Pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Chicken & Asparagus

A vibrant pesto pasta salad recipe for the summer season! Cavatappi pasta tossed with grilled chicken, slightly charred asparagus & green onions, fresh mozzarella, castelvetrano olives, and a basil pesto dressing. It’s a fresh, seasonal recipe that works great for all of your summertime cookouts.

This post is sponsored by DeLallo.

a bowl of pesto pasta salad with grilled chicken & asparagus

pesto pasta salad – the details

A pasta salad is such a quintessential summer recipe, perfect for backyard gatherings or a sunny picnic in the park. I especially love all of the different ways you can change up the ingredients of a pasta salad. It’s so easily adaptable to different flavor profiles.

This combination is simple and seasonal, with savory, herbaceous pesto making a lovely dressing. Traditionally, Italian pesto is made with extremely straightforward ingredients – basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmigiano reggiano, and high-quality olive oil. For this recipe, I added in fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, and honey. Both the tang and sweetness help round out the flavors, which I really love when using pesto as a dressing.

pesto pasta salad ingredients: asparagus, fresh mozzarella, basil, green onions, castelvetrano olives, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan, cavatappi pasta

Choosing a good cut of pasta for pasta salad is very important in my book, and I love nothing more than using DeLallo Cavatappi. Cavatappi is a short, “corkscrew” pasta shape that works extremely well in a salad with chunkier ingredients.

Once cooked to al dente and then cooled, it has a strong, springy texture. And when mixed with the pesto, the sauce works its way around each twisted strand of pasta and traps into each bite.

For the rest of the ingredients – the charred asparagus and green onions work really well with the pesto, the grilled chicken adds a hearty bite, the buttery olives give a rich texture, and the fresh mozzarella is simply classic.

a bowl of pesto pasta salad with grilled chicken & asparagus

Pasta salads are so great for summertime entertaining because they very easily feed a crowd. One batch of this pesto pasta salad serves approximately 10-12 people, especially if you’re serving it as a side dish to a larger meal (which I feel is the most common way to serve it).

If you’re eating it as the main dish, for lunch let’s say, it would serve around 6 people.


Pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Chicken & Asparagus

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a pesto pasta salad with grilled chicken, charred asparagus & green onions, fresh mozzarella, castelvetrano olives, and basil pesto dressing

servings: 10-12 (side dish servings)



Pasta Salad

  • 1 ½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • kosher salt, as needed
  • 1 lb DeLallo Cavatappi Pasta
  • 1 lb fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 4 green onions, white and green parts separated + greens thinly sliced
  • 1 lb fresh mozzarella (bocconcini), drained + quartered
  • 1 (5.3oz) jar DeLallo Pitted Castelvetrano Olives, halved

Pesto Dressing

  • 3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Add the chicken to a bowl with the garlic, crushed red pepper, fennel seeds, olive oil, and a good pinch of salt. Toss well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  2. Meanwhile, make the pesto. Add the basil, garlic, parmesan, pine nuts, honey, lemon zest, and lemon juice to the bowl of a food processor. Process until roughly chopped. With the processor running, stream in the olive oil until combined. Season with salt to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Drop the pasta and cook to al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water to cool.
  4. Preheat the grill with one side over high heat and the other side over medium heat. Bring the chicken to room temperature and let sit for 30 minutes.
  5. Oil the grates of the grill. Place the chicken onto the grill over high heat. Cook for about 2-3 minutes per side until a crust forms. Transfer the chicken to medium heat. Close the grill and cook for about 10 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway through (the chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165°F – continue cooking if needed). Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest.
  6. Coat the asparagus and green onions (white parts) with a drizzle of olive oil. Place them onto the high section of the grill and cook until slightly charred and tender, turning often (approximately 1-2 minutes for the green onions and 4-5 minutes for the asparagus). Transfer both to the cutting board.
  7. Slice the chicken across the grain, and then cut it into smaller pieces. Cut the asparagus into 1” pieces and roughly chop the green onions.
  8. Combine the pasta, chicken, asparagus, green onions, fresh mozzarella, olives, and pesto in a large bowl. Toss well to combine. Serve at room temperature. Top with more grated parmesan if desired.


If you want to use store-bought pesto, DeLallo carries a really great pesto as well. You’ll need 2 (6oz) jars for a full batch of pasta salad.

a bowl of pesto pasta salad with grilled chicken & asparagus

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