Mediterranean Pasta Salad

A simple Mediterranean pasta salad loaded with fresh arugula, sun-dried tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, pine nuts, kalamata olives, basil pesto and so much more! It’s a copy-cat recipe for Cafe Express’s Pasta Amore and let me just say it’s actually BETTER!

Mediterranean Pasta Salad - This Cafe Express inspired pasta salad is loaded with marinated artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, and so much more! #pastasalad #italianpastasalad #mediterraneanpastasalad | Littlespicejar.com

My friends, I present to you, L❤️VE in a bowl.

But really! It is. And it’s not just what Cafe Express calls it on their menu — Pasta Amore.  A lot of you may know it as a Mediterranean pasta salad. And when it’s been raining for almost 3 weeks straight and you’re on edge because you need to shoot recipes for the upcoming weeks and just can’t seem to catch a perfect sunny day, you may even know it as comfort food. 💜

This Italian inspired pasta salad was a dish at the besties baby shower this past January which came from a Texas based restaurant called Cafe Express. One bite and you’ll know what I mean, flavors from the basil pesto mingling with the pine nuts and the richness of sun-dried tomatoes while you get a little freshness from the arugula and nutty parmesan. This is love. You want more. And ever since then, it’s been on my mind to make over and over again. So much so, that I actually dreamt about it.

Just take a look at all the goodness that’s going into this one pasta salad recipe. We’re tossing in marinated artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, olives, capers, homemade pesto, parmesan cheese, arugula and scallions. But you know what the best part is? The only thing you need to cook is the pasta. Which means this salad can be served at room temperature or cold <– which means that you can absolutely make it ahead of time <– which means it’s the perfect pasta salad to take to all your gatherings this summer.

By know, i’m sure i’ve expressed to you the importance of a good pasta salad.  There’s so much going into this salad recipe. It’s loaded with Mediterranean flavor and isn’t ‘leafy based’ which means it’s full of filling ingredients. And the best part? It’s NOT mayonnaise based. So it’s healthier too! And on top of that, it feeds a crowd! Theres is just so much goodness going into this recipe that it’ll easily feed 12-14 people as a small side if you’re planning on taking this to book club or a summer barbecue. I served this with grilled chicken on the side but you could just add cooked diced chicken into the Mediterranean pasta salad as well to make it even more hearty and filling! And how amazing would that be for bagged lunches? Definitely saves you time and $$. Not to mention makes your co-workers slightly jealous of the delicious aromas erupting out of your brown-bag.

I’m telling you, you need this Mediterranean pasta salad in your life.

Like pronto!

Mediterranean Pasta Salad (28 sec.):

Mediterranean Pasta Salad - This Cafe Express inspired pasta salad is loaded with marinated artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, and so much more! #pastasalad #italianpastasalad #mediterraneanpastasalad | Littlespicejar.com

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

A simple Mediterranean pasta salad loaded with fresh arugula, sun-dried tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, pine nuts, kalamata olives, basil pesto and so much more! It’s a copy-cat recipe for Cafe Express’s Pasta Amore and let me just say it’s actually BETTER!

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Ingredients:

SALAD:

  • 12 ounces pasta (any small shape will do, I like penne)
  • 1-12 ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
  • ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained (reserve 2 tablespoons of oil)
  • ½ cup kalamata olives, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • ¼ cup EACH sliced scallions AND chopped parsley
  • 1 cup packed fresh arugula
  • ⅓ cup parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoon pine nuts

DRESSING:

  • 3 tablespoons pesto (homemade or store-bought)
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of reserved sun-dried tomato oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. SALAD: Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Rinse and drain the pasta and allow for it to cool to room temperature.
  2. In a large bowl combine the prepared pasta, chopped artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, capers, scallions, and parsley. Toss to combine. At this point, you can store the pasta salad in the refrigerator until ready to serve if you want to serve it cold.
  3. DRESSING: In a small bowl, mix together the pesto, olive oil, sun-dried tomato oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. The dressing can be refrigerated until you’re ready to serve the salad.
  4. ASSEMBLY: When you’re ready to serve, add the arugula, parmesan cheese, and pine nuts into the salad and toss to combine. Dress with the prepared dressing and taste test for seasonings. Adjust to preference.

Notes:

  1. Feel free to toss in cooked chicken to make this salad even heartier.
  2. If you’re transporting this salad, to simplify things, you can place the arugula, parmesan cheese, and pine nuts on top of the prepared salad and toss when you get there with the dressing.

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Mediterranean Pasta Salad - This Cafe Express inspired pasta salad is loaded with marinated artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, and so much more! #pastasalad #italianpastasalad #mediterraneanpastasalad | Littlespicejar.com*Please note: the nutritional facts calculated are an estimate based on the ingredients i’ve used. If you’d like a more accurate count, please calculate them using the ingredients/brands you’ve used to prepare the recipe. The nutritional facts provided is for 1/8th of the recipe.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad - This Cafe Express inspired pasta salad is loaded with marinated artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, and so much more! #pastasalad #italianpastasalad #mediterraneanpastasalad | Littlespicejar.com

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