Buttermilk Pesto Pasta Salad is the summer recipe of your dreams! Pasta is all dressed up with a creamy basil pesto dressing, mozzarella pearls, cherry tomatoes, green olives and corn. So perfect for parties and picnics! 

pesto pasta salad in a bowl

Buttermilk Pesto Pasta Salad

I think I’ve done it. I think I’ve created the pasta salad of the summer. Well, I guess that’s actually an impossible feat – there are too many fabulous pasta salads to love just one! With that being said, this one’s probably the one I’ll be making the most often. Pesto and buttermilk combine to make a creamy, vibrant and bold dressing that compliments the other ingredients perfectly. Pasta, mozzarella pearls, cherry tomatoes and sweet corn… What’s not to love? Pasta salad is usually served as an appetizer or side dish, but this one is so good it might just be the main course at your next summer soiree! 

Load your picnic basket with more of my favorite pasta salad recipes like BLT Pasta Salad, Caesar Pasta Salad and Olive Lovers Pasta Salad!

Can I make my own buttermilk?

Sure thing! If you don’t feel like buying a container of buttermilk from the store, you can always make your own with just 2 ingredients. You’ll need 1 cup of milk and 1 TBSP of either freshly squeezed lemon juice or white vinegar. Either option works great – you just need the acid. Mix it together and let the buttermilk sit for about 10-15 minutes prior to using. 

How to Make Buttermilk Pesto Pasta Salad

  • Cook the pasta. Cook the pasta in salted water according to package instructions. Once cooked, drain it, rinse it under cold water and let it sit until it’s completely cooled to room temperature. 
  • Make the dressing. Whisk together the basil pesto, buttermilk, lemon juice and dill. 
  • Toss it all together. Toss the pasta and dressing together in a big bowl. Fold in the mozzarella pearls, tomatoes, olives and corn. 
  • Optional! If you’re craving a crunch, you can also mix in some pine nuts or chopped walnuts at this point. 
photo collage how to make pesto pasta salad

Storing Buttermilk Pesto Pasta Salad

Once it’s all tossed together, this pasta salad is best served within 24 hours. You don’t want the creamy dressing to start softening the pasta and/or veggies. With that being said, you can keep this pasta salad stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Just note that there may be a slight difference in texture the longer it sits. 

Ingredient Notes

  • Pasta – Rotini is my favorite to use! The spiral grooves really grip the pesto sauce perfecty. Feel free to swap it with any other short pasta you prefer or happen to have on hand. Cavatappi, fusilli and gemelli all work well. 
  • Pesto – I love using homemade Basil Pesto whenever I get the chance. None of the store-bought options are ever quite as good. 
  • Buttermilk – If you buy a half gallon of buttermilk and have some left over, use it to make the BEST Buttermilk Muffins
  • Lemon Juice – For the very best vibrant flavor, make sure you’re only using freshly squeezed lemon juice and not the bottled alternative. 
  • Dried Dill – This is optional, but I really love the earthy note it lends the dish! 
  • Mozzarella Pearls – These go with basil pesto so harmoniously. You can use shredded mozzarella instead if you need to. 
  • Cherry Tomatoes – Grape tomatoes also work just as well.
  • Green Olives – These add such an awesome salty kick! 
  • Corn – You can use canned or frozen corn, whichever is easiest for you. If you use frozen corn, just make sure it’s thawed prior to tossing with the other ingredients. 
buttermilk pesto pasta salad in a serving bowl



5 from 1 vote

Buttermilk Pesto Pasta Salad

Buttermilk Pesto Pasta Salad is the summer recipe of your dreams! Pasta is all dressed up with a creamy basil pesto dressing, mozzarella pearls, cherry tomatoes, green olives and corn. So perfect for parties and picnics! 
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 15 minutes
Total 30 minutes
Servings 8


  • 1 Pound Rotini or other short cut pasta
  • 1 1/2 Cups Basil Pesto
  • 3/4 Cup Buttermilk
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice fresh squeezed
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dried Dill
  • 8 Ounces Mozzarella Pearls
  • 1/2 Cup Halved Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1/2 Cup Halved Green Olives
  • 1/2 Cup Corn Kernels


  • Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water according to package directions. Drain and rinse gently under cold water until the pasta is completely cool.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together the pesto, buttermilk, lemon juice and dill until well combined.
  • Toss the pasta with the prepared dressing. Stir in the mozzarella pearls, tomatoes, olives, and corn.



NOTE:  I don’t add salt or pepper because I find it to be salty enough, taste the pasta salad once everything is mixed and add any salt and pepper to taste.  You can also add in some red pepper flakes if you like some heat.  If you want some crunch, add in 1/4 cup of pine nuts or chopped walnuts.


Serving: 0.5Cup, Calories: 290kcal

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
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Hey! Nice to meet you! I'm Nichole!

Welcome to The Salty Marshmallow! I'm a mom, animal lover, photographer, & kitchen mess-maker. Here you will find the result of my decades-long passion for chasing the best flavors in the kitchen, all meant to be cooked by regular people with busy lives just like you and me.

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  1. 5 stars
    I had 2 leftover grilled chicken breasts in the refrigerator, saw this today and thought they would be perfect together! I personally detest olives, so I substituted with about 3 Tbsp. of corse-chopped capers and 3 tablespoons of course-chopped pimento – both made for great brininess and color. I loved this pasta dish! I mixed all but about 1/4 of the actual dressing until we sat down to eat (pasta loves to soak up liquid) and mixed it in just before serving. DELISH! The corn really gives it a fun sweetness and texture!