Pesto pasta salad with homemade kale-basil walnut pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and broccoli. Serve it up at your next BBQ or picnic!
Last summer, my favorite side dish for BBQ-ing or picnic-ing was potato salad in all forms, even – insert gasp – the traditional potato salad with mayo and egg.
For whatever reason, a crazed tunnel vision took hold – I was hooked on po’ and couldn’t seem to fathom sharing anything else with my friends and family.
This year, the obsession has morphed and manifested itself in the form of chilled gluten-free pasta salads.
A few weeks ago (back when the dirty banana event happened…do you remember?), one of my friends whipped up a pasta salad with homemade dandelion green pesto using dandelion greens straight from her CSA box.
The flavor was so fresh and tasty, I just couldn’t stop thinking about it.
I had to make it my own.
Using her pasta salad as inspiration, I made a simple kale pesto, tossed in sun-dried tomatoes for extra tangy flavor, and steamed broccoli for nutrients + texture.
If you have basil on hand, feel free to make this with homemade Basil Pesto Sauce instead of the kale pesto!
There are options galore for serving this pasta salad at your BBQs. Below are some tips for recipe preparation and also suggestions for change-ups to the recipe.
Recipe Tips & Meal Prep:
- The pasta noodles and broccoli can be cooked ahead of time, and the kale pesto sauce can be prepared up to 3 to 4 days in advance
- You can steam the broccoli separate from the noodles, but I find it’s easiest to just cook the two together. They require roughly the same cook time, so boiling and straining the noodles and broccoli together will save you some time. If you like your broccoli to be super snappy/al dente, you can cook it for only a couple of minutes with the pasta, and use a slotted spoon to pull it out of the water early.
- In addition to making this recipe a cold pasta salad, it can be served warm as a side dish or entrée as well. To make a hot entrée out of this, simply heat everything together on the stovetop. You can serve the pasta with chopped grilled chicken, or salmon on the side for a well-rounded meal.
- Make this pasta salad vegan by omitting the asiago cheese from the pesto sauce recipe. You can add 3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast to give it a “cheesy” flavor.
- Incorporate your favorite nut/seed combo in the kale pesto sauce. My recipe calls for walnuts and pine nuts, but you can use all pine nuts, all walnuts, pistachios, almonds, etc.
- Use any shape of gluten-free pasta (or regular pasta) you’d like.
- Omit or replace the broccoli with spinach, arugula, or seasonal veggie of choice.
- Replace the sun-dried tomatoes with cherry tomatoes.
- Use any type of pesto sauce – store-bought works great!
- Add artichoke hearts and kalamata olives for a Greek-style pasta salad
- Incorporate pine nuts, pistachios, and/or chopped walnuts or almonds.
- Add chopped grilled chicken or cooked bacon.
You can use this recipe as base camp for all your summer pesto pasta salads, as well as hot pesto pasta any time of year. The simple addition of seasonal veggies gives it a fresh spin.
More Amazing Summer Side Dishes:
- German-Style Potato Salad with Caramelized Onions and Chives
- Pasta Salad with Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing
- Ricotta Pesto Potato Salad
- German-Style Sweet Potato Salad
- Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Spinach and Grapes
My cookbook, Paleo Power Bowls, is now available! CLICK HERE to check it out. Thank you for your support!
If you make this Kale Pesto Pasta, please feel free to share a photo and tag me at @The.Roasted.Root on Instagram!
Kale Pesto Pasta Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Broccoli
Kale Pesto Pasta Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Broccoli is a magically flavorful and nutritious side dish for any event!
- 1 (12-ounce) box gluten-free penne pasta
- 1 medium crown broccoli, chopped into florets
- 1 cup kale pesto sauce, recipe below
- 1 bunch green onion, chopped
- ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and patted dry
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Parmesan cheese for serving
Kale Pesto Sauce:
- 4 cups kale leaves, packed
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup raw walnuts
- ½ cup pine nuts, or more walnuts
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar*
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
- 1/2 cup Asiago cheese, optional*
- 1 cup olive oil
Prepare the Kale Pesto Sauce:
- Prepare the kale pesto sauce by adding all of the ingredients except for the olive oil to a food processor. Pulse a few times to roughly chop all of the ingredients. Leaving the food processor on, drizzle the olive oil slowly through the top, until it’s completely incorporated. Transfer pesto sauce to a jar and refrigerate until ready to use (Note: Pesto can be made up to 4 days in advance)
Prepare the Pasta Salad:
- Bring a full pot of water to a boil and add the pasta and broccoli florets. Cook according to the instructions on the package of pasta (Note: I usually cook gluten-free pasta for 1 to 2 minutes less than the package specifies, because I like my pasta very al dente), or until both pasta and broccoli reach desired doneness. Strain the pasta and broccoli and rinse with lukewarm water. Set aside to cool. Once cool, chop the broccoli florets finely and place both pasta and broccoli in a large serving bowl.
- Add the green onion, sun-dried tomatoes, and sea salt to the serving bowl along with 1 cup of the kale pesto (save remaining kale pesto for future uses). Toss everything together until pasta is well coated.
- Taste for flavor and add more sea salt or pesto to taste. Serve with freshly grated asiago cheese.
*You can also use cider vinegar, white vinegar, or red wine vinegar
**To make vegan, omit the cheese and add 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast. If you don't follow a vegetarian diet, you can replace the asiago with parmesan.
Nutrition InformationYield 6 Serving Size 1 of 6
Amount Per Serving Calories 464Total Fat 28gUnsaturated Fat 0gCarbohydrates 51gFiber 8gSugar 4gProtein 7g
Friday 30th of August 2019
This was amazing! The pesto was...spicier, I suppose is the right word? Than I'd expected. Maybe it was all the basil. I had to stop myself from eating two servings of this and save some for my roommate. I will definitely be making this again (and adding more sundried tomatoes, I really love those, I'm finding).
Wednesday 4th of September 2019
I'm thrilled to hear it, Corina!! xo
Monday 2nd of July 2018
Looks awesome! have all the ingredients, can't wait to make this. And WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR TOP??!! So cute!!
Sunday 14th of May 2017
Looks like a great recipe for any time of the year. I can’t wait to try it out, thanks!
Saturday 15th of October 2016
What can I use instead of walnuts?
Monday 12th of July 2021
@Julia, do they have to be raw nuts? Or can you use regular walnuts?
Thursday 20th of October 2016
You can use any nut, really! Pine nuts, almonds, or pistachios would be my top three recommendations for replacement. Let me know how it turns out!
Annie @ The Garlic Diaries
Monday 18th of July 2016
This is making my mouth water! I am loving everything in here...especially that kale pesto...LOVE!