Enjoy an easy supper or side dish with this make-ahead Pesto Pasta Salad with Cranberries & Feta Cheese. It’s packed with flavor and makes a colorful addition to your buffet.
I like to think that pasta salads are God’s gift to the busy home cook. They are hearty, make-ahead, and so very versatile that you could probably make a different pasta salad every day of the month and not make the same thing twice.
Pasta salads are as welcome at a backyard BBQ as they are at a New Year’s potluck. Best yet, they’re super cheap to make because the pasta is one very frugal ingredient.
My sister who got the idea from her sister-in-law told me about this Pesto Pasta Salad years ago. Pesto, feta, and cranberries? All having a party together in a bowl of pasta? Count me in!
The sweet tart of the cranberries and the salty tang of the feta go oh-so-well with the garlicky, basil of the pesto. Party in a bowl to be sure!
This pasta salad couldn’t be easier to assemble; you hardly have to chop a thing! Just boil, rinse, and mix.
What is pesto?
Pesto is an Italian sauce made from fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese. You can make your own, but it’s pretty affordable to buy commercially made.
You can easily make an even more affordable nut-free version such as this Rustic Basil Sauce for this recipe.
How do you put pesto on pasta?
Pesto is pretty thick. You don’t pour it on like you do other pasta sauces. Instead, add a spoonful or two to your pasta and toss to coat, adding more to taste.
How much pesto do you put on pasta?
Pesto is packed with flavor so you don’t need to use a lot. Start with a heaping tablespoon or two per pound of pasta and increase it until you get your preferred amount. The garlic, basil, and parmesan flavors are pretty concentrated, so you don’t need a ton.
How do you make pesto pasta salad?
Pesto Pasta Salad is simply cooked and cooled pasta tossed with pesto sauce. You can embellish it with sweet or savory add-in’s.
What can I put pesto on besides pasta?
You can get pretty creative with pesto. Stir it into soups, top a baked potato, or even use it as a base for dressing.
I like using pesto in a variety of different recipes, such as:
- Turkey Pesto Panini
- Veggie Pesto Sandwich
- Pesto Bruschetta
- Pesto and Tomato French Bread Pizza
- Pesto & Tomato Grilled Cheese Sandwich
How I make this good and cheap:
This Pesto Pasta Salad is pretty economical by virtue of its being a simple pasta dish. Here are some of the strategies I use to make this recipe even more affordable:
- Stock up on ingredients when they are on sale! When I see a great price on pasta, I buy a lot of it. We almost always have a stockpile of noodles in the pantry. This is just one way I save on groceries without clipping a single coupon.
- Shop at your cheapest stores. This is how I lowered my grocery bill by a $100 a month. This may vary based on where you live and how close you are to great stores. For me, Costco and ALDI are the best game in town, even though I have to drive a town over to get to them. That’s where I buy pesto and feta cheese.
- A little dab will do ya. Pesto is packed with flavor so you don’t need to use a lot.
Tools I use to make this recipe easy:
This is a pretty straight-forward dish. You don’t need any fancy equipment to cook pasta! However, having some good basic kitchen tools can really make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable. Over time, I’ve honed my collection so that they are perfect for my needs. Here are the tools that I like to use in this recipe.
- large stockpot – Mine is a Kitchenaid that I’ve had for 14 years!
- collander – We just bought this one this year to replace a broken plastic one.
- large pasta bowl – I have this one and love it!
Pesto Pasta Salad with Cranberries & Feta
- 12 oz rainbow rotini pasta
- 1/2 cup pesto plus more to taste
- 2 oz feta cheese crumbles (1/2 cup)
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- Cook the pasta according to package directions. Rinse it with cool water and drain.
- In a large mixing bowl combine the cooked rotini and pesto. Toss well to coat.
- Add the feta cheese, cranberries, and sunflower seeds. Toss gently. Cover and chill until ready to serve.