This Grilled Vegetable Pasta Salad with balsamic vinaigrette is easy to make, bursting with flavor. and anything but boring!
Looking for a new favorite pasta salad? This easy pasta salad with grilled vegetables, feta cheese, fresh herbs, and balsamic dressing is it!
When it comes to warm weather side dishes, pasta salad is one of the most popular. It's great for picnics and barbecues but also can serve as a delicious no-cook meal. Pasta salad meal prep anyone?
Lately, I have been switching things up and using grilled vegetables in my pasta salad and it was too good not to share. It started with some leftover grilled veggies added to my favorite Greek Pasta Salad. Then I couldn't stop experimenting.
The end result? This dreamy veggie pasta salad with grilled zucchini, red onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, and asparagus. All those tasty veggies are marinated in a quick homemade dressing and then tossed with cooked pasta, feta cheese, and fresh herbs. Yum.
Why You'll Love This Pasta Salad
Trust me when I say that this pasta salad will quickly become one of your all-time favorites. It is just so good!
- So much flavor: The trick to making a standout pasta salad is marinating the grilled vegetables. The vegetables soak up all the tasty flavor of the marinade and ensure that every bite is bursting with flavor. No more flavorless or boring pasta salad.
- Great for meal prep: This pasta salad keeps well in the fridge for 4-5 days. In fact, the grilled vegetables get even better after a night in the fridge. Make this for meal prep lunches or a quick weeknight side dish.
- Versatile: Switch up the veggies, change up the dressing, add beans, try different cheeses, add protein, or serve it with greens! There are so many ways to make and serve this easy grilled veggie pasta salad.
- Use up leftover veggies: This salad is a great way to use up any extra produce. Virtually any veggie can be cooked on the grill, making this salad work no matter what you have in the fridge.
Here is everything you need to make this grilled vegetable pasta salad recipe.
- Pasta: Any pasta can be used for this pasta salad, but look for pasta with some ridges to stick to the dressing. Make sure to cook it in salted water and immediately rinse the cooked pasta with cold water to prevent sticking.
- Grilled vegetables: Use any combination of grilled veggies you like in this salad. Make sure to cook them "al dente" so they still have some bite and texture. No one wants soggy vegetables. My favorite vegetables for this salad are zucchini, mushrooms, red onion, asparagus, and bell peppers. I also like eggplant, carrots, cabbage, corn, yellow squash, and cherry tomatoes.
- Balsamic dressing: Homemade dressing is so easy to make and tastes so much better than the bottled option. This one has olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, Italian seasoning, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Feel free to swap in red wine vinegar, add some fresh garlic, and switch up the herbs,
- Feta cheese: Try this salad with any kind of cheese you like. Favorites include feta cheese, goat cheese, fresh mozzarella, Parmesan, blue cheese, or sharp cheddar cheese.
- Fresh herbs: Adding fresh herbs to pasta salad is a way to really elevate the flavors. Fresh basil, parsley, cilantro, chives, oregano, or dill are all delicious.
Best Way to Make Grilled Vegetables
Making grilled vegetables is one of the best ways to prepare veggies in my opinion. The slight char from the grill, the caramelized edges - they are just so good. Here are some tips for making really tasty vegetables on the grill.
- Cut the vegetables into larger planks and pieces so they don't fall through the grates. Then cut them into bite-sized pieces after cooking. For smaller vegetables, consider placing them on a skewer or using a grill basket.
- Always start with a clean grill to ensure the vegetables don't stick and fall apart. Oil the grates if your grill tends to stick.
- Marinate the vegetables after they come off the grill, not before. This is the best way to get super flavorful vegetables! The veggies soak up so much more flavor after being grilled.
- For easy prep, choose vegetables that cook in the same amount of time.
Recipe Tips and Ideas
There are so many ways to switch up this salad and make it your own. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Add protein: Add grilled chicken, shrimp, canned tuna, salmon, chickpeas, tofu, or white beans.
- Switch up the veggies: Try this with all different roasted, grilled, and cooked veggies. Mix in some grilled vegetables and some raw veggies for different textures.
- Add crunch: Add some sliced almonds, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds right before serving.
- Change the pasta: Try this with a small pasta like orzo or mini shells. It's also great with rotini, fusilli, or radiatori.
- Try different cheese: Changing up the cheese can have a big influence on the flavor. Try this with marinated fresh mozzarella, crumbled goat cheese, shredded parmesan, or cubes of pepper jack.
- Try a new dressing: Although I love balsamic dressing, this is also delicious with pesto, spicy blackened ranch dressing, or honey mustard.
Making this with Roasted Veggies
When it isn't grilling season, consider making this pasta salad with roasted vegetables. Prepare the vegetables in the same way, tossing them with the dressing/marinade after they have been roasted.
This is also great for using up any leftover roasted vegetables you have on hand.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the answers to the most common questions about making this pasta salad recipe.
There are a few reasons that pasta salad can turn out bland.
- Make sure to cook the pasta in salted water. This step is often overlooked and makes a huge difference in how the pasta tastes after cooking.
- Choose a pasta shape with ridges. The dressing adds flavor to the pasta salad and when you use smooth pasta shapes it can slip right off. This is especially true with pasta salads using vinaigrette versus creamy dressing.
- Make sure to add layers of flavor and season everything going into the pasta salad. The vegetables should be seasoned, the pasta should be seasoned, the dressing should be flavorful.
Generally speaking pasta should be cooked al dente for pasta salad so it doesn't get soft and mushy. With that said, make sure the pasta isn't too undercooked or it will get hard as it cools.
Grilled Vegetable Pasta Salad
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- 2 tbsp olive oil (for grilled vegetables)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice (marinade/dressing)
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (marinade/dressing)
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard (marinade/dressing)
- 1 tbsp honey (optional, marinade/dressing)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced (marinade/dressing)
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning (marinade/dressing)
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt (marinade/dressing)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper (marinade/dressing)
- 2 zucchini
- 2 bell peppers
- 1 red onion
- 1 lb asparagus
- 2 cups mushrooms, halved
- 8 oz penne pasta (cooked and cooled)
- 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 4 oz crumbled feta cheese (or goat cheese)
- Salt and pepper
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To grill vegetables: Cut the vegetables into larger slices that won’t fall through the grill grates, about ½ inch thick. For the zucchini, it is best to cut it on the diagonal. Cut bell peppers into larger slices. Cut the red onion into rings. Trim the asparagus ends. Toss the vegetables with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Start by grilling the red onions, mushrooms, and bell peppers. They will take 3-5 minutes per side. Then add the asparagus and zucchini. It will take 2-4 minutes per side.
* 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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