A quick pasta salad that brings all the flavors of the Mediterranean to you in one easy dish. Along with farfalle pasta, texture is created by adding kalamata olives, grape tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, feta cheese, and my favorite, the crunch of pine nuts. Topping the salad is a lovely Greek Vinaigrette that dramatically influences all the other ingredients.
Spring and Summer are made for walking barefoot on the beach, picnics in the park, ice cream dripping from a waffle cone, and, well, this Mediterranean Pasta Salad. Light, fresh, colorful salads love to make an appearance after a rainy day when the sun begins to break through the clouds. It is the perfect dish for picnics or cookouts, especially in warmer weather because there is no mayo in this salad.
How to Make this Mediterranean Pasta Salad
Main Ingredients Needed
An ingredient list here may seem just a bit extensive, but believe me, the combination of all these flavors will become an explosion in your mouth. Every last one is considered part of a Mediterranean diet.
- Kalamata Olives (my favorite): My preference is bulk olives from the deli olive bar at my grocery store instead of picking up a jar from the shelf. They seem to always be larger and fresher.
- Grape Tomatoes: Not only are tomatoes considered a superfood with great health benefits, they're a nice addition to almost any salad. Grape tomatoes instead of cherry ones seemed to work best in this salad since they are hardier and more durable. Any tomatoes you like though can be included.
- Cucumbers: Because I like some extra crunch in my salad, I grabbed a green cucumber, sliced it, left the skin on, and quartered the slices.
- Red Onion: When eaten raw, a red onion tends to be milder than a regular yellow onion. Their deep purple color makes a beautiful presentation alongside all the other ingredients.
- Pepperoncini: Considered a signature ingredient in the Mediterranean diet, the pepperoncini add some heat with a sweet crunch as a pickled condiment.
- The Herbs: Oregano and basil disperse amazing flavors throughout and subtly enhance all the other ingredients. Also, basil and oregano are considered two of the top five Mediterranean herbs. An interesting fact: the Greeks and Romans associated oregano with joy and happiness. I think we need more oregano in our lives.
- Pine Nuts: These nuts have a delicately sweet and nutty flavor. They're definitely one of the more expensive nuts on the market but in my opinion, well worth the cost.
- The Cheeses: Feta and Parmesan cheese pair well with the other Mediterranean ingredients. Parmesan adds a rich nutty flavor while feta brings a salty, briny tang to the salad.
- The Pasta: Farfalle, known as bow-ties or butterflies, is what I chose for this salad because it adds great texture and gives the dish a beautiful dimension.
- Vinaigrette: There are so many great varieties of vinaigrettes that you can barely go wrong choosing any of them. I went with a Greek Vinaigrette to complement the Mediterranean feel of this salad.
Step #1 - Cooking Pasta for Salads
Pasta: The Substance of this Mediterranean Salad - You can sub any short pasta, for instance, mini penne, ziti, rotini, conchiglie, fusilli, etc. Choose shapes that trap the vinaigrette, herbs, and other flavors. For salads, choose dried pasta instead of fresh. Fresh is more delicate, therefore dry pasta will hold up better when tossed with the dressing.
In a large pot, bring about six quarts of water to a full, rolling boil before adding the pasta, stir, and let it come to a boil again. Adjust the heat so it doesn't boil over, but still maintains a constant slow boil. Frequently stir the pasta so that it doesn't clump in the water.
- Pasta itself is rather bland, therefore salt should be added to the boiling water. One to two tablespoons is a good amount to include.
- When is the pasta done? For salads, it's good to cook a little longer than El Dente, which is firm to the bite. Since a salad is not cooked in a sauce and served warm, this pasta should be cooked a minute longer than the package directions tell you.
- Let your pasta cool completely before adding any other ingredients
Drain and dunk the pasta into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Leave it in the water for 30 seconds and remove it to drain again. Mushy pasta is never appealing with any recipe. The finished dish is a cold salad that can even be served at room temperature.
