Lemony Pesto Pasta Salad

If you like your macaroni with miracle whip, peas, ham and cheese, you might not like this pasta salad.  But if you're ready to branch out from the usual suspects, this is a good start.

My husband and 3 of my children do not like pasta salad.  Of any kind.  Oh, fine, Eric will eat it if it's served to him, but he would never order it or ask for it or take seconds.  Keep track, if you plan to have us at your place for a meal sometime :)

Myself, I have rarely met a pasta salad I didn't like.  What's not to like about a) pasta; b) protein; and c) colorful vegetables.  Add in some mayonnaise or vinaigrette and you've got a winner in my book!

I had a friend come for lunch today, and ladies eat pasta salad at lunch in the summer.  More so if it's 100 degrees in Minnesota, which almost never happens but did happen today.  So pasta salad it was, served with cantaloupe, two different cheeses, and some lovely iced tea.

I've been on a shrimp kick lately, no doubt.  We didn't eat it for many years for a (wrong) idea that maybe Eric was allergic to it.  We seem to be making up for lost time around here.  Love that I can get big bags of it at Costco to satisfy my cravings from time to time.  This salad would be just great with chicken.  It would be fine to do it without meat, but then I'd add in some cheese, like fresh mozzarella, cubes of provolone, or crumbled feta.

The pesto comes from my abundant herb garden of last summer.  I made heaps of it with all the basil I had and froze it in tiny baggies.  Am I ever glad!  Now fresh basil is growing again and it won't be long before my blender is going full speed whipping up the most summery of sauces.

Do you know how to make pesto?  My basic recipe is several handfuls of fresh basil, a few cloves of garlic, a big pinch of salt, and a good amount of extra virgin olive oil to make a smooth paste.  I do NOT add cheese to my pesto at the get-go; it's something that can be added later, or not at all.  I'm also to cheap to add pine nuts.  If you want a treat, use half parsley and half basil, and toss in a handful of walnuts.  Mmmm hmmmm.

Once again, I did not measure.  This made a huge amount, plenty for a big family dinner or lunch, potluck dish, or some leftovers for another day.

Do NOT omit the lemon.  Trust me, it brightened up the salad and made it taste like summer.  The rest of it you can mess with as much as you like!

Lemony Pesto Pasta Salad

1 pound of pasta (I used penne), barely done, drained and rinsed under cold water
2 pound bag of small cooked and peeled shrimp (not salad size)
1 bell pepper (yellow or red or orange), seeded and chopped
6 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
1 cup large black olives, halved
1 pint grape tomatoes, left whole
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup homemade pesto
grated rind of one lemon
salt and pepper

Put the cooked pasta in a large bowl.  Add all the other ingredients.  Stir gently but well to combine.  Taste for seasoning and moisture, adding a splash of olive oil if necessary, or a bit more mayonnaise, more salt and pepper, whatever it needs.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  Remove, taste, add more seasoning or moisture if needed.  That pasta soaks up a LOT of flavor and it usually needs another hit of something or other.  It should be fairly creamy, but also light due to the olive oil, rather than heavy due to the mayonnaise.

It would be so pretty if I had some fresh basil for garnish . . .