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Arugula Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe

Arugula Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe

Summertime is a great time of year for traveling and seeing new things. It seems like June has become a busy travel month for us. Last year I spent most of the month of June out of Louisiana on various trips. This year we only ended up spending two weekends out of state. Not too bad, I guess. While one of the trips was Jeremy’s brother’s wedding, the second was a personal pilgrimage up to the northern, rural parts of Mississippi. For the second year in a row, during the last weekend in June, we attended the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic. As with last year, we had a blast. This is hands-down my favorite festival. Heck, I don’t even go to Jazz Fest anymore, and I live right outside the gates. Nope, I keep my money and my festival-going stamina for this particular event.

The David Kimbrough Band performing at the 2014 North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic

The North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic is a two day music festival held in rural, rolling hill-lined Holly Springs, MS. This area is the birthplace of the hill country blues, a particular style of blues music that’s defined by its emphasis on rhythm and percussion. In this type of blues, it’s not uncommon to see a guitarist and a drummer doing all the work and producing all the sound of a full band. R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough are two of the best known musicians specializing in this style. In fact, the Burnside and Kimbrough families are a big part of the Picnic and several of R.L. and Junior’s offspring lead or are in bands that perform during the course of the weekend. It’s a living memorial to these men and others like them and the generations they’ve inspired.

The 2014 North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic

One of my favorite things about the Picnic is how the music is done. Each band plays a 30 to 45 minute set and then there’s only like 15 minutes between each set so the day just rolls right along. There’s always some great band that I personally probably have never heard of on stage playing their hearts out. This is not a festival of headliners and big name acts. Most of them aren’t familiar household names to many of us. But that doesn’t matter because these people are legends in the world of hill country blues. The music is enjoyable even if it’s not well-known (aka mainstream). To me, that’s the best part about it. To my untrained ear, most hill country blues sounds similar so while I don’t *know* a particular song or band, it all still feels very familiar. I like that and appreciate that about this event.

The 2014 North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic

Not surprisingly, the Picnic is a casual affair that allows attendees to bring in their own food and beverages for a nominal $10 “cooler fee.” While they do sell scrumptious barbecue and cold, tasty beer from the local Yalobusha Brewing Co., people are encouraged to bring whatever food and drinks they’d like (NO GLASS, though). We brought a steady supply of beer and non-alcoholic, thirst-quenching drinks along with a plethora of food and snacks. This arugula pesto pasta salad recipe was my contribution to our group this year along with a fresh, cool pico de gallo for snacking. This event takes place totally outside so while we were under a shade tent, we were also battling heat and bugs the whole time. Worth it, though.

The North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic

While we did bring our own food, we still sampled some of the fare offered at the picnic. Jeremy had the rib tips pictured below on the right, and I had the pulled pork sandwich that you see on the left. Our friend Libra had the fried catfish and fries pictured at the bottom because she’s a pescatarian. And because catfish! Yum! Last year I totally missed having any of the Picnic’s food because I waited too late on Saturday and everything was sold out. This year, I got my food early on Saturday. I tried all three of these dishes, and they were spot-on. There’s just something about tender, juicy ribs slathered in sweet barbecue sauce and crispy fried catfish that can’t be beat. If you attend the picnic, definitely save some room for these treats. My only regret is that I missed out on the barbecue pork nachos. That’s gonna be my pick for next year – already planned!

The Delectable Food Offerings at the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic

Last year I prepared and brought my Southwestern Pasta Salad (forgive the old picture in that link – it’s one of the first recipes I published here). This year I wanted to do something new and different but still vegetarian since that was a dietary limitation of the group. A pesto pasta salad seemed like a great idea for the picnic. It’s packed with flavor and uses a minimal number of ingredients so it’s pretty easy to make. It’s also pretty quick to make – while you’re preparing the pasta, you have time to complete everything else that’s needed. It’s pretty much a “one and done” type of thing.

Arugula Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe

If you’ve never been to the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic, but live within driving distance of Holly Springs or are just a huge fan of hill country blues, this festival is worth checking out. Ticket prices are very reasonable and next year will be an extra special one: it’s the tenth anniversary, and I know they’ve got some special stuff planned already. Mark your calendars for next year – June 26 and 27, 2015, and join us in celebrating this special and memorable event. Also: check out Jeremy’s write up on the Picnic on our sister site Culture Curious.

The 2014 North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic

What about you? Are you a fan of outdoor music festivals? Which is your favorite? Tell me all about it in the comments section below. I’d love to hear about it!

Yield: 4-6 main dish; 10-12 sides

Arugula Pesto Pasta Salad

This easy arugula pesto pasta recipe is great for any picnic or outdoor event.


  • 1-16 ounce box elbow macaroni
  • 1 recipe arugula pesto
  • 1 cup feta cheese
  • 1 pint multi-colored cherry tomatoes, cut in half length-wise


  1. Prepare macaroni according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the pesto.
  3. Once pasta is rinsed and cooled, transfer it to a large mixing bowl. Add the pesto and feta and stir well to combine.
  4. Once well-mixed, add the cherry tomatoes and stir gently to combine.
  5. Keeps in the fridge for up to 3 days in an air tight container.

Prep:15 min

Cook:15 min

Total:30 min

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