Step #2 - Making A Greek Vinaigrette
While the pasta is cooking, it's a great time to combine the ingredients for the Greek Vinaigrette. This dressing is what truly brings this salad to its yummy perfection. Even though it's so simple to throw together, the depth and dimension that it adds is the best part of the dish.
Ingredients for the Vinaigrette:
- White Wine Vinegar - You can use red wine vinegar but it's sharper and more acidic than the white wine kind. The white wine vinegar is a little more mellow and delicate and will not overpower the dressing.
- Lemon Juice - Grap a fresh lemon from the produce department and not the bottled kind off the grocery shelf. The lemon you squeeze by hand has less time to oxidize and has no preservatives. Therefore, the flavor of the fresh is brighter and more pronounced.
- Dijon Mustard - One teaspoon of dijon mustard, although it's a small amount, adds a nice subtle tanginess to the overall flavor.
- Red Onion - Honestly you could use whatever type of onion you like. I'm just partial to red.
- Olive Oil - Opt for a "cold-pressed" extra virgin olive oil. Cold-pressed keeps the "good-for-you" antioxidants in and preserves the olive flavor.
- The Herbs - Oregano and basil are definitely found in Mediterranean dishes and add wonderful highlights to this vinaigrette. Use fresh if at all possible.
- Salt and Pepper to taste - Seasoning in the vinaigrette is all about personal preference. So add a little bit, taste, and continue to what you find appealing.
Step #3 - Toss All the Ingredients Together
Other than the fact that this is the best Mediterranean Pasta Salad (wink, wink), the added convenience of this salad is in how quickly it comes together - 15-20 minutes. A little bit of chopping, a little bit of tossing, and there you have it - a really good dish with tons of flavor, color, and character. I literally throw all the ingredients into a large serving bowl, drizzle the Greek vinaigrette, jostle it all together, and for the final touch top it with pine nuts. It is the ultimate light and zesty salad to bring to any cookout.
How many will this serve?
The recipe serves eight people as a hearty-portioned side salad. It can easily be doubled to serve 20 as a smaller side salad or tripled for a crowd of 30 people give or take a few.
You could easily have this as a main dish if you throw in some hard salami and add crusty bread on the side. That's gonna give you about six main servings.
What are some Variations of this Mediterranean Pasta Salad
- Add some protein, for instance, grilled chicken, salami, or pepperoni
- Swap out the feta cheese for goat cheese
- Add some artichoke hearts
- Instead of grape tomatoes, throw in some drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
- Use a smaller grain pasta like Orzo instead of the farfalle
- Substitute the farfalle pasta for cheese tortellini
Can you make this ahead of time?
Absolutely! The convenience of this salad is that it can be made ahead of time. Meal prep is the name of the game here. All the ingredients except the tomatoes can be chopped/sliced and tossed together along with the cooked but cooled pasta. Wait on the tomatoes and the vinaigrette to add right until you are ready to serve. Refrigerate the finished pasta salad for at least one hour in order to chill before serving.
How Long will leftovers last in the Fridge?
Leftovers can be stored in your refrigerator for four to five days. Leftovers can actually taste better the second day with all the flavors having time to marinate. After that, you may need to drain some of the liquid and add more vinaigrette. The tomatoes may get somewhat mushy but you can always add more.
Things you'll need for a pasta salad recipe
- Cutting Boards for chopping and slicing. I like this set of three bamboo cutting boards They are economical for what you get, a small, medium, and a large one with juice grooves.
- A good Chef's Knife. This Wusthoff Classic is what I use for chopping and cutting vegetables. It is a little pricey but what you have to know is when it comes to knives, you get what you pay for. They truly are an investment and will last a lifetime. I did a lot of research before I purchased and found that Wusthoff was a top-of-the-line brand with a solid reputation.
