Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Mediterranean Pasta Salad in a bowl with feta, olives, tomatoes and arugula
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With briny olives, juicy cherry tomatoes, spicy fresh arugula, purple pops of red onion, and creamy feta crumbled throughout, this Mediterranean pasta salad is dressed with a tangy, herb-tinged red wine vinaigrette.

No Mayo No Problem.

How mayo-based salads became de rigueur for summer parties is beyond us. You bring pasta salad to a backyard barbecue or picnic in the park knowing that, in all likelihood, it will sit out in the sun for hours. Every now and then, someone will wander over to the table and serve themselves a scoop, or a little hand will reach into the bowl and grab a tiny fistful between runs through the sprinkler. So many potato salad and pasta salad recipes call for mayo, and mayonnaise plus summer heat—well, let’s just say it’s a dicey situation. Enter this red wine vinaigrette-dressed Italian pasta salad recipe! Not only is this an easy pasta salad to throw together, it’s great for making ahead, and it won’t mind if it has to sit on a picnic table for an hour or two while you float in the pool.  

ingredients laid out pasta, olives, arugula, tomatoes, red onions, feta and salami

What Goes in Pasta Salad?

Any great pasta salad recipe is essentially a flexible formula—pasta salad is a wonderful blank canvas. Our Mediterranean pasta salad has—shockingly enough—Mediterranean flavors! We love the salty pop of olives and feta cheese against the juicy sweetness of fresh cherry tomatoes and delicate crunch of diced cucumbers. Here’s what you’ll need for this kinda-sorta Italian pasta salad: 

  • Pasta! We’re using rotini for this pasta salad because that gorgeous corkscrew pasta shape is unparalleled for its ability to capture little droplets of our herby, red wine-and-olive oil pasta salad dressing, along with little sweet cherry tomato seeds. YUM. 
  • Veggies! Is there anything better than a summer pasta salad with cherry tomatoes and cucumbers that just drip with sweet juicy ripeness? Toss in some red onion and you’ve got yourself a bright, flavorful garden of freshness! 
  • Olives! Just grab them from the olive bar at your local grocery store—be sure to select pitted olives. 
  • Feta cheese. Making a pasta salad with feta cheese is a great way to add a hint of creaminess to the pasta salad without using mayo or a creamy salad dressing. 
  • Fresh parsley & fresh arugula—for extra texture, verdant spiciness and to make it even more salad-y. 
  • Salami. We like to include cubed salami just for extra saltiness and heft, but if you want to make this a vegetarian pasta salad, just leave it out! Or, if you’re making this to bring to a party where you’re not sure about people’s dietary preferences, you could bring the cubed salami to serve on the side–that way people who’d like it can add it to their serving, and those who don’t can skip it!

How To Make Pasta Salad

The hardest thing about making pasta salad is mustering the strength to boil water on a hot day. Luckily, our super easy pasta salad recipe can be made ahead, so you can tackle that water-boiling effort during the cool morning hours, and enjoy a chilled, cool-from-the-fridge bowl of this easy Mediterranean pasta salad later in the day when the air is thick with summer heat. Here’s how to make the best pasta salad ever:

  1. Cook the pasta! We like to cook the rotini pasta to barely al dente, especially if it’s going to sit in the fridge for a while after being dressed. 
  2. While the pasta boils, prep the cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, olives, feta, and salami (if you’re using it). 
  3. Whisk the Italian pasta salad dressing in the bottom of the same bowl you’re going to toss and serve the pasta salad in.
  4. Drain the pasta and let it cool (or run cold water over it to cool it quickly). 
  5.  Toss the cooled, cooked rotini pasta into a big bowl along with the dressing and all of those other delicious goodies. If you’re making this salad ahead, leave the fresh parsley & arugula out until right before serving. 
  6. Chill! You can serve this pasta salad right away, but on a hot summer day, who doesn’t prefer a nice cold pasta salad? If you have time, give it a chill—thirty minutes will do the trick. 
Mediterranean Pasta Salad in a bowl with feta, olives, tomatoes and arugula

Make This Italian Pasta Salad Dressing, and Use It On Everything.

While you could dress this pasta salad with a store-bought Italian dressing and it would still taste just fine, we really prefer the flavor and simplicity of this homemade Mediterranean pasta salad dressing. It’s easy, quick and great on just about anything. Just whisk together: 

  • Garlic powder
  • Oregano (dried)
  • Basil (dried) 
  • Salt 
  • Extra virgin olive oil 
  • Red wine vinegar

Tools You’ll Need: 

Our easy pasta salad recipe needs no special tools! We bet you already have: 

Other Summer Salad Recipes: 

Because mom said never to show up to a BBQ / picnic / pool party empty handed! We love a potato salad as much as the next person, but why not mix things up a little? Here are five summer salad recipes that think outside the box and celebrate the flavors of the season:  

Mediterranean Pasta Salad in a bowl with feta, olives, tomatoes and arugula with a serving spoon

How Was the Party?

Who did you make this Mediterranean pasta salad recipe for? And how did they like it? We want to know! Tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper. Happy eating!

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Serves 10

Ingredients

1 lb pasta cooked (al dente) according to package
1 cup mixed olives, pitted
2 cups fresh arugula
½ cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
¼ of a red onion, minced
4 oz crumbled feta
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup cucumbers, diced
1 cup hard salami, diced (optional)

Mediterranean Dressing

1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
½ tsp salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar

Method

  1. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in the bottom of a large salad bowl.
  2. In the same bowl, toss the cooked (and cooled) pasta, olives, arugula**, parsley, red onion, cherry tomatoes, feta, cucumber, and salami (if using) with the homemade Italian dressing. Serve immediately, or allow to chill in the refrigerator.

**If making ahead, omit arugula and add it right before serving.