Mediterranean pasta salad is a picnic favorite for a reason: Once hot weather and outdoor dining are here, this portable staple is hard to beat!
Mediterranean pasta salad is a great dish to bring with you whenever you’re eating outdoors, says food blogger and photographer Ksenia Prints of At the Immigrant’s Table. Due to its light vinaigrette dressing, the dish isn’t at risk of spoiling quickly. It’s a vegetable-laden, substantial side that packs big, bold flavor into a very portable package.
Choosing the right pasta for pasta salad is half the trick of making this easy dish. We recommend using either penne or fusilli, as they have the grooves that help catch onto the sauce, and the pieces are big enough that they can hold their own against the diced vegetables.
Mediterranean pasta salad takes the flavors of traditional Greek salad and combines them with pasta for the perfect dish to enjoy alongside barbecue beef, or just a nice spread of charcuterie and cheeses. Give it a try for your next outdoor dining experience, and you’ll discover just how much better pasta salad is without all that mayonnaise.
Gather the ingredients to prepare Mediterranean pasta salad
Mediterranean pasta salad is basically like Greek salad with pasta. So, grab onto some nice veggies, your favorite pasta shape, and some seasoning staples, and let’s get cooking!
First, choosing a good pasta shape that has grooves for the sauce to "catch" onto and isn’t too small is already half the battle. We recommend using penne or fusilli for this salad.
Next, you will need to visit the produce aisle. From there, you’ll want to grab cucumbers (one large English cucumber or 2 Lebanese cucumbers will suffice), cherry or grape tomatoes, and a medium red onion.
From the deli section, choose a nice block of feta cheese and some salty, briny Kalamata olives. (You can also use any other olives you like in here.)
Your last stop is in the pantry, where you need to stock up on extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, dried oregano, honey, mustard, a couple of garlic cloves, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. These ingredients will make up the Mediterranean vinaigrette.
Cook the pasta
Before you proceed with dicing all the veggies, which is probably the only time-consuming part of this easy dish, you want to cook the pasta.
To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Pasta water should taste as salty as the sea, so don’t skimp on the salt. Cook the pasta according to package instructions — in most cases, this will involve eight to 10 minutes of cooking.
Drain the pasta water, rinse the pasta under cold water, and set it aside to cool while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
Dice the vegetables and feta cheese
Grab a big cutting board and a large, comfortable chef’s knife, and let’s get chopping.
All the veggies should be cut fairly uniform, with their size matching each other and the cooked pasta shapes. For the cucumber, this will mean dicing Lebanese cucumbers into half moons, or slicing an English cucumber into quarter-strips, lengthwise, and then cutting each into a ½-inch thick slice.
Cut the grape or cherry tomatoes in half. Then, remove the pits from all the Kalamata olives, and slice or chop them roughly. Slicing will result in smoother, prettier pieces, but it takes a bit more attention and work.
Thinly slice the onion into half moons. Then, crumble the feta cheese with your fingers. If some pieces remain a bit larger, that’s totally fine — they’ll usually crumble as they mix with the pasta.
Make the Mediterranean vinaigrette
The flavor in a Mediterranean pasta salad comes from the zesty, punchy vinaigrette, so don’t hold back on flavoring this sauce.
To make the vinaigrette, in a small jar, combine the olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, honey, mustard, garlic, pepper, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes. Shake the jar until the sauce is emulsified — this means it should thicken slightly, becoming a bit creamy in texture.
Taste the sauce — it should be strong-flavored and tangy. If it tastes a bit unbalanced, you may want to add more honey, mustard, olive oil, or vinegar until it feels just right.
Mix all the salad ingredients in one bowl
To bring all the flavors of the salad together, transfer the pasta to a large bowl.
Add in the rest of the ingredients: the diced cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, olives, and feta. Pour over the Mediterranean vinaigrette. Using two large spoons or salad tongs, mix the salad to combine. Don’t be too forceful, as the pasta can break and the feta crumble too much, but do make sure the sauce gets everywhere and that the vegetables are well mixed.
Taste the salad, and correct seasonings, adding more salt or pepper or even oil as needed.
Serve the Mediterranean pasta salad at a barbecue or a picnic
Mediterranean pasta salad can be eaten immediately, but it would also benefit from an hour in the fridge for the flavors to mix. In truth, pasta salad is best within a couple of hours from when it was made, but no later than the next day. The pasta soaks up all the sauce as it sits, making the salad dry up over time. If waiting longer to eat the salad, or if you have leftovers, you may want to add more vinaigrette before eating them.
Mediterranean pasta salad will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to four days, though it will need to be perked up with more sauce past the second day.
- 12 ounces dry pasta (penne or fusilli is best)
- 1 English cucumber or 2 Lebanese cucumbers, diced
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- ½ cup sliced Kalamata olives
- ½ medium red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano, minced
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- 2 small garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain, rinse under cold water, and let pasta cool while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
- Dice cucumbers into half moons. Cut grape tomatoes in half. Pit and slice olives. Thinly slice onion into half moons. Crumble feta.
- Mix all the sauce ingredients (the olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, honey, mustard, garlic, pepper, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes) in a small jar, and shake until emulsified.
- Transfer pasta to a large bowl, and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix to combine.
- Mediterranean pasta salad can be served immediately, but it would also benefit from an hour in the fridge for the flavors to mix. Pasta salad will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days, though you may need to add more dressing if waiting longer than a day.