Easy Pasta Salad

This fresh, easy pasta salad recipe comes together in under 30 minutes! Tossed in a tangy vinaigrette & filled with veggies, it's a sure cookout hit.

Best Pasta Salad in a serving dish

Today’s recipe is a picnic-perfect pasta salad! Every cookout needs a great pasta salad, and this is the one that I’ll be making all summer long. It comes together in no time, it’s full of fresh ingredients, and it packs a flavorful punch.

I took extra care to make sure that all of this week’s recipes are not just easy, but also easy to make in advance… because I totally get that you don’t want to be futzing with your salad when you could be spending time outside with your friends.

Note: if you do decide to make this in advance, toss on some whole basil leaves before serving to make your salad instantly prettier.

Easy pasta salad recipe ingredients

Pasta Salad Ingredients

I’ve made many pasta salads before (see here and here), but I realized that I didn’t have a really good classic pasta salad with a vinaigrette dressing on the site. This recipe is easy and fresh – along with the pasta, I toss in juicy cherry tomatoes, tangy feta cheese, a generous handful of arugula, chickpeas for protein, pine nuts & little cucumbers for crunch, and lots of fresh parsley and basil.

The dressing is easy to make: it’s a zesty mix of olive oil, lemon, garlic, Dijon, herbs & seasonings  – I like to use herbes de Provence but Italian seasoning would be equally good in its place.

Easy pasta salad recipe ingredients

How to Make Pasta Salad

Making this recipe is a breeze! Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Cook your pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water. Drain it, toss it with some olive oil, and set it aside to cool.
  2. Chop your cherry tomatoes and cucumbers, mince the parsley, and crumble the feta.
  3. Whisk together the dressing ingredients.
  4. And toss everything together in a big bowl! Season to taste and dig in.

How to make pasta salad

My Best Pasta Salad Tips

  • Cook your pasta a little longer than normal. It should be just a tad past al dente (but not mushy) so that the pasta stays soft when it cools. I find that the higher time range listed on box instructions is usually just about right for pasta salad.
  • Let your pasta cool completely before tossing it with the other ingredients. If it’s still warm, the hot pasta will start to cook and wilt the veggies. No one’s a fan of warm cucumber, so make sure you’re tossing cold pasta into this dish.
  • Save some herbs for garnish! This pasta salad recipe is a great one to make ahead, but if you do, save some of the herbs and pine nuts for garnish. The pine nuts will keep their crunchy texture and the herbs will be extra fresh, pretty, and flavorful.
  • Taste and adjust. Like most salad recipes, this one is super flexible, so be sure to taste and adjust it to your liking before serving. Add more lemon if you prefer a tangier salad, toss in more greens if you’re all about the veggies, and always, always salt to taste.

Easy Pasta Salad Recipe

Easy Pasta Salad Recipe Variations

This pasta salad is fantastic as-is, but feel free to change it up to match your tastes or the ingredients in your pantry. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Make it vegan! Use olives or sun dried tomatoes in place of the feta.
  • Make it gluten-free! Use gluten-free pasta or quinoa in place of traditional noodles.
  • Go Greek. To make this recipe more of a Greek pasta salad, add kalamata or black olives and a half cup of thinly sliced red onion.
  • Try a caprese combo. Use halved mini mozzarella balls in place of the feta.
  • Try another herb. Fresh oregano would be lovely in place of the mint in this salad, and thyme would also be a great addition.
  • Swap out the arugula for spinach, or leave it out altogether if you prefer a higher pasta: veggie ratio.
  • Or roast your chickpeas for extra crunch.

Easy Pasta Salad Recipe

If you love this pasta salad recipe…

Try this broccoli salad, this watermelon salad, this couscous salad, or this summer slaw next!

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

rate this recipe:
5 from 88 votes
Prep Time: 12 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 22 mins
Serves 6
You'll love this easy pasta salad recipe! It's a great one to make ahead - if you're bringing it to a picnic, prep it up to a day in advance.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups uncooked fusilli pasta
  • 2 heaping cups halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1 cup Persian cucumbers, sliced into thin half moons
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 cup basil leaves, torn
  • ½ cup minced parsley
  • ½ cup chopped mint
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts

Dressing

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence, or dried Italian seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare the pasta according to the package directions, or until slightly past al dente.
  • Meanwhile, make the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, herbes de Provence, red pepper flakes, and salt. (Note: the dressing will have a strong flavor, it’ll mellow once it coats all of the pasta salad ingredients).
  • Drain the pasta, toss it with a little olive oil (so that it doesn’t stick together) and let it cool to room temp. Transfer to a large bowl with the tomatoes, chickpeas, arugula, cucumbers, feta cheese, basil, parsley, mint, and pine nuts. Pour the dressing and toss to coat. Season to taste with more lemon, salt, pepper, and/or a drizzle of olive oil, if desired, and serve.

 

58 comments

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe (after making it)




  1. kavita
    06.13.2021

    Can I use canned chickpeas for last minute?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      06.13.2021

      yep! I use canned.

  2. Stacey
    06.09.2021

    I’d like to make this for an upcoming BBQ. Looks delicious! Wondering if I can substitute a different nut for the pine nuts? They taste metallic in my mouth. Weird, I know.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      06.10.2021

      you can just skip them, if you want!

  3. Kim
    06.08.2021

    5 stars
    My friend made this for a BBQ at her house, and now it’s my go-to pasta salad. So good!

  4. Kate
    05.20.2021

    This looks great! If I make it the day before the picnic should I mix the dressing in when it’s first assembled or should I put the dressing on right before it’s served (or the morning of)?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      05.21.2021

      Hi Kate, no you can mix it all together. I’d save the basil to add at the last minute.

  5. Michelle S
    05.15.2021

    5 stars
    This recipe is amazing!! Thank you!!!

  6. Uli
    05.08.2021

    5 stars
    Absolutely delicious combination.
    Had to substitute the pine nuts with roasted sunflower seeds but that actually worked really well.
    Loved the crispy cucumber, peppery arugula and fresh herbes.
    I brought this to a friends house. Prepared it but added the arugula and the sunflower seeds just before serving.
    Everyone loved it

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      05.08.2021

      I’m so glad everyone loved it!

  7. Sabrina Larson
    02.05.2021

    I made this pasta salad for a family get together, and was very disappointed . I love lemon, garlic, and all the spices in it. It was soooo strong in flavor that i threw it all out. Sorry👎

  8. Stacey
    11.07.2020

    Hello! I am making this for a hiking picnic with friends tomorrow! Have you made this the day before serving or hours ahead of time? Just wondering how it would do with the arugula and fresh herbs or should I add those later? ☺️
    Thank you!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      11.07.2020

      Hi Stacey, I would just toss the arugula and herbs in before you leave the house, they’ll wilt as they sit but will still taste fine for a few hours.

  9. Sandy
    09.08.2020

    Do you use Curly or flat leaf (Italian) parsley?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.08.2020

      Hi Sandy, I use flat leaf.

  10. Jeanine Donofrio
    08.08.2020

    I’m glad you loved it!

  11. Casa de Cal
    07.06.2020

    5 stars
    Thank you for the amazing recipe. We made this for our Anniversary lunch and my husband kept on repeating ” wow, every bite is like an explosion in your mouth”!
    5 STAR recipe!!
    We used: gluten free pasta, kalamata olives, and a spicy Italian seasoning for the dressing!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      07.06.2020

      Oh, I’m so glad you both loved it! Happy anniversary!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.