Embrace the warm spring weather with this incredibly flavorful Mediterranean-inspired whole-wheat or gluten-free pasta salad. I have to say, this is one of my all-time favorite creations – for so many reasons!
First of all, basil pesto just rocks my world – so fresh, so vibrant, so knock-your-socks-off amazing – that I had to invent more ways to integrate it into my cooking. Second, nothing compliments pesto more perfectly than sun-dried tomatoes oozing with seasoned olive oil and earthy spices. Finally, the tangy feta cheese creates a stellar trifecta, slamming this recipe and your springtime barbeque right out of the ballpark!
Believe me, your guests will be thanking you… and you will be thanking me!
- 12oz package 100% whole wheat rotini (or brown rice rotini for gluten-free)
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1-2 cups authentic Greek salad dressing
- 8-12oz crumbled feta cheese
- 7oz jar of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil and spices
- 1-2 cans (14oz) quartered artichokes
- 1 pint sweet cherry tomatoes
- 7oz jar basil pesto
- 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)
- 1 cup sliced olives (optional)
- Boil pasta as directed on box, subtracting 1-2 minutes from the boiling time listed and adding 1-2 tablespoons salt. The pasta will soak up moisture from the dressing and continue to soften.
- While pasta is boiling, chop the sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and cherry tomatoes into small, bite-sized pieces. Be sure to reserve the oil from the jar of the sun-dried tomatoes.
- Combine both kinds of tomatoes, artichokes and feta cheese in a mixing bowl. Stir them together with the jar of pesto and the oil reserved from the sun-dried tomatoes, also add the pine nuts and olives if you choose. Depending on your variety of pesto, you may want to also add about a half teaspoon of salt to the mixture. Let sit for 20 minutes, or overnight if preparing ahead of time. This wait time enables these wonderful ingredients to infuse each other with dynamic flavor.
- Drain the pasta, rinse with cold water and transfer to a dish for storing or serving (instead of back in to the hot pot).
- Pour 1-2 cups of Greek dressing over the pasta, stirring gently until covered evenly. This keeps the pasta from sticking and also helps avoid damaging the pasta when stirring in the chopped ingredients.
- Layer the pasta and the infused mixture, adding about a third at a time, then gently stir to evenly distribute the pasta with the tomatoes and cheese.
- Let the completed pasta salad sit for an hour or overnight in the refrigerator in order for the flavor to deepen. Before serving, stir and garnish with additional feta cheese. Enjoy!
- Make it gluten free by using high-quality rice pasta. There is a wide variety of gluten-free pasta on the market. Look for brown rice pasta that is extra firm and boil it a little less than what the package recommends so that it will keep its form and not turn to mush once it is soaked in dressing and stirred when making the salad.
- If the pasta is still warm after you stir on the Greek dressing, cover and place in the refrigerator for an hour before stirring in the other ingredients to avoid the cheese melting.
- For even more nutritious goodness and vibrant color, add fresh chopped spinach to the chilled pasta salad.