Greek Pasta Salad is perfect as a light lunch or summer side. Ripe flavorful tomatoes, along with crispy cucumber, Kalamata olives, tender pasta, sprinkled with good feta and a simple dressing made with extra virgin olive oil come together for a pasta salad everyone will enjoy.
Ahh the pasta salad, just to be clear there is no such thing as pasta salad in the Mediterranean cuisine, but we do eat pasta and we do eat salad, just not together. Pasta salad is more of an American concoction that started appearing in cookbooks in the early 1900s, it was called macaroni salad, it included plenty of cream and mayonnaise and pasta but not much “salad”. It wasn’t until a few decades later that we started seeing actual vegetables in pasta salads although the mayonnaise was still there.
I do have to say though that the idea of adding a bit of pasta to a salad to provide some volume and sustenance is a good idea, especially for lunch. It can be a complete, healthy meal that you can easily take with you. The thing is you don’t want to settle for those heavy, ready-made salads made with mayonnaise or unknown oils (think canola or corn oil instead of olive oil) that have been sitting there for days. Instead, you can make your own fresh pasta salad with the very best ingredients for maximum flavor and nutritional value.
How to make a Delicious and Healthy Mediterranean Pasta Salad
1. Watch the ratio of pasta to vegetables. You want to have more vegetables and less pasta in this recipe, so think at least 50% more vegetables than pasta.
2. Use good extra virgin olive oil. I cannot stress this enough. Olive oil imparts antioxidants and good fats to your salad and of course flavor.
3. Don’t let the salad sit around for long before consuming it. I know, I know many of these pasta salads may taste better after sitting in the refrigerator overnight, but in this case you want your vegetables to be freshly cut so you do not loose the nutrients. Here’s what you can do: make ahead the pasta and add the rest of the ingredients in the morning before leaving for work or if at home right before serving (prep is only a few minutes).
4. Do not add cold cuts. Yes adding pepperoni or ham is pretty common, but not so healthy and really not necessary. We know that processed meats have been associated with increased risk of cancer, so it is better to avoid them.
For this pasta salad, I basically followed the principles of a classic Greek salad, and it is perfect especially in the summer when tomatoes are in season. Plenty of color and plenty of antioxidants. I put this together within minutes and had it for lunch, but it can easily be served as a side dish as well. You can omit the feta for the vegan version or use gluten free pasta.