This Vegetable Pasta Salad with a tangy lemon dressing is packed with good-for-you ingredients including whole wheat pasta, chickpeas, chopped fresh vegetables, fresh herbs, and feta cheese.
Made with a flavorful combination of whole wheat pasta, veggies, fresh herbs, and feta cheese; this recipe for Vegetable Pasta Salad is guaranteed to ‘wow’ your taste buds. It’s perfect for making in bulk, so you can serve it up for healthy lunches all week long!
With summer just around the corner, I figured it was the perfect time to share with you the ultimate Healthy Pasta Salad recipe. Bursting with fresh, vibrant flavors and a ton of protein and nutrients, this is easily one of my all-time favorite summer dishes.
I don’t know about you, but I am all about fresh flavors and cool dishes in the blazing hot summertime. Winter may be soup season, but summer is definitely pasta salad season. I’ve tried quite a few pasta salads in my day, but this one takes the cake as one of my absolute favorites. With so many fresh vegetables, herbs, and a delicious healthy salad dressing, you just can’t beat it.
This healthy Pasta Salad makes a fantastic meal prep dish and is also a hit at pool parties, family dinners, and backyard barbecues. For the perfect summer barbecue, I like to serve this dish alongside my Grilled Chicken or Grilled Pork Chops along with a grilled veggie like this Garlic Grilled Eggplant or Grilled Cauliflower. It’s a combination of bold, fresh flavors that guarantees to make for an unforgettable event!
What You'll Need to Make a Healthier Pasta Salad
To bring this simple dish to life, you will need the following key ingredients:
- Whole wheat pasta: I like to use a medium-sized pasta shape for this recipe like small penne or fusilli. You could swap in any type of pasta you like, including alternative pastas like those made with chickpeas or lentils.
- Veggies: You will need cherry tomatoes, broccoli, yellow or orange bell peppers, Persian cucumbers, and chickpeas. This recipe works with pretty much any veggies you like or have on hand, so feel free to swap in your favorites.
- Herbs: We use fresh basil and fresh parsley to brighten up the rest of our ingredients and add a ton of delicious flavor. Cilantro, dill, and chives are also delicious.
- Feta cheese: I love the tangy flavor that feta brings to this dish! If you aren’t a fan, you can sub this out for goat cheese or mozzarella cheese.
- Lemon juice: The acidity in this ingredient brightens up all the flavors in our pasta salad.
- Italian seasoning: This is my go-to spice mix to add to my salad dressing. It adds the perfect burst of savory flavors while complementing our fresh ingredients.
Here are some of my favorite ways to change up this dish:
- Add a protein: Try bulking up this dish by adding your favorite protein source like grilled chicken, steak, or shrimp.
- Add a green base: To lighten up this dish even further, try reducing the amount of pasta and making the base a combination of pasta and greens like arugula or chopped spinach.
- Switch up the spices: Looking for a different flavor profile? Leave out the Italian seasoning and swap it for your favorite combination of spices. You can also change up the herbs to complement the spices you choose.
- Grill your veggies: For a fun twist and a deeper depth of flavor, try grilling your tomatoes, broccoli, and bell peppers. Make sure to let them cool down before adding them to your pasta salad.
- Make it vegan: You can easily make this dish vegan by swapping out the feta cheese for your favorite vegan alternative or by leaving out the cheese altogether.
- Change up the cheese: If you want to swap out the feta cheese, try using goat cheese, mozzarella cheese, or a shredded Italian blend of cheeses instead.
Make Ahead Tips
Looking to make this dish ahead of time? Here are some of my top tips:
- You can make the dressing up to a week in advance. Once you’ve mixed the ingredients, store the salad dressing in a jar or glass bottle in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
- The pasta salad can be prepared anywhere from a few hours ahead of time to the night before. This comes especially in handy if you’re planning an event and want to limit your prep time on the day of.
- The vegetables and chickpeas can be prepped up to 12 hours in advance and stored in separate containers in the fridge until you’re ready to throw the dish together.
- Save some of the fresh herbs and a lemon wedge for the garnish, it makes the pasta salad extra beautiful when you’re ready to serve it.
How to Store Vegetable Pasta Salad
While you could technically freeze this dish if needed, I wouldn’t recommend it. Freezing pasta salad tends to result in mushy vegetables and bland pasta, so I would refrain from freezing the dish unless you absolutely have to. The best way to store pasta salad is by transferring it to an airtight container and storing it in the fridge for up to one week.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this dish:
What ingredients can I add to pasta salad?
When it comes to pasta salad, there really aren’t many limitations as far as what you can add. Any vegetable, herb, nut, seed, cheese, or protein that you would ordinarily add to a salad can be used in a pasta salad. If you have a bunch of leftover ingredients in the fridge you’re looking to get rid of, pasta salad makes the perfect fridge clean-out meal.
Can I use store-bought dressing for pasta salad?
Of course. While I like making my own because it’s easier and more cost-efficient, you can use any store-bought Italian dressing that you like.
Can pasta salad be made the day before?
Yes! You can prep the pasta salad the day before and store it in the fridge in an airtight container until you’re ready to enjoy it. I’ve found that pasta salad is often even more flavorful the next day, as it gives the flavors more time to really come together.
What goes with pasta salad?
Because this dish covers our bases on starch and veggies, I always like to pair it with a nice protein. Hamburgers, hot dogs, steak, grilled chicken, and shrimp all make great protein dishes to pair with pasta salad. You can also add grilled vegetable sides like corn, eggplant, and zucchini.
How to make this a creamy pasta salad?
If you prefer a creamy salad dressing, simply swap in yogurt or mayonnaise for the olive oil in the recipe. This will make a delicious creamy dressing that works great with the pasta salad. You could also try this creamy Greek dressing.
More Healthy Pasta Recipes
Like this recipe? Try these next:
Easy Vegetable Pasta Salad
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- 8 oz whole wheat pasta, cooked and cooled
- 1.5 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1.5 cups canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup broccoli florets, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 cup Persian cucumbers, chopped
- 1/2 cup reduced fat crumbled feta cheese
- 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
- 1/4 cup basil, chopped
- 3 tbsp olive oil (dressing)
- 3 tbsp lemon juice (dressing)
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard (dressing)
- 1 tsp garlic powder (dressing)
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning (dressing)
- 1 Salt and pepper (dressing)
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* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
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