find this brand or an equally inexpensive brand, try making some parsley pesto instead.
Stir the sauce ingredients together until they are well combined.
Once the pasta is relatively cool, combine it with the pesto ricotta sauce, 1 cup of frozen peas (thawed or mostly thawed), and 1/2 of a red onion (thinly sliced).
Stir it all up and you’re done!
Flavor made easy, thanks to pesto.