Penne Pasta Salad: a zesty Greek pasta salad with that's perfect for almost any summer cookout or potluck.
This post was originally published March 21, 2021. It was updated with new recipe information on June 14, 2022.
Be ready for any summer get together or barbecue with this Greek Penne Pasta Salad. With an easy homemade Greek salad dressing, fresh veggies, and feta cheese, this mayo-free salad can sit out for hours without needing refrigeration.
Table of contents
- This easy pasta salad recipe is...
- Recipe ingredients
- Ingredient substitutions
- A penne fun fact:
- How to cook penne pasta:
- How to make Greek Penne Pasta Salad...
- Recipe pro-tips:
- Pasta salad mix-ins:
- Serving suggestions:
- How to make the recipe ahead of time:
- Can you let this recipe sit out at a cookout?
- How to double or triple this recipe:
- Storage directions:
- Tools needed to make this recipe:
- Other cookout & pasta salad recipes you'll love:
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With the winter storm that we just got here in Northern Colorado (28 inches in less than 24 hours!), I don't think I could be any more excited about warmer days to come.
One of the things I'm looking forward to the most is hanging outside again friends. Relaxing after work outside at happy hours, holiday picnics, gathering on a friend's porch for a grilled dinner -- you name it.
Outdoor events like this aren't events if they don't have a spread of delicious food and drinks, either. I mean, aren't these events exactly what pasta salads were made for?
Tossed in a light and tangy dressing, the pasta doesn't dry out and has a zesty but not overwhelming flavor that pairs so well with many main dishes. With veggies studded in, you have a complete side dish -- or even main, if the grill isn't your thing.
This Greek Penne Pasta Salad has all these flavors and more. With an easy homemade Greek salad dressing, commonly found chopped veggies, crumbled feta cheese, kalamata olives, and a selection of optional mix-ins, this pasta salad is tasty, yet easy to make and accessible.
Easily make the pasta dish gluten-free by substituting garbanzo bean or brown rice pasta, make this salad ahead of time if you wish, and share a bowl of this pasta with your crew this summer. There's never been a better time!
Why you'll love this penne pasta salad:
- Zesty & full of flavor. Just say "no" to boring and bland pasta salads! We don't have time for that. Red wine vinegar, olive oil, dried seasonings, and a dash of maple syrup bring all the flavor to this salad.
- Versatile & easy to store. Not only will this pasta salad not dry out when storing it, but it will safely keeps at room temperature for a few hours without going bad!
- Customizable. Like extra veggies or some protein in your pasta salad? Then, this recipe is for you! It's a great base to add a host of mix-ins to. For a complete list of ideas, see my list of mix-ins below.
- Mayo-free. Don't get me wrong, I love me some mayo but sometimes I'm just not feeling it for pasta salad. This vinegar-based pasta salad is lighter and brighter than a mayo pasta salad. Bonus: the vinegar dressing also makes this salad safer to keep at room temperature.
- Penne pasta
- Baby tomatoes
- Cucumber - peeled or unpeeled are both fine!
- Sweet red peppers
- Kalamata olives - pre-pitted is best!
- Feta cheese
- Olive oil - the better quality of oil, the better this recipe will taste!
- Red wine vinegar
- Maple syrup - adds just enough sweetness to balance out the homemade salad dressing
- Dried thyme, dill, and oregano
- Onion - yellow, white, or sweet onion all work!
- Tomatoes - diced Roma plum tomatoes can substitute for baby tomatoes
- Vinegar - red wine vinegar contributes to this salad's Greek flavor, but white wine vinegar can substitute for it in a pinch
- Pasta - any shape of pasta can also work in this salad; rotini, shells, macaroni, orecchiette, and radiatore pasta all work great
- Syrup - 1 teaspoon agave syrup or 1 ½ teaspoons granulated white sugar can work in place of the maple syrup
A fun fact about penne:
The Italian word "penne" means pens in English! Penne pasta got its name because of the angled tips -- similar to how the tip of an old school fountain pen looks.
A note on properly salting the water for pasta:
The secret to cooking great penne pasta is to salt your water well before boiling the pasta.
Add 1 tablespoon of sea salt or kosher salt for every gallon of water you boil. Then, cook the pasta according to the package directions until it is al dente -- or cooked through, with just a touch of chew-- just how the Italians do it!
How to make Greek Penne Pasta Salad...
- Cook the penne pasta according to package directions in heavily salted water. Drain (note: you don't need to rinse!) and set aside to cool for 5-10 minutes.
