Lemon Basil Pasta Salad

lemon basil pasta salad in a bowl with serving spoon

Lemon basil pasta salad is a zippy fresh tasting side fit for the summer-iest meals (or any time you want to conjure up a warm sunny vibe in your kitchen.) My special basil mayonnaise is a total summer salad game changer! This easy recipe is destined to become a family favorite.

lemon basil pasta salad in a white bowl

This salad was inspired by one I found at Trader Joe’s the other day (did you catch my review of TJs new products?) I was so excited to try it because it sounds so good (doesn’t it?) but omg it was really awful. It had no flavor at all, I was so disappointed. I knew I could do better, and I did!

grocery list for lemon basil pasta salad

  • pasta ~ any shape you like, I used penne but bowties or fusilli work well.
  • mayonnaise ~ I happened to have Dukes on hand and I like the tang it gives to the salad.
  • fresh basil ~ has to be fresh!
  • lemon ~ fresh juice and a little zest .
  • garlic ~ completely optional.
  • Asiago or other aged Italian cheese.
  • pine nuts ~ be sure to toast them in a skillet first.
  • salt and pepper
penne pasta for lemon basil pasta salad

why do I make a basil mayonnaise for this salad?

It’s true, most other recipes for lemon basil pasta salad are mayo free, relying on an olive oil based dressing. But I’ve chosen to make a basil flavored mayo that I think really takes this salad over the top. I infuse that wonderful basil flavor into the mayonnaise by blending them both in a food processor. It takes on a pale green color that makes the salad look so refreshing and inviting. I think the mayonnaise really grabs hold of and amplifies those lemon basil flavors better than oil and vinegar. It’s something you’ll want to use again and again (think chicken and egg salads for starters.)

basil mayonnaise dressing

how to make basil mayonnaise

1. You’ll need fresh basil, mayonnaise, lemon juice and salt

basil and mayonnaise

1. Pack everything into a small food processor

making basil mayonnaise

2. Process, scraping down the bowl often, until the mayo is pale green.

basil mayonnaise

faqs and variations on lemon basil pasta salad

Can I use a different type of pasta?

Of course, use any pasta you like, but for pasta salads it’s best to stick with shaped pasta versus strands. I like to keep the shapes on the small side, so they don’t overwhelm, and I often use mini sized pasta for salads. Orzo would work, too.

What veggies can I add to this?

I sometimes add peas (fresh or frozen) chopped asparagus, lightly steamed green beans, or zucchini. I like to keep to the green color palette for this recipe, but you can really use any other veg you like. You can also add a handful of greens like arugula or baby spinach to lighten it up and add a nutritional boost.

I don’t have pine nuts, what can I use?

You can just leave them out, or substitute walnuts.

I don’t have a food processor, can I do the basil mayo by hand?

Yes, you can use a knife to chop the basil into the finest mince you can. It won’t have quite the same bright flavor or color, but you can do it. You can also use an immersion blender if you have one.

Can I make this without mayo?

Yes, you’d just use olive oil and a light vinegar like white wine of champagne. Use plenty of shredded basil, too.

How long will this pasta salad last?

It will last several days in the refrigerator, and you can feel comfortable making it up to 24 hours in advance.

lemon basil pasta in a small glass bowl

more pasta salad recipes to try

lemon basil pasta salad in a bowl with serving spoon
5 from 15 votes

Lemon Basil Pasta Salad

Lemon basil pasta salad is a zippy fresh tasting summer side made with my special basil mayonnaise. This easy recipe is destined to become a family favorite.
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Yield 6 servings
Calories 319kcal
Author Sue Moran


  • small food processor or immersion blender


  • 1/2 lb pasta ~ I used small penne
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise ~ I used Duke's.
  • 1 cup basil leaves, packed (plus a few extra leaves for garnish)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced ~ this is optional
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup grated Asiago cheese, or other aged Italian cheese
  • 3 Tbsp toasted pine nuts (add more to taste)


