Mediterranean Pasta Salad (Antipasto 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! A Mediterranean Pasta Salad like you’ve never had before!
My friends, I present to you, L❤️VE in a bowl.
And I’m not just being sappy. That’s actually the name of this salad – or well, the name of the salad that this is inspired by. It’s called Pasta Amore. And baby, it’s true love.
This Italian-inspired pasta salad it unlike any Mediterranean pasta salad you’ve ever had before. Because unlike all those other salads, this one actually has all the flavors of Italy and the rest of the Mediterranean wrapped together in every bite. We’re talking about sun-dried tomatoes, mingling with fresh basil pesto, tangy artichokes, buttery pine nuts, and briny olives. We’ll finish it off with lots of parmesan cheese. One bite and you’ll know why they call this what they call this.
Unlike your typical Mediterranean salad, you know what I’m talking about – the red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, red onions, and cucumbers all tossed with fusilli or farfalle, this is a refreshing take off the worn-out path of Greek salads masked as Mediterranean Pasta Salads. Yes, I said it. Can you feel the passion?
We’re adding richness with our veggie choices! Skip the grape tomatoes and do sun-dried tomatoes, forget the feta cheese entirely, and use marinated artichoke hearts instead of cucumbers, how can you be mad at that?
And the best part? It’s NOT another mayonnaise-based salad. So it’s healthier too! And on top of that, it feeds a crowd! There’s 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 a book club or a summer barbecue, make extra because they are going to rave about it and then ask you for the recipe.
I serve this cold pasta salad as a side dish with grilled chicken, but you could just add cooked diced chicken into the Mediterranean pasta salad as well to make it even more hearty and filling!
Mediterranean Pasta Salad (28 sec.):
Ingredients for Mediterranean Pasta Salad:
- Pasta: You can use any shape of pasta that you like for this recipe. I’m using penne pasta and I boil them in a large pot of salted water until al dente. Then drain and rinse the pasta under cold water.
- Marinated Artichoke Hearts: These add a delicious tart flavor. They also bulk up the salad. If you can’t find these in a store near you, you can also purchase them online.
- Sun-dried tomatoes: We’ll make full use of this ingredient! Make sure to save some of the oil that the sun-dried tomatoes come packed in, they add a delicious flavor to the basil pesto dressing.
- Kalamata Olives + Capers: These briny ingredients help cut the richness of the pine nuts and make this such a refreshing summer salad.
- Scallions and parsley: These ingredients add freshness. Feel free to use other fresh herbs if you prefer.
- Arugula: I love the pepperiness arugula adds to summer salads. Feel free to use kale in its place if you prefer.
- Parmesan Cheese: Grated parmesan cheese adds the most delicious flavor to this salad.
- Pine nuts: Add nuttiness and richness to the salad, freely free to replace with cashews for a more economical option.
- Fresh Basil Pesto: I love using my homemade basil pesto for this recipe. It gives the dressing the most unique flavor! Just shake it all up in a jar.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Goes into the basil pesto with lemon juice to thin it out.
- Lemon Juice: This is the acid for the basil pesto dressing.
- Salt and pepper: kosher salt and pepper will go into the dressing for the salad.
How to Make the Best Pasta Salad:
- Start with the pasta. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. I like to let the pasta cool to room temperature before tossing it with the other ingredients.
- Make the salad. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, capers, scallions, and parsley. Then give everything a good toss.
- Make the dressing. In a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the pesto, olive oil, tomato oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Shake the container to combine. Taste the dressing to make sure it’s to your liking. You can refrigerate the dressing until you’re ready to serve. You can even make it a day in advance if you prefer. Serve the salad cold though.
- Toss and serve. When you’re ready to serve, add the arugula, parmesan cheese, and pine nuts to the salad bowl. Pour the dressing over the top. Using salad tossers toss the salad until it’s combined. Taste and adjust with more salt and pepper as the salad needs.
FAQs about pasta salads:
Use can toss everything but the arugula, parmesan cheese, and pinenuts in the pasta keep the salad dressing separate until you’re ready to serve. That way, when you’re ready to serve, you just give it a toss! Alternatively, you can combine everything but the arugula and add that in right before serving. This keeps things fresh and easy!
I would consume this salad in 1-2 days at most.
Yes, swap the pasta with gluten-free pasta and make sure the basil pesto you use was packed in a gluten-friendly facility. I would suggest homemade if possible!
Add a can of drained garbanzo beans, cubed salami or pepperoni, or cubed grilled chicken.
If you like this recipe, you might also like:
- Amazing Macaroni Salad
- Lemon Basil Arugula Pasta Salad
- Zesty Italian Pasta Salad
- Greek Orzo Pasta Salad
- Mediterranean Tuna Orzo Summer 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, roughly chopped
- ⅓ cup parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- 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
- SALAD: Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Rinse and drain the pasta and allow it to cool to room temperature. You can speed this up by spreading the pasta out on a baking sheet and refrigerating it for 30 minutes.
- TOSS: In a large bowl combine the cooled pasta, chopped artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, capers, scallions, and parsley. Toss to combine.
- MAKE-AHEAD: At this point, you can cover and store the pasta salad in the refrigerator until ready to serve if you want to serve it cold.
- 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 covered and refrigerated until you're ready to serve the salad.
- ASSEMBLY: Right before serving, add the arugula, parmesan cheese, and pine nuts into the salad and toss to combine. Dress with the prepared dressing and taste for seasonings. Adjust with additional salt or other ingredients to preference.
- ADD PROTEIN: Feel free to toss in cooked chicken to make this salad even heartier.
- TRANSPORTING: 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.