This easy and delicious recipe for a Mediterranean Pasta Salad made with simple ingredients tastes light and fresh dressed in a mediterranean salad dressing made with fresh lemon juice and olive oil.
There are many variations of pasta salad recipes on the web. Some include protein, such as chicken, shrimp, salmon or salami, while others add lettuce and fresh spinach.
With all of the possible variations, you could easily make a different pasta salad every week of summer. My favourite combination of ingredients to use in a pasta salad are those typically found in Mediterranean cooking and doesn't include meat.
How to Make it
Pasta salads are easy to make and generally involve very little actual cooking. The only ingredient needing to be cooked in this homemade pasta salad recipe is the pasta.
Here is an overview of the ingredients you'll find in my simple Mediterranean Pasta Salad recipe. For the quantities please see the recipe card at the end of the post.
- Pennette Rigate: You can use any short pasta shape you like, orzo is very popular but I prefer something a bit larger, like Pennette (small Penne).
- Feta cheese: Since I wanted to use Greek flavours for this pasta salad, I opted for Feta cheese, but you could also use crumbled goat cheese, cubed mozzarella, Parmesan shavings, or whatever cheese you like to add to salads. For a vegan pasta salad, you could leave the cheese out or use a vegan cheese.
- Sun-dried tomatoes: I like to use oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes. They're plump and have a softer texture than dry-packed tomatoes which are chewier and need to be hydrated before eating in a salad. If you don't like sun-dried tomatoes you can always use cherry tomatoes.
- Kalamata olives: Lots and lots of olives, I like to use Kalamata in this recipe but you can use your favourite kind.
- Red onions: I like to add the onions straight into the salad. If you find their taste overpowering, simply add the onions to the dressing so their flavour mellows out a bit.
- Red bell pepper: You can also use a green, yellow or orange bell pepper. I like to use a full pepper for a pound (454 grams) of dried pasta. But you could use as much as you like.
- Fresh parsley: Flat-leaf or curly parsley will work here. You could also add more fresh herbs. Fresh oregano, mint or summer savory are also delicious.
- Lemon juice and olive oil dressing: A simple mediterranean salad dressing made of freshly squeezed lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, a small clove of garlic and salt and black pepper (the pasta salad dressing recipe is included in the recipe card).
- Start by cooking the Pennette (or pasta of choice) in a large pot of salted water, adding two minutes to the amount indicated on the package directions for al dente pasta. Why two minutes more? Because the pasta will harden and become chewy when refrigerated. By cooking the pasta an extra two minutes you'll have perfectly tender but firm pasta in your salad.
- Drain the cooked pasta and rinse it under lots of cold water. Let it cool completely while you prepare the rest of the salad ingredients.
- Chop the bell pepper, red onion, sun-dried tomatoes and olives. I like to keep everything fairly the same size except for the onions which I chop up into a smaller dice.
- Wash and chop the parsley and other herbs if using any.
- Dice or crumble the Feta cheese.
- Make the dressing. When dressing the salad reserve a bit of the dressing for any leftovers you might have. This will make any leftovers just as delicious as on the day you serve this dish.
- Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and add the lemon dressing, toss the salad well and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to let the flavours develop.
When ready to serve, remove the cold pasta salad from the refrigerator, toss again and taste to see if more dressing or seasoning is needed and adjust to taste.
Since the pasta will absorb much of the dressing you might find the salad needs a bit of freshening up. This is where the reserved mediterranean salad dressing will come in handy. Just add a bit and toss the salad again.
Leftover pasta salad is great for quick lunches. This salad keeps well in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Use a little bit of the leftover dressing to liven up the salad. If you used all of the dressing, simply drizzle a touch of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice on the salad to brighten it up again.
More Mediterranean Salads to Try
- White Bean and Tuna Salad
- Mediterranean Kale Salad
- Fattoush Salad
- Lebanese Tabbouleh
- Lebanese Cucumber Yogurt Salad (Khyar Bi Laban)
Mediterranean Pasta Salad Recipe
Mediterranean Pasta Salad
- 454 grams dry pasta pennette, fusilli, rotini, macaroni are all good choices
- 1 large red bell pepper chopped
- ½ medium red onion finely chopped
- ¾ cup pitted kalamata olives halved
- 1 cup Feta cheese crumbled
- ½ cup parsley chopped
- ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes sliced thin
Mediterranean Salad Dressing (Lemon Dressing)
- ⅓ cup olive oil extra-virgin
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 1 small clove of garlic minced
- ½ teaspoon salt more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper more to taste
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
- Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender or 2 minutes longer than package directions for al dente pasta. Drain the pasta and rinse it under cold water. Once the pasta is drained transfer pasta to a large bowl.
- Meanwhile, prepare all of the salad ingredients.
- Make the salad dressing by adding all of the ingredients to a jar and shaking well.
- Once the pasta is cool add all of the salad ingredients to a large bowl. Top with the dressing (reserving a couple of tablespoons for any leftover salad) and toss well. Salad tastes best if refrigerated at least 30 minutes before serving.
- When ready to serve, toss the salad again and taste to see if more dressing or seasoning is needed. Adjust to taste.
- Cook pasta for 2 minutes longer than directed on the pasta package. This will ensure the pasta doesn't get hard after refrigerating.
- Salad keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Serves 10 to 12 as a side.
- Ingredients can be divided in half if cooking for 4 to 6 people.