- A Strainer for draining the pasta. A Metal Strainer is a simple and good choice. I must have a fetish for strainers because I have about seven or eight in my cabinet. One of my favorites is this Over-the-Sink Colander. It's great for those larger needs.
- A Large Bowl with utensils for serving. I really like this Salad Bowl because it has a lid with a built-in place for the utensils.
It's a great time to have some friends over, fire up the grill and throw on some T-Bone Steaks to serve this Mediterranean Pasta Salad. You can bring it with you on a relaxing afternoon picnic with the family, or toss an extra-large salad for a potluck that serves a crowd. Whatever you do, I think you're gonna love this as the perfect summertime go-to pasta salad.
You'll want to check out some other delicious salads on my site:
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Mediterranean Pasta Salad
This is everything you love about pasta salad - kalamata olives, pepperoncini peppers, grape tomatoes, fresh herbs, feta cheese, and a Greek Vinaigrette. Perfect for the summertime.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 8 side salad servings 1x
- Category: Salad
- Method: Tossing
- Cuisine: Mediterranean
Mediterranean Pasta Salad
- 10 oz Farfalle Pasta
- 25 Grape Tomatoes, halved
- ½ cup Kalamata Olives, halved
- ½ cup Red Onion, thinly sliced
- ½ large Cucumber, sliced and quartered
- ⅓ cup Pepperoncini, sliced
- 6-8 ounces Feta Cheese, cubed
- ⅓ cup Parmesan, freshly grated
- 1 tablespoon Fresh Oregano, chopped
- 1 tablespoon Fresh Basil, chopped
- 2-3 tablespoons Pine Nuts
- 2 tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
- 2 tablespoons Red Onion, finely chopped
- 6 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped Fresh Oregano
- 2 tablespoons chopped Fresh Basil
- Kosher Salt to taste
- Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
For the Salad:
- In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of water to a full rolling boil over high heat. Add 1-2 tablespoons of kosher salt.
- Add 10 ounces of farfalle pasta and cook just past al dente, 10-12 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Drain and immediately plunge the pasta into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
- Drain the pasta again and transfer it to a large bowl for mixing.
- Add 25 grape tomatoes (halved), ½ cup kalamata olives (halved), ½ cup thinly sliced red onion, ½ large cucumber (sliced and quartered), ⅓ cup pepperoncini (sliced), 6 ounces feta cheese (cubed), ⅓ cup parmesan (freshly grated), 1 tablespoon fresh oregano (chopped), 1 tablespoon fresh basil (chopped), 2 or 3 tablespoons pine nuts. Drizzle the Greek vinaigrette (see instructions below) over the salad and gently toss all the ingredients together.
For the Vinaigrette:
- In a small bowl combine 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, and 2 tablespoons red onion (finely chopped).
- Quickly whisk in the olive oil by a slow and steady pour.
- Add 1 tablespoon each of fresh oregano and basil (chopped), salt, and pepper to taste.
- This vinaigrette will store for up to 5-7 days in the refrigerator.
- For salads, choose dried pasta instead of fresh. Fresh is more delicate, therefore dry pasta will hold up better when tossed with the dressing.
- For salads, cook the pasta a little longer than El Dente, which is firm to the bite. Since a salad is not cooked in a sauce and served warm, this pasta should be cooked a minute or two longer than the package directions tell you.
- The recipe serves eight people as a hearty-portioned side salad. It can easily be doubled to serve 20 as a smaller side salad or tripled for 30 people, give or take a few.
- Leftovers can be stored in your refrigerator for four to five days. You may need to drain some of the liquid and add more vinaigrette. The tomatoes may get somewhat mushy but you can always add more.
- Serving Size: ⅛ of salad
- Calories: 387
- Sugar: 3 g
- Sodium: 801 grams
- Fat: 24 g
- Saturated Fat: 4 g
- Unsaturated Fat: 10 g
- Trans Fat: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 33 g
- Fiber: 2 g
- Protein: 11 g
- Cholesterol: 11 mg
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