The hot weather calls for a cold dish and I can't think of a better one than pasta salad. There are so many recipes out there, but I believe my version is one you should add to your summer rotation. My take on this salad is a Mediterranean twist with a combination of Greek and Italian elements. The best of both incredibly tasty worlds. This dish is filling, healthy, and oh-so-tasty. Plus, it's a make-ahead dish. So, next time you have the family barbecue and park day coming up, whip this up and impress them all.
Why pasta salad is the perfect summer dish.
When I think of summer, I think of light and breezy. I don't just apply that to the weather. I have that same mentality towards my food. When I hit the beaches and parks, I just want something I can whip up quickly, is relatively mess-free, and will be easy to eat. Pasta salad is exactly that. It's eaten cold which also helps with the summer heat when you can't get your hands on some ice cream. It's not just enough that you make pasta salad, you have to make a good one. And here's what makes a good one, in my opinion.
- Veggies: Though pasta is the main carrier, the true stars are the veggies. You can switch 'em up depending on the theme of your salad. You just want to make sure you add veggies that are big on texture and flavor.
- Pasta: Let's circle back to the pasta now. The pasta acts as the main carrier for the rest of the ingredients. Because of that, you want to use pasta that will hold its shape well and carry the dressing well. There are many shapes that do this well, but I love using the tri-color rotini and sometimes I switch it up to bowtie.
- Cold: I'm going to say this despite my theory that you are already very aware of this fact, but the reason why this is such a popular spring and summer dish is that it's served cold. The longer it sits in the fridge the better the flavors will meld. So do yourself a favor and refrigerate this for at least 24 hours and serve it cold so it can cool you down from the insane heat.
- Dressing: All salads need a dressing, right? This one is no different. You can mix up the dressings depending on the theme of the salad, but since this is a Mediterranean pasta salad, I'm using an olive oil and red wine vinegar base. Add in some seasoning for flavoring and tada! We have our dressing.
Ingredients for this salad:
- Pasta– You can use any shape that holds dressing well, but I prefer the tri-colored rotini.
- Peppers - I used a mix of peppers including yellow, green, and roasted red peppers. They add great flavor, color variety, and great texture.
- Cucumbers – Adds a fresh crunch and color.
- Olives – I use a mix of black and kalamata olives.
- Red Onion – Adds a bit of spice.
- Cheese– In my world, you can't have pasta salads without cheese, so I add two of my favorites - parmesan and feta.
- Herbs - You can add a number of fresh herbs, but with this, I'd go with fresh oregano, basil, and/or parsley if you have them on hand. If not, you can use the dried versions. Just be sure to use less since they're more pungent.
- Seasonings– Italian seasoning, oregano, salt, black pepper
- Dressing–A simple mix of olive oil and red wine vinegar. Use great quality for both and it brings out big flavors.
How to Make This Mediterranean Pasta Salad:
- Cook your pasta –The first thing you'll want to do is cook your pasta. I cook it just a couple of minutes past al-dente. I don't want it too firm, unlike when we're eating it with sauce but this is totally a judgment call. Once the pasta is done cooking, drain the water and set it aside in a very large mixing bowl.
- Chop your veggies– When the pasta is done cooking, you can start chopping your veggies and adding them to the pasta.
- Add your cheeses- Add your cheese next.
- Add your dressing and seasoning– I like to use a big measuring cup for this. Add your oil and vinegar and seasonings and mix to the best of your ability, even though oil and vinegar don't really mix :).
- Mix and refrigerate - Once it's properly mixed, I add the fresh herbs and mix again. Then, cover and refrigerate for at least six hours or ideally up to 48 hours. If you refrigerate it for a day or two, the flavors will really meld well. The pasta will soak up your dressing so if you'd like to add more for rehydration once you serve it, you can do that as well. Serve cold and enjoy!
SOME MORE Summer RECIPES:
Easy Mediterranean Pasta Salad
- 16 oz tri-color rotini pasta
- 10 cups cold water
- 1 roasted red pepper sliced
- 1 yellow pepper sliced
- 1 green pepper sliced
- ¾ of half of a red onion sliced (or ⅛ cup sliced red onion)
- 1 cucumber sliced into quarter pieces
- 10 Kalamata olives roughly chopped
- 10 black olives roughly chopped
- ¾ cup feta cheese
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese
Dressing & Seasonings
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- salt and fresh black pepper to taste
- ¼ teaspoon white sugar
- ¼ cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 4-5 basil leaves roughly teared
- Bring your cold water to a boil and cook your pasta for roughly 7-9 minutes or until it's just past the al-dente stage by a couple of minutes. Should be tender, but still slightly firm. We don't want it too mushy. Once your pasta is cooked, drain the water and pour your pasta into a large mixing bowl.
- Chop your veggies and begin adding them to your pasta in no particular order.
- Add in your feta and parmesan next. You can use crumbled or blocked feta.
- Pour your olive oil and red wine vinegar into a big measuring cup. Add in your seasonings to this cup and mix as best as you can.
- Pour this dressing over the pasta and mix thoroughly. Add in your fresh herbs at the end and mix it all again. Cover and refrigerate for at least six hours or ideally up to 24 or 48 hours. If you refrigerate it for a day or two, the flavors will really meld well. The pasta will soak up your dressing so if you'd like to add more for rehydration once you serve it, you can do that as well. I typically just add more oil and vinegar and skip the seasoning for the rehydration but this is optional. Serve cold and enjoy!