Colorful Mediterranean Pasta Salad Recipe (Vegan & Gluten-Free) in 10 Minutes
Ok here we go... Our famous mediterranean pasta salad recipe (say that 5 times fast).
I consider myself the biggest salad fan. In fact, that’s pretty much all I eat all summer long.
This colorful Mediterranean pasta salad recipeis a great combination which can successfully replace a meal due to its high nutrient intake.
It has everything you need: proteins, carbs, fats, fibers, vitamins. Oh, and I forgot to tell you that it tastes delicious.
The secret of making the best pasta salad is the dressing. You have to whisk together the ingredients and leave everything to marinate for a couple of hours. If you can do this. But I strongly encourage you to be patient because the flavors are definitely enhanced after this period of time.
This easy Mediterranean pasta salad recipe is a must for everyone who wants to get refreshed or to fill themselves with vitamins. Strictly speaking, if you want to have something classic, you will make pasta with feta and sundried tomatoes. But we don’t necessarily need classic. You need to be wild in the kitchen and adapt the recipes to suit your taste and diet preferences.
While some people can eat just about anything, there are other people who can’t eat gluten or dairies due to some food allergies or intolerances. Or maybe they are vegan out of conviction. Or maybe you can eat anything but want to try a vegan dish. This salad is the answer to all the above.
Where does Pasta Salad Come From?
Despite the name, pasta salads are clearly an American invention. If you search closely, I’m pretty sure you won’t be able to find any pasta dressed with mayonnaise or a combination of oil and vinegar in Italian or Greek cuisines. But you will find American newspapers from 1914 which contain pasta salad recipes. They recommended it molded like jelly, served on lettuce leaves or combined with olives or tuna.
Nobody can assume the credit of inventing pasta salad. Coincidentally or not, in the late 19th century, potato salads dressed with mayo and mustard came into the United States together with the German immigrants. Since they were delicious natives adopted them. By that time, macaroni, an iconic Italian food, started to penetrate the American cuisine because it was cheap, starchy and nourishing. It is easy to believe that people thought of mixing the pasta with different dressing and leftovers to make a salad which will chase the hunger away. Considering the fact that there wasn’t necessarily much food back then, they wouldn’t afford to waste anything.
What Pairs Well With This Mediterranean Pasta Salad Recipe?
What is the Perfect Time to Eat Mediterranean Pasta Salad?
It is great as an appetizer or you can pack it up for lunch. Or maybe as a light dinner. Some would say that it goes well as breakfast too.
If you’re going to a party and don’t know what to bring, go the Mediterranean pasta salad recipe. Everyone will love you when they will notice the burst of flavors and freshness in the bowl.
How to Make Mediterranean Pasta Salad Vegan?
As I said, the original dish contains pasta with feta and sundried tomatoes. However, it is extremely easy to veganize it because most of the ingredients are already vegan. In fact, the only one which is not in this category is feta cheese.
We can replace it with extra-firm tofu. With the proper seasoning, no one will ever guess it isn’t cheese. Furthermore, to make it gluten-free, replace the regular pasta with gluten-free short ones. Any type will do.
Can You Make the Mediterranean Pasta Salad Ahead of Time?
It is actually recommended to make the salad ahead of time. Those flavors need time to combine and set. You can prepare it a few hours before you plan to enjoy your meal.
One great option would be to make it and place in the fridge overnight.
This is the hardest part for me. The waiting… although I know it will taste better after marinating, I always tend to eat at least a small bowl before taking it to the fridge.
How to Make Mediterranean Pasta Salad?
This recipe, as all the salad recipes, is extremely easy to prepare. There are only a few steps to follow and then wait for everything to set in place.
Choose whatever gluten-free pasta you like.
Place them in a pot, cover with water and add a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil and cook according to package instructions.
I like to serve pasta “al dente” which means I cook them 1 minute less than the time on the bag.
They will remain crispier. Make sure you don’t overcook them unless you want really soft pasta.
After the recommended time has passed, transfer the pasta to a sieve and place under running cold water. This will stop the cooking process and they won’t soften anymore.
While the pasta is cooking, prepare the dressing.
My favorite way of mixing the ingredients is to place them in jar with a lid. Secure the lid and start shaking the jar.
You can even dance and sing a song while doing that.
The dressing will have a more homogeneous structure this way. Take 1/3 and toss the pasta so it won’t stick together.
