Greek pasta salad with juicy tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, fresh herbs, olives and other goodies, all tossed in a tangy lemon vinaigrette.
Pasta salad has a reputation for being the basic beezy of BBQ foods. It's normally a filler, lurking on the sidelines - simple, bland, and just asking to be overlooked. Anyone else ready for a pasta salad revolution? Yeah, I figured I wasn't alone.
I pretty much always lean toward Greek pasta salad or at least something with a touch of mediterranean flair. If its done right, those flavors come together in the most refreshing, delicious way. Using fresh herbs, olives, feta, and the best of the veggie world is the magic behind making an epic Greek pasta salad.
Pasta salad can be a real showstopper, when you bring the A game. Once you've made this spruced up version a few times, that basic pasta salad you've been choking down will be history, never to disgrace a checkered tablecloth or picnic table ever again. Good riddance.
So ditch lame pasta salads to the curb and read on my friends. I have been making a version of this recipe for yeeeears, but just decided a month ago to actually document the ingredients and share it with my internet homies. As always, thank you to all my real life homies and family members that did taste testing along the way.
The main show stopping ingredients are the cherry tomatoes (which are simply EPIC this time of year), cucumber, fresh basil, olives, feta, and that tangy vinaigrette.
And if you hate any of these ingredients, don't throw this Greek pasta salad recipe out altogether! Just tweak it to fit your preferences.
Olives can be replaced with capers or something else salty. Cucumbers with red peppers or something else with a bit of a crunch. The recipe here is my favorite combo, but adjusting to suit your tastes or what's in your fridge is part of what makes cooking so fun.
Unlike mayo filled pasta salads that have haunted your worst foodie nightmares, Greek pasta salad uses a tangy oil and vinegar based dressing. Its basically homemade salad dressing, just a little more pungent since pasta needs more of a flavor punch than most green salads do.
In making a good vinaigrette dressing for a pasta salad, there are really a few key tricks. It's all about getting that acid, oil, and salt ratio right. Everything else is simply extra. And, like most salads I make, I use a mason jar to emulsify it all together. No need to get fancy when a little shaking does the trick.
Here's what it looks like pre-shake.
And voila - 5 seconds later, the dressing is ready!
I love using the pint sized mason jars for dressings like this. Plus, pro tip - you can totally use this as a salad dressing later on if you make a little extra.
This pasta salad can be made the day before too, which is great in my book. I love getting prep work done ahead of time so that I can feel less rushed the day of a BBQ or dinner party. It gives flavors time to meld too, which can make the dish taste even better.
One thing to note for day before prep warriors - you might want to hold the feta and olives and add those just before serving. The olives make purple spots on the noodles overnight and the feta will just melt into the dressing.
Before I get any further, I want to throw kudos to Ali over on Gimme Some Oven. This recipe was hugely influenced by her Mediterranean Pasta Salad recipe. I have always made mine pretty similarly, but her recipe was my inspiration to add lemon to my dressing and actually share the recipe with you all. I've been sitting on this one for a while... sorry guys.
Although I love winging it in the kitchen, sometimes its nice to get ideas from others. It's part of what I love about the online food industry. I love when people make my recipes as written, but getting emails and comments from people about how they've turned my recipes into their own is a lot of fun too.
Empowering people to cook their own meals instead of eating out all the time and relying on take out is why I do this. With how busy and hectic my life has been lately, I have seriously considered abandoning this blog altogether.
Right when those thoughts started to settle in and get comfortable, I got an onslaught of kind messages from my readers that slapped some sense into me. Its like you all knew I needed some encouragement somehow and rose to the occasion. Thanks for being so awesome. 🙂
Greek Pasta Salad
- 1 lb. penne pasta
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 english cucumber, quartered long-ways and then sliced
- 1 cup kalamata olives, halved
- 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
- 1/4 cup chopped basil
- 3 Tbsp. chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. After draining cooked pasta in a colander, run cold water over pasta until all noodles are cooled and no longer warm. Drain well and place pasta in a large serving bowl.
- Add cherry tomatoes, cucumber, olives, onion, basil, and parsley and mix together with a large spoon. Set aside.
- Add all dressing ingredients to a small mason jar or tightly sealing container. Shake well to emulsify oil and vinegar and thoroughly mix dressing.
- Pour dressing over pasta salad and toss to evenly coat the noodles and vegetables. Gently fold in the feta cheese and serve.