- Whisk together the Greek salad dressing ingredients until combined.
- Gently fold the fresh veggies into the salad dressing.
- Fold the pasta in with the dressed vegetables.
- Sprinkle the salad with crumbled feta cheese and gently fold in until combined. Serve immediately or let chill covered in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before serving.
- Drain, but don't rinse, the pasta - we don't need to rinse the pasta for this recipe.
- Let the pasta cool for 5-10 minutes - we want to cool the pasta before stirring the cheese it into the salad so it doesn't melt
- To make this recipe glute-free, just use gluten-free pasta (garbanzo bean or brown rice are my recommended options) in place of traditional penne pata
- Use a decent quality olive oil - the flavor of the olive oil is front and center in this recipe, so the better quality you use, the better this recipe will taste! I love Costco's organic olive oil and Thrive Market's extra virgin olive oil from Greece.
Save this Greek Pasta Salad recipe for later on Pinterest:
Pasta salad mix-ins:
Make this salad your own or add some additional veggies or protein by mixing in ½-1 cup any of the following:
- Steamed asparagus
- Broccoli florets
- Baby spinach
- Grilled chicken
- Diced celery
- Cubed lunch meat (turkey, roast beef, ham, etc.)
- Shredded mozzarella cheese
- Grilled and flaked salmon
- Garbanzo beans
- Kidney beans
- Steamed shrimp
This salad is very versatile. Serve it for a lighter lunch or dinner or bring it to your next cookout or barecue.
You also can serve it for a heartier meal by topping it with grilled chicken or steak, air fryer salmon, or grilled tofu. For extra veggies, you can also serve this pasta salad on a bed of baby spinach!
How to make the recipe ahead of time:
This recipe can be made up to a day ahead of serving. Just follow the directions as listed and chill the recipe covered for up to 24 hours, or until serving!
Leftovers last covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 or 5 days. It does not freeze well.
Tools needed to make this recipe:
More cookout & pasta salad recipes you'll love:
- Broccoli Raisin Salad
- Mom's Tuna Macaroni Salad
- Italian Tuna Pasta Salad
- Mediterranean Orzo Salad
- 5-Bean Salad
- Greek Quinoa Salad
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- 8 oz. penne pasta
Greek Salad Dressing
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon dried dill
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 tablespoons finely minced onion
- ⅓ cup olive oil
Penne Pasta Salad
- ¾ cup baby tomatoes, halved
- ¾ cup cubed cucumber
- ½ sweet red pepper, diced
- ½ cup pitted halved kalamata olives
- ⅓ cup crumbled feta cheese
- Cook the pasta according to package directions in a pot of heavily salted water. Drain the pasta (you don't need to rinse it) and sit it aside for 5-10 minutes to cool.
- While the pasta cools: whisk together the red wine vinegar, salt, black pepper, maple syrup, thyme, dill, oregano, and minced onion in a large mixing bowl until combined. Slowly whisk the olive oil in until the dressing is emulsified.
- Gently fold the baby tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, and kalamata olives into the dressing until combined.
- Add the pasta and feta cheese to the vegetable mixture and fold in until it is evenly covered in the dressing.
- Serve the pasta immediately or cover and let chill in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before serving.
1. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Leftovers do not freeze well.
2. This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled. Follow the directions as listed, using a large mixing bowl to accommodate the additional volume.
3. Extra mix-in ideas: make this salad your own by mixing in extra ingredients. Steamed asparagus, small broccoli florets, celery, cubed lunch meat, shredded mozzarella cheese, grilled chicken, garbanzo beans, grilled and flaked salmon, or steamed shrimp are all delicious.
4. This recipe does not have mayonnaise or any other ingredients that require short-term refrigeration, so it can safely sit out at a cookout or barbecue for up to 2-3 hours. If lunch meat, salmon, chicken, or steamed shrimp are mixed into the salad, it will need refrigeration past 30-45 minutes, however.
Amount Per Serving Calories 170Total Fat 12gSaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 6mgSodium 309mgCarbohydrates 12gFiber 1gSugar 2gProtein 3g
This nutrition breakdown is just an estimate of the nutritional value of this recipe and cannot be taken as facts. The owners of Mae's Menu are not nutritionists or dietitians and therefore cannot be held accountable for this nutrition estimate. Please contact your nutritionist or medical professional for a nutritional breakdown of this food. Furthermore, this food is not intended to prevent, diagnose, cure, or treat any disease.