Easy Pasta Salad

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. Created by Jeanine Donofrio.

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
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare the pasta according to the package directions, or until slightly past al dente.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.

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 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.