It doesn’t matter if you cook pasta with feta and sundried tomatoes or a vegan salad, they will taste equally great.
What Will You Need for the Dressing?
In order to prepare the dressing for Mediterranean pasta salad, you will be needing some Mediterranean ingredients of course. Like extra-virgin olive oil, dried oregano, dried basil and lemon juice. I like to add some vinegar for a tangy taste, a bit of mustard, minced garlic and just a bit of raw honey. You don’t want a sweet salad but this honey touch enhances the flavor and taste of all the ingredients.
What Will You Need for the Salad?
Go for any gluten-free short pasta you like. Top choices are fusilli or farfalle.
Try to find extra-firm tofu. Its texture resembles feta. Tossing it with some dressing for the Mediterranean pasta salad will make it even taste a bit like feta.
Add whatever veggies you like: tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, artichoke hearts, bell peppers, fresh or roasted. Anything you like will do. Sundried tomatoes bring a great flavor to the salad. If you are using tomatoes canned in oil, just drain and chop them. In the other case, when the tomatoes are not canned, soak them in a bit of olive oil for a few hours so they will soften and release the delicious flavor.
You can tailor the salad to suit your needs and preferences. Feel free to add anything you like. Tuna, shrimps or even grilled meat work really well with these aromas.
Nutritionist recommend you eat many portions of veggies each day. This is very important because your body needs proper fuel in order to preserve your well-being. The easy Mediterranean pasta salad recipe will bring every nutrient you need for one meal. After serving it you may relax, knowing that you have eaten at least three from the five portions of vegetables recommended daily.
You should definitely give the Mediterranean pasta salad recipe a try. It is easy to prepare, quick and everybody will enjoy it.
For the Salad
- 12 oz. gluten-free short pasta
- 1 block extra-firm tofu
- 1 pcs cucumber, diced
- 2 pcs roasted bell peppers, chopped
- 1 pcs red onion, sliced
- ½ cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
- ½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
- 1 cup baby arugula leaves
- 1-2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
For the Dressing
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- Pinch of raw honey
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp dried basil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Press the tofu so you will discard any liquid inside it. Wrap the block in a paper towel or a clean cloth. Place it on a rimmed plate. Put a cast iron skillet on top of it. If you don’t have such a thing, choose something equally heavy. Set aside for about an hour. After unwrapping it, pat dry with a towel to remove the excess moisture from the surface.
- Place the pasta in a pot and cover with water. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil and cook according to package instructions. Transfer to a sieve and place under running water so you will stop the cooking process. Toss with 1/3 of the dressing quantity and set aside.
- While the pasta is boiling, prepare the dressing for the Mediterranean pasta salad. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, honey in a jar. Secure the lid and shake strongly until everything is well combined. Taste and adjust the salt, pepper or any other ingredient as needed. You might feel that the dressing is a bit salty or tangy but keep in mind that it will spread over 12 ounces of pasta so it might not taste the same in the end.
- Cut the tofu into small cubes. Sprinkle a little bit of salt and drizzle 2 tablespoons of dressing. Use your hands to coat or, if you don’t like to feel the oil on your fingers, utilize a fork. You may add a splash of lemon juice if you like a citrusy flavor.
- Take a large salad bowl and add the boiled pasta, cucumber, roasted bell peppers, red onion, sundried tomatoes, olives and arugula leaves. Pour the dressing and stir well. Add the tofu and toss again. Taste the salad and adjust the taste if needed.
- Place a lid on the bowl or use a plastic foil to cover. Transfer to the fridge and leave it there for minimum 2 hours to marinate.
- After removing the salad from the fridge, taste again. Drizzle some more olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- Top with toasted sesame seeds and ground pepper to serve!
- This salad can be served directly from the fridge or you may leave it to reach the room temperature. It will taste equally good.
- If you know you will be needing the salad in a few days but won’t have time to prepare it, just make it ahead of time. You can store it in the fridge and everything will be ok. In this case, only combine the veggies with pasta. Add the tofu, arugula and sesame seeds just before serving it. Arugula leaves have the tendency to soften really quick so it is best to add them on the serving plates or bowls.
- If you want to take the salad for an office lunch, place it in a glass jar the night before. It will keep well and you won’t need to worry about what you are going to eat the next day.
- Your kids will also enjoy this colorful salad. You can pack it for them, next to some crackers or grilled meat. It is extremely nutritious and nourishing. They won’t feel hungry many hours after serving it.