Let’s talk pasta salad. I know we’ve done a few versions over the years together, but this one has been a go-to recently. It is a Mediterranean pasta salad. Ish. And it fires on an engines. It is flavor-packed, nutritious, and the leftovers are legit amazing. You start with a base of good pasta. Beyond that, there’s a blast of green from fresh herbs, flecks of briny olives, and pops of tomato goodness. The creamy, tzatziki-inspired yogurt dressing is punctuated with garlic, grated cucumber and herbs and coats the pasta beautifully. The whole thing is a shade over the top, admittedly a bit maximalist, but it’s a favorite feel-good lunch around here.
A few more details. This Med-centric pasta salad is loaded with quick marinated cubes of tofu vamping for more typical feta cubes. Record scratch, I know. If this hurts your sensibility, no problem. Use feta. Or do a combination. I find using the tofu keeps me going throughout the afternoon, and the yogurt brings plenty of creaminess in place of a soft, salty cheese like feta. Lastly, this recipe makes a lot of pasta salad so it’s the perfect sort of recipe for Sunday meal prep.
Mediterranean Pasta Salad: The Main Ingredients
- Pasta: Use whatever your favorite short pasta you like here. I love the Sfoglini Whole Grain Reginetti for pasta salads like this — it’s what you see pictured above. The texture and flavor is great and you get a good bump of protein and fiber over a white pasta. Penne, rigatoni, and farfalle are alternate pasta shape that work great here.
- Cucumber: This recipe calls for two. You grate one and stir it into a tzatziki inspired, garlic-boosted yogurt sauce. The other is chopped into tiny cubes and tossed into a big bowl with the pasta and the other ingredients.
- Olives: Use dry, oil-cured black olives if you have them, but don’t sweat it if you don’t. I’ve done this pasta salad with a wide range of olives in the past, some are better than others, but you’re going to get that briny, salty punctuation whatever olives you choose. Big, meaty green Castelvetrano olives are another favorite, but a canned black olive can do the job as well.
- Yogurt: As long as it’s plain, use what you’ve got in your fridge. Greek yogurt will make your sauce quite a bit thicker, but everything is getting well tossed together, it all works itself out. And low-fat yogurt is also fine if that is what you keep on hand. Long way of saying, don’t make a special trip to the store to get an alternate yogurt if you already have some. The spirit of this whole recipe is adaptability.
- Tomatoes or Other Seasonal Vegetables: If tomatoes are in season, use cherry tomatoes here. Bonus points if you make them roasted cherry tomatoes. For example, if it’s spring, swap in something equally colorful and seasonally specific – cooked favas, blanched asparagus, and or spring peas.
- Herbs: The yogurt sauce calls for dried herbs, and the pasta salad calls for fresh. The more the better as far as I’m concerned. I often season the yogurt with a good amount of za’atar, but you might have dried thyme or dill and prefer to use that. Finishing the pasta salad with a pile or fresh arugula, basil leaves, or cilantro are all good options.
- Tofu or Feta: Making this with cubed tofu in place of feta will likely draw some sneers, but honestly, it’s not a bad way to roll. I like the added protein boost.
The leftovers here are great. Especially the day after, and the day after that. Day three and the pasta texture changes and loses some structure. By day three, I’m a pass. Before that, the pasta holds up, the herbs and onions infuse the creamy dressing and cucumbers. It’s on par with a good day-old macaroni salad, but loaded with good stuff like tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs and olives.
More One-Bowl Pastas & Pasta Salads