The perfect Mediterranean pasta salad for summer barbecues and picnics with beautiful colors and incredible flavors. Sweet grape tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, meaty Greek olives, delectable artichoke hearts, and tangy feta cheese. Top it all off with a zesty lemony vinaigrette with fresh herbs. Make it gluten-free pasta salad or dairy-free if desired.
Who doesn't love a good summer pasta salad? This Mediterranean pasta salad is much like a Greek salad with many of the same elements.
Why You'll Like This Recipe
- Packed with the colors and flavors of Mediterranean cuisine.
- Great for barbecues, summer cookouts, and as a picnic salad.
- Make ahead and dress when ready to serve.
- Cold pasta salad is refreshing in summer months.
Another terrific summer salad to try is this cold lentil and quinoa salad.
- Pasta: Gluten-free or regular pasta. Use a short pasta such as elbows, bows (farfalle), mini penne, rotini pasta or corkscrew (fusilli). Here's my favorite GF pasta.
- Cucumber: I like the sweet little Persian cucumbers but an English cucumber works too.
- Tomatoes: Grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, even sun-dried tomatoes work.
- Cheese: A good tangy Greek feta cheese (or goat cheese) is super in this pasta salad (optional). Skip for dairy-free or use a dairy-free cheese. Cube or crumble.
- Olives: Buy pitted briny olives kalamata olives or green olives if you prefer.
- Artichoke hearts: Get the canned ones packed in water and drain. Chop if large.
- Onion: Use a red onion for nice color; shallots works too if you are not crazy about red onion. To tame red onion, chop rinse in cold water, and dry, then add.
- Herbs: Chopped fresh parsley lends more color and fresh garden flavor.
- Nuts: Buttery pine nuts add a nice crunch and flavor. Skip for nut-allergies.
Chef's Tip: To easily slice fresh tomatoes, use a small serrated knife called a tomato knife. It makes slicing so easy and clean. And it's useful for many other things.
Lemony Vinaigrette Dressing
Homemade dressing is the best for this pasta salad (or any salad in my opinion).
- Olive oil: Plain extra virgin olive oil or lemon olive oil.
- Lemon juice: Only fresh lemon juice will do here for that bright lemony flavor (zest before juicing).
- Fresh herbs: Fresh mint and thyme or oregano, chives for garnish.
- Dijon mustard: Just a little for more Mediterranean flavor and it's an emulsifier.
- Seasonings: Salt, black pepper and red chili flakes if you like.
- Honey: Optional, just a small amount if the vinaigrette is too tangy for you.
Use extra chopped mint and oregano to mix in fresh before serving, and the lemon zest from juicing.
Please see the recipe card for measurements.
Chef's Tip: Fresh basil leaves are terrific in this Mediterranean pasta salad. Choose large leaves from a bunch, stack them together and roll like a cigar, the thinly slice crosswise into ribbons. It's called a chiffonade. Add them just before serving for best flavor and color (instead of wilted basil).
Substitutions and Variations
- Add chopped salami or ribbons of prosciutto.
- Add garbanzo beans for more protein and crunch.
- Add fresh baby spinach leaves or fresh arugula.
- Change up the dressing with this easy homemade Italian salad dressing.
- Switch out the fresh herbs, try dill.
- Swap red wine vinegar for lemon juice in the vinaigrette.
- Add chopped bell pepper or raw chopped zucchini for more fresh vegetables.
Chef's tip: Should you seed cucumbers? If you buy the mini or Persian cucumbers and they are small and slender, you can skip seeding. Just slice or chop. If you buy the long English cucumbers, slice them lengthwise into quarters, then lay the pieces with the seeds up, and with your knife parallel to the cutting board, slice out the seedy centers with a sharp knife. Then chop or slice. If you have field cucumbers with the tougher nubby skin, scrub the wax off or peel them first and do the same as the English cucumber. Here's what to use to wash all of your product effectively.
This Mediterranean pasta salad is terrific on it's own and the perfect side dish for grilled chicken or cubed poached chicken breast, shrimp, burgers or this recipe for baby back ribs started in the oven and finished on the grill. It's super versatile and always welcome. Serve chilled.
