Summer Pasta Salad

Capture the flavor of sunshine and fresh air all in one dish! This Summer Pasta Salad features a rainbow of bell peppers, artichoke, and a feta cheese crumble. It can be eaten anywhere but tastes best outside!

Summer Pasta Salad

There are days in the dead of winter when my thoughts turn from the snow and sleet to summer and sun. I look out the window and see the backyard bathed in warmth instead of frost. I can even see myself sitting poolside with a colorful cocktail in one hand and, in the other, a fork lingering over a big bowl of this salad.

That’s because I associate this cornucopia of pasta, veggies, and feta with those summer months. It tastes so fresh, I can have it any time of the year without feeling Jack Frost nipping at my nose or noticing the leaves assume their autumnal palette. I can’t really explain why the salad makes me feel this way nor can I even point to any one ingredient. Maybe it’s the colorful mix of bell peppers. Or the balsamic vinaigrette, which reminds me of the Mediterranean. In any case, if it’s summer where you are and you want a dish to complement it, or it’s winter and you want a dish to forget about it, this is the dish for you.

With just a few minutes spent chopping and prepping your vegetables (you can do this while you wait for the pasta to cook!), you can be feasting on this salad any time of year.

Which other dressings could I use?

Balsamic vinaigrette is a great option because it’s readily available, simple, tangy, and doesn’t involve a bunch of unwanted ingredients. You can also mix it with extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), if you prefer. But there are other options out there. Italian dressing, for instance, is just as tangy but features herbs perhaps not listed below in the Ingredients list. Lemon vinaigrette, made with lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard, and honey or agave for sweetness, is another synonymous with summer. If you like balsamic but feel it’s lacking something, add some Dijon, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and see whether that scratch that itch. If you prefer something creamy, a ranch dressing will work, as will Greek yogurt with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, dill, salt, and pepper. And if you want something a bit more intense, add homemade or store-bought pesto.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. dry farfalle pasta
  • 1 small yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large seedless cucumber, chopped
  • 1 (12 oz.) jar artichoke hearts in water, drained and chopped
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped basil
  • salt (to taste)
  • black pepper (to taste)
Summer Pasta Salad

How to Make Summer Pasta Salad

Step 1: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Drain the pasta, then rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and cool it down.

Summer Pasta Salad

Step 2: In a large bowl, mix together the cooled pasta, diced yellow, red, and orange bell peppers, chopped cucumber, chopped artichoke hearts, and halved grape tomatoes.

Summer Pasta Salad

Step 3: Pour the balsamic vinaigrette over the pasta and vegetables. Gently toss everything to ensure it’s well coated with the dressing.

Summer Pasta Salad

Step 4: Sprinkle the crumbled feta cheese and chopped basil over the salad. Stir to distribute them evenly throughout the salad.

Summer Pasta Salad

Step 5: Taste the salad and season with salt and black pepper as needed. Refrigerate the salad until you’re ready to serve.

FAQs & Tips

How do I store this salad?

First, you may want to make it a couple of hours ahead of time then let it chill in the fridge. This will give your salad’s ingredients a chance to get acquainted. The veggies will get infused with the dressing and everything will learn how to work together to make for a more flavorful salad. As for storing leftovers, relocate them to an airtight container (or just cover up the serving bowl with aluminum foil or plastic wrap) and put them in the fridge. The salad should last for up to three days. I don’t recommend freezing the salad. Those veggies contain a lot of water and won’t survive the thawing process if frozen.

Can I add meat to this salad?

Of course. If keeping it vegetarian isn’t a concern for you, this salad can be occupied by a variety of different meats. Grilled chicken, cooked shrimp, diced salami or prosciutto, little strips of steak, or chopped bacon would all work. Just remember to fully cook the meat before you add it to the salad. Then let it cool completely. At this point you can add it in and introduce it to its new neighbors.

Can I switch up the pasta?

Sure. There are two characteristics to look for when shopping for the pasta that will end up in this salad. First, you want it to be short. This makes it easier to eat. All you’ll need is a fork (even a spoon can be used). The other element is each noodle’s ability to capture the dressing. This farfalle, for example, has those little dimples in its center. If you don’t want to go bowtie, you should favor twisty noodles, like fusilli or rotini. You could also use a tube pasta like penne or ziti, if you like; the important thing is the length, I’d say.

Summer Pasta Salad

Serving Suggestions

Let me start off by saying that this salad is surprisingly filling (pasta will do that to you). After all, if you made this as a hot pasta dish, you probably wouldn’t think twice about eating it alone as a full meal. Nevertheless, if you picture yourself grabbing a big bowl and setting down to nosh with no sides, then you may feel it needs something. I outline which meats to add in the FAQs section (grilled chicken, cooked shrimp, or chopped bacon, among others) but you can also add more veggies; there are lots to choose from. Cherry tomatoes (not to be confused with grape tomatoes), broccoli florets, zucchini, olives (I prefer black), avocado, and/or red onion can all be added raw. You’ll do well to let stiffer veggies like the broccoli sit in the dressing for a few hours before serving so they can absorb and soften. Then, add a few slices of crusty bread and you’ll be sated.

Summer Pasta Salad
Summer Pasta Salad

Summer Pasta Salad

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Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Servings 10 servings
Calories 325 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb. dry farfalle pasta
  • 1 small yellow bell pepper diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper diced
  • 1 small orange bell pepper diced
  • 1 large seedless cucumber chopped
  • 12 oz. jar artichoke hearts in water drained and chopped
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes halved
  • 1 cup balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped basil
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Drain the pasta, then rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and cool it down.
    Summer Pasta Salad
  • In a large bowl, mix together the cooled pasta, diced yellow, red, and orange bell peppers, chopped cucumber, chopped artichoke hearts, and halved grape tomatoes.
    Summer Pasta Salad
  • Pour the balsamic vinaigrette over the pasta and vegetables. Gently toss everything to ensure it's well coated with the dressing.
    Summer Pasta Salad
  • Sprinkle the crumbled feta cheese and chopped basil over the salad. Stir to distribute them evenly throughout the salad.
    Summer Pasta Salad
  • Taste the salad and season with salt and black pepper as needed. Refrigerate the salad until you're ready to serve, allowing the flavors to meld together.

Nutrition

Calories: 325kcalCarbohydrates: 42gProtein: 9gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.4gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 13mgSodium: 516mgPotassium: 344mgFiber: 3gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 1300IUVitamin C: 60mgCalcium: 100mgIron: 1mg
Keyword balsamic vinaigrette, easy summer pasta salad, feta cheese, leftover roasted vegetables, pasta, salad, summer
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