From America's Test Kitchen Season 7: Beer Can Chicken Dinner
Pasta salad with pesto should be light and refreshing, not dry and dull. We decided to perfect pesto pasta salad—and keep it fresh, green, garlicky, and full of herbal flavor. Using a pasta shape with a textured surface, like farfalle, guaranteed that the pesto wouldn’t slide off. To ensure that the pesto coated the pasta, we didn’t rinse the pasta after cooking. Instead, we spread the pasta to cool in a single layer on a baking sheet; a splash of oil helped prevent the pasta from sticking.
For the pesto, we blanched the garlic to tame its harsh bite. Lots of basil made for vibrant herb flavor, and to keep the green color from fading, we added mild-tasting baby spinach, which lent the salad a vivid green color but didn’t overpower the basil. For a creamy, not greasy, pesto, we enriched it with mayonnaise. Lemon juice brightened the pesto’s flavor, and extra pine nuts, folded into the salad, provided an extra hit of nutty flavor and a pleasant crunchy texture.
Serves 8 to 10 as a side dish
This salad is best served the day it is made; if it's been refrigerated, bring it to room temperature before serving. The pesto can be made a day ahead--just cook the garlic cloves in a small saucepan of boiling water for 1 minute. Garnish with additional shaved or grated Parmesan.