Are you all about the backyard patio parties right now?
I certainly am.
We are currently going through a renovation in our backyard, so I am spending all of my time visiting everyone else’s backyards for inspiration.
Do you know how stressful it is to redo huge portions of your yard when you have two giant pups? I swear, if they aren’t running like wild animals and getting into everything, they are barking at any moving thing out back.
I love our dogs with every piece of my heart and soul, but they are driving me up a wall right now.
Good thing it seems like everyone on the planet is having lovely outdoor parties right about now. It gives me an excuse to run out of the house for some al fresco respite.
This pasta salad, or honestly any well-made pasta salad, is a dish that I am really loving right now. It’s so perfect for bringing to every single outdoor event, whether it’s a simple backyard barbecue or a fancy lunch on the patio with the ladies.
The cool, refreshing salad is packed with a ton of flavor. There are so many different elements to it, from feta cheese crumbles to tangy balsamic vinegar. All of the ingredients provide so many different textures and flavors, and they come together in the most amazing way.
Honestly, it’s so hard to stop eating this pasta salad.
When I whip it up and I’m driving over to a friend’s house, it takes all of my will power to stop myself from sneaking a noodle at every single stoplight or stop sign.
I am obsessed with sun-dried tomatoes, so obviously this recipe already has everything I could ever want in this world.
The best part is that you can use whatever kind of noodles you want to make this. You could opt for penne like I have pictured here, but you could also use bow tie, tri-color rigatoni, or even large elbows if you want.
Because of its curly shape, rotini is also a great choice! We use this type in our BLT Pasta Salad to capture all of the delicious sauce.
The salad tastes like it’s straight out of a Mediterranean cookbook, with the feta and Kalamata olives. The fresh burst of herbs makes the dressing anything but ordinary.
Here are a few of my favorite tips for making this recipe the best it can be:
- Don’t overcook your noodles because you’ll be left with a mushy salad, and no one wants that.
- Cool your noodles slightly before you add the other ingredients, because you don’t want the vegetables to cook through. The spinach will wilt just the right amount if the pasta is still slightly warm, without cooking or melting the other ingredients.
- Let it rest if you can before you serve it up. The more time you allow to let the salad sit in the fridge, the better the dressing will seep into the noodles and meld with the other elements. This is the best way to make it taste fantastic.
I love to pair this with anything off the grill, whether it’s burgers and brats or barbecued ribs and brisket. The cooling sensation of chilled pasta with fresh vegetables alongside something smoky and hot is pure perfection.Print
Your next backyard patio gathering has to include this tasty spinach and sun-dried tomato pasta salad. It’s so easy to make, refreshing and satisfying alongside whatever you’re cooking on the grill.
- 1 lb pasta*
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbsp fresh chopped basil
- 1 tsp fresh chopped oregano
- 1 tsp fresh chopped parsley
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 5 oz fresh baby spinach
- 1 7-oz jar sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and sliced
- 1/3 lb crumbled feta cheese (about 3/4 cup)
- 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- Cook pasta until al dente, drain, and cool.
- In a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, basil, oregano, parsley, salt, and pepper until combined.
- In a large salad bowl, add pasta, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, cheese, olives, and red onion. Toss to combine.
- Add dressing and toss well to coat. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
- Serve immediately, or cover and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Penne, bow tie pasta, or rotini all work equally well.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Category: Pasta Salad
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Sides
Keywords: pasta salad, sun-dried tomato, spinach, kalamata olive, summer
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep and Measure Ingredients
Wash your herbs, remove the stems, and chop as much as you’ll need for this recipe.
Drain the sun-dried tomatoes and slice them into strips. If you like, you can save the oil for another use, in a sauce or dressing.
Chop 1/2 cup of pitted Kalamata olives. If you’re aren’t pitted, get out your trusty pitting gadget and get to work! If you want to enhance the flavors of the olives before you add them to this dish, we have a great recipe for garlic and herb roasted olives!
Peel and chop 1 medium red onion. If this kitchen task makes you weep, this article is for you.
Measure out the remaining ingredients as listed on the ingredients list. Freshly cracked black pepper provides the best flavor, so I like to pull out my pepper mill and measure what I need into a bowl rather than using the pre-ground stuff.
Note that I used penne, but you can also use bow tie pasta, rotini, or your choice of short extruded noodles.
Step 2 – Make Pasta
Cook your pasta al dente, according to the instructions on the packaging. You may need to cut a minute or two off the cooking time to make sure it doesn’t overcook. The pasta should be firm, but cooked through.
You can also prepare this type of pasta in your electric pressure cooker.
Drain in a colander and allow to cool completely before assembling the salad.
Step 3 – Make Dressing
Taste the dressing for seasoning, and feel free to make this component your own after you’re comfortable with the recipe.
Step 4 – Assemble Salad
Add the cooked pasta, spinach, tomatoes, cheese, olives, and red onion to a large salad bowl.
Toss to combine well. The spinach should wild slightly from the residual heat left in the noodles, but they shouldn’t be hot enough to melt the cheese or heat up the other components.
Pour the dressing over the top and toss well to coat evenly. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper to taste, if you like.
Serve immediately, or cover and place in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to meld for a few hours, or overnight. If you won’t be serving this right away, give it a good stir after you take it out of the fridge.
Should I Let This Dish Rest?
I mentioned above that I’m of the opinion that the longer you let the pasta salad rest, the better it will taste. So how should you do that?
I recommend covering the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid, and then placing it in the refrigerator. That way, the whole salad will cool off, and the flavors will meld together in the best way.
You don’t have to worry about transporting it either, because it tastes good either cold or enjoyed at room temperature.
Do you need more delicious pasta salads to bring to your upcoming gatherings? Check out these potluck-ready renditions:
What occasion will you bring this pasta salad recipe to, for your friends and family to enjoy? Tell us in the comments below and be sure to rate the recipe after you’ve tried it!
Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. From a recipe originally published by Jennifer Swartvagher on June 10, 2015. Last updated: May 19, 2023 at 14:10 pm. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Meghan Yager
Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.