Mediterranean Pasta Salad Recipe is full of tender pasta, juicy veggies, briny olives and crumbled feta. Easy, 30 minute side dish for your next picnic, potluck, or BBQ.
Bring your love of Mediterranean flavors into your regular rotation with this Mediterranean pasta salad. This 30-minute crowd pleaser perfectly combines tender pasta, fresh vegetables, creamy feta, and a light olive oil vinaigrette.
Ingredients and Notes
This delicious Mediterranean pasta salad recipe includes all the bright flavors and typical ingredients we love in Mediterranean cuisine. Here’s what I used in today’s recipe.
- Pasta: I like to use a hearty, short pasta like penne, rotini, corkscrew, or farfalle that really soak up the dressing.
- Bell peppers: I used red bell pepper for maximum sweetness. Orange bell pepper or yellow bell pepper can be substituted.
- More fresh veggies: This wouldn’t be a Mediterranean dish without crisp cucumber, red onion, and juicy tomatoes. Just like in this Mediterranean quinoa salad and Mediterranean chickpea salad these favorite ingredients give this pasta salad its savory taste.
- Olives: Use any olives you have on hand. I used a mixture of Castelvetrano and Kalamata olives. Green olives and black olives are great choices. If you don’t like olives, artichoke hearts are another Mediterranean vegetable you can add for something salty.
- Sun-dried tomatoes: I recommend sun-dried tomatoes in oil. You can also use dried tomatoes and soak in water for 2 minutes.
- Fresh herbs: Fresh basil makes this a delicious salad!
- Feta cheese: The best cheese for any salad, in my opinion. I like buying a block of feta to crumble into big chunks and avoid preservatives. Crumbled goat cheese would also work. You can even substitute your favorite soft vegan cheese.
- Pasta salad dressing: This homemade dressing is super easy to make with everyday pantry staples. All you need is extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. See recipe card for measurements.
How to Make Mediterranean Pasta Salad
Here’s how to make Mediterranean pasta salad in 4 simple steps. Start with choosing a large bowl that will fit all ingredients.
- Cook pasta: Cook pasta al dente. Follow the package instructions or undercook by a few minutes as per suggested cook time. Drain pasta water, rinse pasta with cold water, and drain it again.
- Chop the veggies: While the pasta cooks, chop the grape tomatoes in halves. If using small cherry tomatoes you can keep them whole. Cut the cucumber, bell pepper, and raw onion in similar size pieces. Chop the basil and crumble feta.
- Prep the dressing: In a small bowl, add olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and whisk until blended. Set aside, you’ll want to add the dressing last.
- Combine: I find it easiest to add all ingredients to the large bowl as you are prepping them. Start with vegetables, then olives, sun-dried tomatoes, herbs, crumbled feta cheese, and cooled pasta. Drizzle dressing over the pasta salad and gently stir to combine.
This Mediterranean pasta salad recipe is best served cold. If you have time, I highly recommend letting it chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to help the flavors develop.
Tips for Best Results
Follow my pro tip list for a 5 star rating on this perfect pasta salad.
- Cook pasta al dente: Do not over cook the pasta. Soft pasta will absorb more dressing and turn mushy.
- Rinse pasta with cold water: You want to avoid melting the feta and making the salad look messy. Rinsing in cold water helps stop the pasta from getting any additional heat.
- Uniform size pieces: I like big chunks of feta and uniform vegetable pieces to enjoy all the bright flavors in every bite.
- Use what you have on hand: Salads are very forgiving. You can easily include more or less, and adjust to your personal taste and diet.
Popular Additions and Substitutions
Here are my top 6 favorite additions that add protein and flavor without too many ingredients.
- Add in cold cuts: Cold cuts pair wonderfully with a cold pasta salad. They are also very convenient when prepping picnic food. Salami, pepperoni, prosciutto, or diced ham are among my favorites.
- Add nutrition with leafy greens: Some great options are fresh arugula, baby spinach, or kale.
- Bulk it up with beans: White beans and chickpeas are protein-packed and fiber-rich. I love adding these pantry staples to any Greek salad.
- Add protein: Make this a full meal on a busy weeknight by adding grilled chicken breast or grilled shrimp skewers.
- Try different fresh herbs: A touch of fresh parsley, fresh arugula, and fresh oregano would add delicious flavor.
- Add a kick of heat: To add a bit more spice, toss in some sliced pepperoncini or red pepper flakes.
Enjoy a bigger serving on its own for a vegetarian lunch or dinner.
How to Store and Make Ahead
Store: Refrigerate any leftovers in a glass airtight container for up to 3 days. The dressing may settle on the bottom of the container, give it a gentle stir before serving.
Make ahead: This is such an easy pasta salad recipe, so it is naturally great to meal prep a large batch and enjoy all week.
Store salad dressing separately or quickly mix it before serving. Add all other ingredients to a large bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours. The following day, drizzle salad with the dressing 30 minutes before serving to let it marinate.
Pasta does not freeze well, it generally goes soggy when thawing.
I recommend a hearty pasta that will not turn mushy such as penne, rotini, corkscrew, farfalle, or fusilli pasta. They also have lots of crevices to trap in the dressing.
Absolutely! Use your favorite gluten-free pasta and cook it for less time.
Yes. Store-bought zesty Italian dressing, Greek vinaigrette, or red wine vinaigrette can be used for this pasta salad. I do recommend making your own pasta salad dressing, it is inexpensive, low in sodium, and has no added sugar or preservatives.
Yes. Omit the feta cheese to keep this salad dairy-free.
More Salad Recipes to Try
Mediterranean Pasta Salad Recipe
- Cook pasta al dente, drain, rinse with cold water and drain again.
- While pasta is cooking, chop vegetables and prep the dressing. In a small bowl, add olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and whisk until emulsified. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, add cucumber, tomatoes, bell pepper, red onion, basil, sun dried tomatoes, olives, feta cheese and cooked pasta.
- Pour dressing over the pasta salad and gently stir to combine. Let it chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Serve cold.
- Store: Refrigerate in a glass airtight container for up to 3 days. Do not freeze.
- Make ahead: Add all ingredients except the dressing to a large bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Store dressing separately or make right before serving. When ready to serve, drizzle salad with the dressing, stir and let marinate for 30 minutes.
- Best pasta to use: I like to use medium size pasta like penne, rotini, corkscrew, bowties etc. Rotini is fine too. If using larger size pasta like rotini, keep add-ins chopped small.
- Uniform size pieces: Chop vegetables and other ingredients into same small bite size pieces for even distribution.
- Feta cheese: I love to break it into bigger chunks for flavor reasons and to avoid pasta look messy and “dirty”.