This Greek pasta salad is everything a pasta salad should be: light, flavorful, and full of ingredients you’ll love! Perfect for a potluck, picnic, or party!
Mike and I went to this lovely Valentine’s Day Chocolate Walk event at Magnolia Gardens last weekend. They had chocolate stations from around the world set up throughout the gardens so you could wander through the camellias and azaleas (yes, some of them are already blooming) holding your sweetie’s hand and feeding each other truffles and mini cannolis while listening to the live musicians and gazing into each other’s eyes.
Okay, so we didn’t quite do that, but they gave us a little baggie so we didn’t have to eat all the chocolates at once (8 stations with 1-2 sweets a piece is kind of a lot) so it was sort of like romantic grown-up spring trick-or-treating through a flower-filled paradise.
It’s my favorite plantation and the gardens are so amazingly gorgeous, and the event was so much fun. If you’re ever in Charleston, especially during the spring, you won’t be sorry if you go there.
We decided to get lunch at their little cafe before we gorged ourselves on chocolate. It’s a little order-at-the-outdoor-counter type place and isn’t anything fancy but they have outdoor tables overlooking the adorable miniature ponies. I got a crab cake sandwich and a side of pasta salad.
You may recall from my sun-dried tomato pasta salad post how much I loathe 98% of deli pasta salads. But for some reason, I keep ordering them in the hopes that THIS ONE will actually be good – as good as the one from Beyond Bread that the recipe above is based on.
I guess I’m an eternal and irrational optimist.
Guys. I will repeat, I love Magnolia Gardens. You should totally go there. But don’t order their pasta salad.
It was probably the worst pasta salad I’ve had in years: the quintessential bad deli pasta salad.
It had a ratio of about 25% rotini, 25% celery, 5% sliced black olives, carrots, and tiny pieces of soggy peppers, and 45% bottled Italian dressing with too much sugar. It was like pasta salad soup.
I actually dumped it out of its little styrofoam container onto a napkin to try to soak up some of the dressing but it was just unsalvageable.
It was SO BAD that I felt like I had to make a new pasta salad to redeem the name of pasta salad everywhere, to prove to myself and the world that pasta salad isn’t terrible: only SOME pasta salad is terrible.
And that’s where this Greek pasta salad came from.
In contrast, this one has ingredients you’ll actually want to eat. I loaded it up with kalamata olives, halved grape tomatoes, roasted red peppers, feta cheese, and rings of pepperoncini.
And the dressing makes the dish super-flavorful without being soupy. There’s just enough sugar to mute the tanginess of the vinegar and lemon juice, and enough seasonings that the flavor doesn’t just disappear into the pasta.
I find in many pasta salads that after sitting overnight, the flavor has absorbed and is gone forever, but this one is just as flavorful the next day.
It’s kind of addictive actually. I had to test the leftovers this morning to see how it held up overnight and I can’t stop eating the noodles with my fingers.
If you do make this the day before a potluck or something, I would recommend adding the tomatoes just before serving, since they lose their firm texture overnight in the fridge, but the rest of it can be made in advance.
You can adapt this recipe to include your favorite Greek inspired ingredients. In fact, after making this, I really wished I had put in some quartered artichoke hearts, so I’m including that in the recipe notes. You can also add diced chicken if you want a heartier main dish, but we had it as is and it was great!
This Greek pasta salad is so light and springy I know it will be making a repeat appearance this year at picnics, potlucks, and parties. I think this will be a new favorite, right up there next to the sun-dried tomato pasta salad!
Greek Pasta Salad
- 1 lb bowtie pasta
- 12 oz roasted red peppers cut into 1-inch strips (about 2 whole peppers)
- 1 cup pitted kalamata olives 6 oz jar
- 1 pint grape tomatoes halved lengthwise
- 12 oz pepperoncinis sliced into rings, seeds removed (about 2/3 cup)
- 1 cup feta cheese crumbles 2 tbsp reserved
For the Greek dressing
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp basil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp feta cheese crumbles
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water.
- Meanwhile, prepare the dressing. Combine ingredients from vinegar through feta cheese crumbles and mix thoroughly. I use my handheld milk frother for this but you can whisk it too. Then, while whisking, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Alternately, combine all dressing ingredients in a jar or bottle and shake to combine.
- Combine all pasta salad ingredients in a large bowl. Top with dressing and toss to thoroughly combine.