pesto garden salad

It’s one of those awkward things isn’t it – when you’re invited to a barbecue and asked to bring a salad. You don’t want to take anything too unusual and risk it not going with the rest of the meal, but a bog standard green salad can be a bit boring. The solution is this incredibly simple but flavourful rocket salad that I recently created for Fairfax newspapers, loaded with ripe tomatoes, salty feta, creamy avocado and a luscious pesto dressing – problem solved. If you prefer you can easily swap the feta for chunks of torn buffalo mozzarella, and the rocket for baby spinach leaves. Too easy. Have a great weekend, hopefully if you’re in the southern hemisphere, the sun will be shining and you will find this recipe handy, if you’re coping with the big chill in the north, don’t forget to check out all of the warming winter recipes with plenty of soups and decadent desserts on the blog. Either way, feel free to pop on over to my Facebook page and say ‘hi’! 🙂 (L’il extra note here as I grump around the house having had another three moles excised yesterday, if you are heading out into the sun, please don’t fry yourself, it’s no good for the current or future wrinkle situation and even worse for your melanoma risk – and on that cheery note having a bloody FAB weekend!).

 2 cups basil leaves
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
½ cup lightly toasted pine nuts
1 clove garlic
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g fresh rocket or spinach leaves
150g  feta or buffalo mozzarella, broken into 2cm chunks
15 small vine-ripened tomatoes, halved

2 avocados, sliced

Put 1 cup of the basil leaves, Parmesan, 2 tablespoons of the pine nuts, garlic, oil and vinegar in a small food processor and whiz to combine. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Layer rocket, feta, tomatoes, avocados and remaining basil leaves into a large salad bowl. Drizzle with pesto dressing and sprinkle with remaining pine nuts to serve. Serves 6



  1. Nothing that says "summer's coming" like a decent basil pesto! We're out of pine nuts, but I'm sure toasted walnuts will do the trick – looks like dinner tonight is sorted!

    1. Yum – sounds good – I often make a version with rocket and walnuts too 🙂 Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a message!

  2. In my book, this is, like, the PERFECT salad. The combo tomato + avocado + pesto is out of this world!! people at a party would have to be out of their minds not to enjoy this. Sure, I'm in Italy and I should be deep into the whole squash + radicchio + mushrooms swag, but I love these kinds of flavors so much. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks so much Valentina, I really appreciate your message. I must admit I make variations on pesto all year around, which is probably sacrilegious in Italy! I do love rocket (arugula) and walnut together… Hope all is well with you 🙂

  3. Hi Sara,
    I have lost my cooking mojo lately so I decided to scan your recipes for inspiration. I made this salad for dinner on the rare occasion that all the family was home and it was a big hit. The pesto dressing was fabulous and I just happen to have a mass of basil in the herb garden at the moment. I think I will be taking this to my next lunch with girlfriends. Pauline 🙂

    1. Thanks so much Pauline, I'm so happy everyone enjoyed it – and I hope your cooking mojo has returned! 🙂

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