This colorful and flavorful Balsamic Pasta Salad combines pasta shells, bell peppers, red onion, tomatoes, feta cheese, cucumber, and a sweet-and-sour balsamic vinaigrette. In just 30 minutes, you can have a healthy showstopping side dish that's perfect for a spring celebration or an outdoor BBQ!
A pasta salad is an easy and healthy side dish that's great for any occasion. It's made with a mix of cooked pasta, vegetables, herbs, and a flavorful dressing. You can make endless variations with different combinations of ingredients - making it the perfect choice for parties, potlucks, or everyday meals!
This pasta salad recipe uses crunchy and flavorful garden veggies like cucumber, onion, and pepper to add texture and nutrients. A salty kick is added with the addition of olives and tangy feta cheese.
To bring it all together, you'll make a super easy balsamic dressing that adds an acidic kick along with sweetness to balance all the flavors.
Pasta salad with homemade balsamic dressing is the perfect dish to bring to a potluck or cookout. Everyone will love the bright colors and flavors; you'll love that it's healthy and easy to make!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- A great side dish that's quick and easy to make! It's full of colorful, crunchy veggies with a tangy balsamic dressing that everyone will love.
- This recipe can be customized with different veggies or proteins to suit your tastes - making it perfect for any occasion.
- You can make the Balsamic dressing in advance and store it in the pantry for up to a week.
- This is a healthy version of pasta salad that won't weigh you down, thanks to the all-natural and simple ingredients!
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Pasta Shells - The small curved shape of shells allows for better distribution of the balsamic dressing.
- Cherry Tomatoes - Gives the pasta salad texture and natural sweetness.
- Yellow Bell Pepper - Adds a healthy dose of vitamin C, color, and crunch.
- Red Onion - Gives the pasta salad a mild onion flavor that doesn't overpower the ingredients.
- Black Olives - A salty contrast to the sweet tomatoes and balsamic dressing.
- Cucumber - Adds lightness and freshness to the dish.
- Feta Cheese - A creamy and salty addition that pairs perfectly with the balsamic dressing.
- Spinach - Gives a healthy dose of greens to the salad while adding an aesthetic pop of green color.
- Artichoke Hearts - A healthy and light-tasting addition to the pasta salad.
- Olive Oil - Makes up the oil base of the dressing and allows the dressing to coat the ingredients.
- Balsamic Vinaigrette - The star of the show, this healthy vinegar gives the dressing a sweet-and-sour flavor.
- Dijon Mustard - Used to help emulsify the ingredients while adding a tangy kick of flavor.
How To Make Pasta Salad With Balsamic Dressing
Prepare the pasta: Boil a large pot of water with a pinch of salt. Add the pasta shells and cook according to the directions on the box. Drain the water in a colander, rinse with cold water, and set aside.
Prepare the ingredients: Chop and dice all of the vegetables into bite-sized pieces, so you get some in each bite. Add the ingredients to a large bowl and the drained, cooled pasta.
Assemble the balsamic dressing: In a small bowl, add the olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette, and dijon mustard. Whisk until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.
Toss the salad: Pour the dressing into the vegetable and pasta mixture and toss until fully coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it chill in the fridge to develop the flavors for at least one hour. Serve cold, and enjoy!
- When chopping the vegetables, make sure they are all roughly the same size. This will ensure even distribution, so you get all of the veggies in every bite.
- To emulsify the dressing, you can also use an immersion blender or a food processor. This will create an even creamier texture and help blend all the ingredients together better.
- Ensure the pasta is fully cooled before adding the veggies and dressing, as warm pasta can make everything soggy and mushy.
- Be sure to let the pasta salad chill in the fridge for at least one hour before serving - this allows time for the flavors to develop fully.
- If you don't want to use balsamic vinegar, you can use any other type of healthy vinegar, such as white wine or apple cider.
- You can also swap out the vegetables with any of your favorites - chopped broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, peppers, and mushrooms all work great!
- If you don't have feta cheese on hand, feel free to use goat cheese or Parmesan cheese as substitutes.
- You can swap out the feta for vegan cheese for a vegan version.
- Use gluten-free pasta shells for a celiac-friendly pasta salad.
- Add a kick of heat to the salad by sprinkling crushed red pepper flakes on top.
Storing & Freezing
Storing: Leftover pasta salad is best stored in an airtight container in the fridge. It will last for up to 3 days before the fresh vegetables start to soften.
Freezing: This is not recommended as this dish contains fresh vegetables that have a high water content. Because of this, the texture will change to soggy once thawed.
This salad is recommended to enjoy cold or at room temperature. Warm pasta salad will wilt the vegetables, making them soggy and soft.
Smaller pasta shapes are best for this salad, such as shells or macaroni. This allows the vegetables to fit in between the shapes and ensures an even distribution of ingredients.
Yes! This recipe is healthy because it contains a variety of fresh vegetables, healthy fats from olive oil, and protein from cheese. Balsamic vinaigrette is also healthy because it has fewer calories and fat than traditional dressings.
More Easy Side Dish Recipes
- Best Potato Salad Recipe
- Authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
- Quick & Easy Sheet Pan Breadsticks
- Best Strawberry Pretzel Salad
- Best Ever Twice Baked Potatoes
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Balsamic Pasta Salad
- 16 oz shell pasta
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes (halved)
- 1 cup yellow pepper (diced)
- ½ cup red onion (chopped)
- ½ cup black olives (halved)
- 1 cup cucumber (diced)
- 2 cups spinach (chopped)
- ¾ cup feta cheese
- 1 can artichoke hearts
- ½ cup olive oil
- 7 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette
- 1½ tsp Dijon mustard
- Cook pasta to the directions on the package. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.
- Chop and dice all the ingredients and place them in a large bowl. Pour the cooled and drained pasta over the top, and set aside.
- Add olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette, and dijon mustard in a small bowl. Mix until well blended. Pour over the top of the pasta and mix until all the ingredients are incorporated.
- Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
*All nutrition information provided is automatically calculated and is an estimate and will vary based on ingredients, brands, and changes in cooking methods listed in the recipe. If you need exact numbers on your ingredients, I would recommend calculating them with your prefered nutrition calculator.
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