  • Make the dressing by putting the mayo, basil, lemon juice, and garlic, if using, and a pinch of salt into a small food processor. You can also use an immersion blender.
    making basil mayonnaise
  • Process, scraping down the sides of the machine as needed, until the mayo is pale green and smooth. You'll see little flecks of basil in the dressing. Taste to add more salt or lemon juice. Scrape the mayo into a small airtight container and chill. Note: the mayo will thicken as it chills. You can do this a day or two ahead if you like.
    basil mayonnaise
  • Cook the pasta in plenty of well salted water until al dente. Drain and rinse in cold water.
    penne pasta for lemon basil pasta salad
  • Combine the chilled mayo with the pasta, lemon zest, grated cheese, and toasted pine nuts. Add salt and pepper to taste. Note: For this particular salad I like to wait until the pasta has cooled completely before combining with the chilled dressing so the mayo clings to the penne rather than melting into it.
    basil mayonnaise dressing
  • Chill until ready to serve. I like to add a little more fresh basil right before serving: stack and tightly roll a few leaves, then very thinly slice crosswise into shreds with a sharp knife. The pasta salad will keep for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
    lemon basil pasta salad in a bowl with serving spoon


Calories: 319kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 10g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 11mg | Sodium: 188mg | Potassium: 136mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 257IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 67mg | Iron: 1mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    Melanie Owens
    July 9, 2021 at 7:16 am

    This pasta salad was delicious! First salad at the party to run out, I used bow-tie pasta and it was so pretty! I left out the pine nuts-it was so good without them. Thanks for another tasty recipe.

  • Reply
    Jane K
    July 6, 2021 at 6:17 pm

    5 stars
    This was amazing!! Made it for the 4th and 5 people asked for the recipe! Didn’t have pine nut and it was still so good!!

  • Reply
    July 3, 2021 at 4:16 pm

    Made this tonight and we both loved it. I don’t normally care for mayo-based pasta but I trusted you on this one, Sue! All the flavors worked so well together. And the pine nuts were the perfect addition. Thank you!

  • Reply
    July 1, 2021 at 10:44 am

    5 stars
    So delicious. The perfect use of fresh basil. I included the lemon rind in the dressing.

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      July 1, 2021 at 11:19 am

      Thanks Carol, so glad you liked it.

  • Reply
    June 30, 2021 at 7:50 am

    5 stars
    This is delightfully refreshing and worked perfectly with my gluten free pasta as well!

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      June 30, 2021 at 7:58 am

      Thanks for the quick feedback Erica!

  • Reply
    June 30, 2021 at 7:23 am

    5 stars
    This pasta looks absolutely delicious and full of so much flavor! Definitely going to be a hit here. So excited to try this for dinner tonight!

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      June 30, 2021 at 7:33 am

      I’ve gotten great feedback so far on this salad Beth, so I’m pretty sure you’ll love it!

  • Reply
    June 30, 2021 at 7:17 am

    5 stars
    What a lovely pasta salad. Feels light and perfect for summertime. I’m definitely saving this recipe. Can’t wait to make this for my husband and me. Thanks!

  • Reply
    June 30, 2021 at 6:23 am

    5 stars
    I love lemon pasta. So light and fresh and perfect for summer.

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      June 30, 2021 at 7:34 am

      lemon and basil were made for summer.

  • Reply
    June 30, 2021 at 6:02 am

    5 stars
    Such a fresh and zingy pasta salad – just gorgeous, summery flavours. Thanks so much!

  • Reply
    Joy Massa
    June 29, 2021 at 1:59 pm

    5 stars
    Your post catapulted me into “Summer Salads” – thank you! I made Lemon Basil Pasta Salad last night and we LOVED it. It’s a keeper. We also ‘love the tang’ in a good pasta/mayo salad and wondered if you knew this ‘Hawaiian trick” for great tanginess in a pasta salad….When the pasta is still warm, toss in a little seasoned rice vinegar; just a coupleof teaspoons and let the bare pasta benefit from all that flavor before getting dressed….It gets soaked in; and doesn’t change whatever else gets added. It’s our ‘family secret’ for keeping mayo-dressed pasta at its best!

    • Reply
      Joy Massa
      June 29, 2021 at 2:22 pm

      Oh! I forgot to mention added lots of ‘baby arugula’ to lighten it into a ‘summer salad’ dinner!

      • Reply
        Sue Moran
        June 29, 2021 at 4:35 pm

        I love to lighten up pasta salad with greens, yum!

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      June 29, 2021 at 4:45 pm

      Love your family secret, I bet that would work great for potato salad too 🙂

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