For an all-in-one main dish pasta salad recipe toss together with cubed chicken. For a tuna pasta salad, add low mercury, safe catch canned tuna.
Chef's Tip: You'll savor the flavors of Mediterranean pasta salad more at room temperature than cold. It's about how our tastebuds work. Cold foods need more seasoning for us to taste them, and warm or hot foods taste more fully flavored with less. Taste and season appropriately.
Whether you are picnicking in your back yard, park or at the beach, this tasty pasta salad recipe is good to have in your pocket for fun-filled summer opportunities to get outside and enjoy.
- Pack Mediterranean pasta salad family style in one large airtight container with a tight lid or in individual portioned containers that you can eat right out of. Small ones fit onto a picnic basket easier and each person had their own portion.
- Pack extra lemony vinaigrette in a smaller container.
- Pack your picnic protein separately.
- Remember those handy cleanup towelettes, plenty of napkins, and trash bags to carry home.
- For an easy picnic dessert, try these bite-sized chocolate bark bites or gluten-free decadent chocolate brownies (gluten-free!).
Rinsing pasta for pasta salad in cold water stops the cooking process so you don't end up with mushy, over-cooked pasta. Rinsing removes some of the starch leaving the pasta loose and not clumpy. You don't want a sticky pasta salad. For hot dishes, do not rinse pasta.
Cool pasta for pasta salad by briefly rinsing under cold water after draining. Shake the colander to remove some of the water and pour into a large flat casserole dish or a large bowl. More surface area means faster cooling and pasta that doesn't stick together.
If cooking pasta for a pasta salad, just a very small amount of olive oil after cooking and draining pasta keeps it from sticking together. So yes, but just a little.
More Great Summer Salad Recipes
For more cool summer recipes to get you through a the summer, take a look at the salads recipe category. You can't beat a cool entree salad like this grilled shrimp salad with a raspberry vinaigrette on a hot day.
⭐️Did you Make This Recipe?
If you make this recipe, please add your comment. I appreciate your feedback and enjoy hearing from you. If you loved it, please give it a 5-star rating! They really help other readers.
Mediterranean Pasta Salad
Lemony Vinaigrette (makes extra, 1 cup total)
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice zest before juicing, use to garnish
- 2 tablespoon fresh finely chopped thyme or oregano
- 2 tablespoon fresh finely chopped mint
- 1 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard
- 2 large garlic cloves zested or chopped fine
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 pinch red chili flakes optional
- ½ teaspoon honey if the dressing is too tart, optional
- 8 ounces gluten-free pasta (or wheat) elbow, bows, mini penne, rotelle
- 3 small Persian cucumbers seeded, quartered and diced
- 18-20 small grape or cherry tomatoes halved, about 6 ounces
- 6 ounces Greek feta cheese crumbled
- 20 pitted Greek Kalamata olives halved or left whole
- 1 15-ounce can artichoke hearts packed in water rinsed, drained, halved if large
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ¼ small red onion or use a shallot
Make the dressing
- Make the vinaigrette in a blender so it emulsified and a little creamy. Alternatively whisk all ingredients together in a bowl or place in a jar with a tight lid and shake well. Taste and add a little honey if it's too tart, then set aside to dress the pasta salad.
- Bring a large pot of water with a tablespoon of salt to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Check 1 minute before the end of the package timing. You want al dente pasta, not overly cooked pasta. Drain immediately, rinse with cold water briefly, and toss with a little vinaigrette or olive oil. Cool pasta to make the pasta salad.
Make the pasta salad
- When the pasta is cool, add the cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, olives, artichoke hearts, and pine nuts. Toss with another 2-3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Chill until ready to eat.
- To garnish at serving, sprinkle with a little more chopped herbs (chopped mint is lovely), and more pine nuts if needed. Use the lemon zest from the dressing for more color and lemony flavor.
To Make ahead
- Cook the pasta, toss with a little oil, cool and refrigerate. Do all of the prep work, making the dressing and slicing vegetables, crumbling cheese. Keep them separate and refrigerated, then toss the salad together before serving for the freshest salad. Serve with extra dressing.