Vibrant Fruit & Herb-Infused Summer Pasta Salad

In my household, vibrant fruit & herb-infused summer pasta salad was almost an emblem of luxury, far from a commonplace dish. Rarely did it make its way into our standard meals or leisurely outdoor family feasts, thus maintaining its novelty and charm.

That’s not to say our family lacked celebratory meals—we celebrated quite often! Our grills buzzed on Memorial Day, lazy summer weekends, and other festive occasions. But the staple side dish to our barbequed chicken or perfectly-seared steak was often, predictably, rice, in a nod to our Chinese origins.

Yet, we were not wholly unfamiliar with pasta salads. Our introductions to them came at community gatherings, seasonal communal meals, and friendly dinners held by our parents’ companions. Through these encounters, I discerned two prominent varieties of this dish:

The variety doused in mayonnaise: These can be occasionally delightful, but more often, they’re overpowered by the abundant mayonnaise, causing the other elements to lose their shine.

The variety bathed in olive oil: These usually boast a mix of appealing ingredients such as mozzarella chunks, tomatoes, and olives. However, the pasta itself often comes across as dull, its taste heavily leaning on these additional components for flavor.

But today, I’m presenting a refreshing twist on pasta salad. This version isn’t reliant on mayonnaise or olive oil but instead features a homemade pesto as its hero. And for a surprising twist—strawberries! With a surplus of these juicy berries, I decided to venture off the beaten path.

Having recently prepared a large batch of pesto using leftover basil and mint from a different recipe, and knowing the successful pairing of these herbs with strawberries in sweets and beverages, I felt inspired to incorporate them into a pasta salad. The result is a perfect dish for any Fourth of July or summer get-together that’s both unexpected and delightful.

Here’s how you can recreate this innovative dish:


  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • (alternatively, pine nuts, almonds, or hazelnuts)
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • ⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup top-quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 oz. mezzi rigatoni (or another short pasta of your choice)
  • 8 sun-dried tomatoes (sliced thinly)
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes (halved)
  • Fresh strawberries (quartered)


First, lightly toast the walnuts in a dry pan over medium heat until you can smell their aroma. Once cooled, combine them in a food processor with the basil, mint, parmesan, garlic, salt, and pepper. As the processor is running, gradually add the olive oil until a smooth pesto is formed.

Next, cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package until it’s al dente. Drain well and transfer it to a large bowl. Stir in the freshly made pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and halved grape tomatoes. Move your pasta salad to a serving bowl and top it off with the quartered strawberries. Now it’s ready to serve!

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