Forget boring pasta salad and make this shrimp pesto pasta salad instead. Large shrimp is marinated and pan fried with pesto and other spices. Then it's topped over a bed of garden rotini and other vegetables. This mediterranean inspired pasta salad is healthy, fresh. Meal prep this for work or school lunches or prepare for dinner tonight!
The Main Ingredients To Make The Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe
The ingredients you'll find in this easy shrimp pesto pasta salad are not much different than those found in traditional pasta salads with deli meat. When it comes to the vegetables it's good to keep it fresh. When you're reading this list, feel free to add any leftover vegetables you may have in your refrigerator that need to be used up. This list is not limited to just these items.
For the shrimp:
- Fresh garlic
- Fresh shrimp
- Old Bay seasoning
For building the pasta salad:
- Black olives
- Baby cucumbers
- Grape tomatoes
- Red onion
Pretty straight forward right? All of the ingredients when assembled together provide vibrant colors and look so good. If you're out of something don't fret because a lot of substitutes can be made for many of the ingredients.
Common Substitutes You Should Consider
Pasta: The pasta shown in the pictures are made with garden rotini, however, feel free to try bowtie, fusilli, farfalle, or penne
Pesto: Don't have or can't find the prepared pesto in a jar? Make your own fresh pesto using the instructions below
Old Bay: If you don't have old bay, you can easily substitute salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and celery salt if you have it on hand. The old bay in this recipe is light on flavor and can be left out.
Cherry tomatoes: Use sun-dried tomatoes or fresh tomatoes chopped
Feta cheese: Substitute parmesan cheese in its place
Salad dressing: choose a little olive oil and lemon juice for a fresh tangy taste
Black olives: choose green or kalamata olives instead
Large Shrimp: choose jumbo shrimp or medium shrimp instead. Don't have or like shrimp? Use chicken breasts instead!
How to Make a Flavorful Pesto Sauce
Making your own fresh basil pesto is easier than you think. To make your own pesto sauce start by combining 2 cups fresh basil leaves, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup pine nuts, 1 tablespoon fresh garlic, salt to taste. In a blender or food processor, mix until the pesto sauce is a paste. It's really that simple. After you've made it a few times you'll have it down. Making pesto is also a great way to preserve excess basil, which is important if you have basil plants that produce excess leaves that you'll never eat in time.
Want to make a creamy pesto dressing? If so, consider adding 1 tablespoon of tahini to make a tahini pesto. If you've never heard of tahini, it's simply ground sesame seeds. Turning your pesto into a tahini pesto is a great alternative. It's creamy, rich, and adds even more flavor. Tahini also compliments the garlic and basil as well. Consider making tahini pesto if you have all of the ingredients if you have on hand. You can even use it in place of a store-bought salad dressing if you wanted to.
I have one last pesto variation for you. Have you heard of red pesto pasta salad? You're probably wondering what red pesto even is? The way I make red pesto is by following the instructions of your classic pesto but I add sun-dried tomatoes to the mixture. Talk about a delicious pesto! If you like it spicy you could even add red pepper flakes to the red pesto. Letting your shrimp marinate in this is an easy way to pack in the flavor. You can also stir some red pesto into the pasta salad to add even more color and flavor with or without a salad dressing.
How To Prepare Your Pesto Shrimp
Preparing your pesto shrimp is easy. Start by peeling and rinsing your shrimp under cold water. I left the tail on the shrimp but you don't have to. Pat your shrimp dry with a paper towel and place in a small bowl. To the bowl, add old bay seasoning and pesto. Stir well and let the shrimp sit. The longer the shrimp sits the more flavorful it will become.
When you're ready to cook the pesto shrimp, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with olive oil. Once the olive oil is heated, add the fresh garlic cloves and cook until the garlic started to get a golden color. Be careful, this will not take long if your oil is very hot. After your garlic is cooked and fragrant, add the shrimp and cook stirring frequently to make sure each side cooks. Continue cooking until the shrimp is firm and pink. This should take around 5 minutes but may vary depending on how hot your skillet is. When you're done, remove from the heat and let the shrimp rest and return to room temperature while you start preparing the pasta.
Making The Shrimp Pesto Pasta Salad
To make the pasta salad, start by cooking the pasta in a large pot of salted water according to the package directions or until al dente. Once done, strain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Add to a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients such as the olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, feta, and shrimp. Give a good stir to make sure all of the ingredients are well distributed among the pasta. Refrigerate or serve at room temperature. Serve with your favorite salad dressing.
Tips On Storing and Meal Prepping the Shrimp Pesto Pasta Salad
This shrimp pesto pasta salad is a great meal to prep for the week for school or work lunches. When it comes to storing the pasta salad, keep in an air tight container for up to a week in the refrigerator. Don't store with the salad dressing or the pasta and shrimp will get weird, especially if you're using a vinegar based dressing.
Looking For More Delicious Pasta Recipes?
Healthy Shrimp Pesto Pasta Salad
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lb large shrimp peeled with shrimp tails left on
- 2 teaspoons old bay seasoning
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 cup pesto
- 1 lb garden rotini cooked according to the package directions
- 1 6 oz can black olives sliced in half
- 4 baby cucumbers sliced
- 10 oz grape tomatoes sliced in half
- 1/4 red onion chopped
- 1/4 cup feta
- Salad dressing of your choice
- In a small bowl add the shrimp, old bay, and pesto. Let sit for an hour or two to let the shrimp marinate. Once done, heat a pan over medium heat with the olive oil. When the pan and oil are hot, add the garlic and sauté until the garlic starts to turn a golden color.
- Add shrimp and cook until the shrimp is cooked through and pink. May take about 3-5 minutes. Once cooked set aside and prepare your pasta salad by combining the rotini, black olives, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, and feta in a large bowl. Top the pasta salad with the cooked shrimp and garlic. Stir well and stir. Serve with your favorite salad dressing.