Nothing says summer like a good pasta salad and this Italian-inspired bow tie pasta salad is the perfect addition to any summer BBQ! Filled with spinach, cherry tomatoes, and bocconcini cheese, and covered in basil pesto, this farfalle pasta salad recipe is packed full of fiber, healthy fats, and flavor.
Whether you’re enjoying a long weekend, celebrating a party, or getting together for a family potluck, this bow tie pasta salad is the perfect salad for any summer feast. Unlike creamy pasta salad loaded with mayonnaise, this pesto-covered pasta salad is a light and refreshing, while being very easy to make. Not to mention, it makes great leftovers too, so you can prep it in advance and enjoy it as a meal prep salad all week long.
Ingredients for Bow Tie Pasta Salad
You’ll need the following ingredients to make this recipe:
- Bow Tie Pasta: You can’t make a bow tie pasta salad without bow tie pasta! This flat noodle, also known as farfalle, is a great shape for a cold pasta salad as its size is the perfect match for chopped veggies.
- Spinach: Raw, baby spinach adds a punch of green and fiber to this pasta salad. If you don’t have spinach, arugula would also pair nicely with this recipe.
- Tomato: While the recipe calls for cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes or cubed whole tomatoes would work just as well.
- Basil: A bit of basil or fresh herbs helps to brighten the dish and add a punch of freshness.
- Cheese: I opted to use bocconcini cheese, which is small balls of mozzarella cheese, but you could easily use cubed mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, or feta cheese instead.
- Red Onion: For a bit of color and crunch. Feel free to omit it if you don’t like it.
- Dressing: To keep the dressing quick and easy, I used a combination of basil pesto, olive oil, and lemon juice to keep with the theme; however, you could any style of Italian vinaigrette that you enjoy. A combination of olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, oregano, and Dijon mustard would also make a simple homemade Italian dressing.
While I opted to use tomatoes and spinach as the vegetables in my pasta salad, you can really use any edible raw vegetables and leafy greens that you enjoy. Cucumber, red bell pepper, zucchini, carrots, red onion, green onion, and black olives would all work nicely in this bowtie pasta salad.
To Make it Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free bow tie pasta.
To Make it Dairy-Free: Omit the cheese and use dairy-free pesto.
How to Make Bow Tie Pasta Salad
This pasta salad with bow ties is really easy to make, here’s what you’ll do:
- Cook the pasta. Boil the bow tie pasta in well-salted water until cooked al dente. Once cooked, rinse the pasta under cold water and set aside.
- Chop the veggies. While the pasta is cooking, chop the onion, spinach, and basil, and slice the tomatoes.
- Slice the cheese. Slice the bocconcini cheese balls in half.
- Make the dressing. In a small bowl, mix the pesto, olive oil, and lemon juice together.
- Mix everything together. Add the pasta, veggies, cheese, and dressing to a large bowl and toss until well combined, and season with salt and black pepper.
- Serve and enjoy!
Note: If you decide to make this pasta salad in advance, you can store it in the fridge and freshen it up with an extra drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and/or a sprinkle of salt and pepper before serving.
Red’s Nutrition Tip
While pasta is often not considered a healthy food, I can assure you that pasta is a healthy choice. Made with flour, water, and salt, pasta is a staple of Italian cuisine that can be traced back as far as the 4th century B.C. Nutritionally speaking, pasta is a source of complex carbohydrates and fiber and, while it can be a rich dish depending on what it’s served with, pasta of all shapes and sizes can be included in a healthy and well-balanced diet, especially when it’s paired with fresh veggies like this bow tie pasta salad recipe.
What to Serve with Pasta Salad
Pasta salad is filled with complex carbohydrates, fiber, and healthy fats, therefore, pairing it with a source of protein would help to create a more balanced meal. Some suggestions include:
- Hard-Boiled Eggs
If you’re looking for a little recipe inspiration, I think the following would pair very well with this Italian bow tie pasta salad:
- Lemon Pepper Chicken Thighs
- Lemon Garlic Chicken Thighs
- Pesto Baked Salmon
- Greek Chicken Burgers
- Spinach and Feta Turkey Burgers
- Salmon Burgers
While pasta salad is often thought of as a side dish, paired with grilled meat or a burger, it works equally well as a vegetarian main course. In fact, on a hot summer day, a cold pasta salad is a great way to conquer a pasta craving without turning on the stove, not to mention, it stores incredibly well in the refrigerator making it a great make-ahead meal for a simple lunch or dinner.
Bow tie pastas are called farfalle. The word farfalle, pronounced “far-FALL-ay”, means butterfly in Italian, but is commonly referred to as bow tie pasta because of its signature shape.
Bow tie pasta should be cooked for 11-13 minutes. For authentic al dente pasta, cook the pasta for 11 minutes.
Bow tie pasta is made of durum wheat semolina flour.
Cooked pasta should be rinsed when making pasta salad. Rinsing the pasta stops the cooking process and cools the pasta so it can be added to the salad immediately.
The number of calories in pasta salad is dependent upon the exact recipe used and the portion size consumed. This bow tie pasta salad makes 8 side dish servings and contains 236 calories, 3 grams of fat, 7 grams of protein, 35 grams of carbohydrate, and 2 grams of fiber per serving.
Storage + Reheating
Transfer the pasta salad to an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to 5 days.
More Healthy Pasta Salad Recipes:Print
Bow Tie Pasta Salad
This colorful bow tie pasta salad recipe works well as a simple side dish for a summer BBQ, potluck, or as a main course for a light lunch or dinner. Plus, it keeps well in the fridge, so it makes for a great meal prep idea.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 8 1x
- Category: Salad
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian
- 12 ounces (4 cups) bow tie pasta, dry
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/4 cup red onion, diced
- 1 cup bocconcini cheese, halved
- 1 cup spinach, packed, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup basil, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons pesto
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- Black pepper
- Fill a large pot with water, bring to a boil, and cook the bow tie pasta in heavily salted water as per package directions or until slightly past al dente. Once cooked, drain the pasta, toss it with a little olive oil (to prevent it from sticking together) and let it cool to room temp (you can run it under cold water briefly, before adding the oil, to encourage it if you’re in a rush).
- While the pasta is cooking, prepare the dressing. In a small bowl or jar, add the pesto, olive oil, and lemon juice and whisk to combine.
- Once the pasta has cooled, in a large bowl add the cooled pasta, cherry tomatoes, red onion, bocconcini cheese, spinach, and basil, and stir to combine.
- Cover with the dressing, season generously with salt and pepper, and toss gently until everything is well coated. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. (Depending on the thickness of your pesto, you may want to add a little more, just taste and adjust as needed.)
- Once prepared, the pasta salad can be served immediately or stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Serving Size: 1 serving
- Calories: 236 calories
- Sugar: 3 grams
- Fat: 8 grams
- Carbohydrates: 35 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Protein: 7 grams
Keywords: bow tie pasta salad recipe, pasta bow tie salad, italian bow tie pasta salad