When spring rolls around, and new produce starts to pop up in my garden, one of my favorite recipes to whip up is a pasta salad. It’s so endlessly versatile because, well, what doesn’t pair well with pasta? The classic deli salad bar illustrates this perfectly. Everything there goes beautifully on top of pasta – even other salads! – and it ends up being a great, starchy way to fill up. It’s also great cold, warm, or at room temperature, making it the ultimate picnic food.
This springtime staple recipe has made appearances on tables across the US as early as 1914, when recipes started cropping up for macaroni salads served on a bed of lettuce leaves or popped out of jello molds. Sometimes, they were even mixed in with ingredients like tuna and olives. It was the product of a confluence of cultures, as immigrants from Germany and Italy started arriving into the country – Germans brought along a mayo-heavy potato salad, and macaroni came from the Italians. It rapidly became integrated into new dishes as Americans pondered over how to make use of leftovers.
If you’ve turned away from pasta salad because of the mayo factor, I have a solution for you: Greek yogurt, which makes a delicious and healthy mayo replacement! It also tastes great alongside all that fresh Mediterranean produce.
Pasta salad might not sound like an inherently Greek recipe, but pasta crops up much more often than you might think. In the Greek diet, pasta figures in both vegetarian recipes and with animal protein, such as the classic baked Greek pasta recipe, pastitsio. My personal favorites are the Greek pasta recipes that bring to mind the best of the Mediterranean diet, with Mediterranean ingredients that focus on plants – and that’s what most of the spring pasta salad recipes on my site include, in one way or another!
Scroll on for 6 of my favorite pasta salads for spring!
Greek salad + pasta salad = a match made in heaven! This version gets an extra burst of freshness from fresh basil leaves and a bit of lime zest. And I use pasta made from chickpea or lentil flour – I find that pastas made from these ingredients are a great option at room temperature, something that’s very common across the Mediterranean.
This Greek recipe for a penne pasta salad calls for charring long thin eggplants – Japanese eggplant is a good variety for that. It also calls for tossing the pasta with extra virgin Greek olive oil and herbs. If you wanted to make this a tad richer, you could always add a little crumbled Greek feta (always the right call in my book!).
This pasta salad is simple, and really relies on the nuttiness and flavor of the mushrooms to take the dish to the next level. Morels have an earthy, nutty flavor and a meaty texture, and they’re packed with antioxidants, essential minerals, and vitamins, and contain one of the highest amounts of Vitamin D among all edible mushrooms. However, if you’re in a bind, you can substitute them for any other mushroom you have available!
This is an easy pasta dish that calls for one of Greece’s iconic products, the Kalamata olive, with a meaty texture and a tangy delicious flavor ideal for cutting through a carby bowl. I love this recipe! It’s perfect for Lent, vegans, and a quick mid-week meal.
Whether it’s a meatless option or just a quick healthy pasta dish you want, this easy, tangy rigatoni dish, with Kalamata olives, capers, garlic, and eggplant, is great. The mild, buttery Greek cheese, manouri, tames the robust flavor of the olives and capers. Best of all: You can serve this as a main course or a warm or room temp pasta salad, too!
This Mediterranean diet recipe calls for a very traditional, nutritious Greek-Mediterranean ingredient: tahini! Used all over the Eastern Mediterranean, tahini is one of the superfoods of the Mediterranean diet. While this isn’t a traditional Greek recipe per se, but rather inspired by the delicious cold sesame noodles in Chinese cuisine, the extra virgin Greek olive oil, ouzo and, of course, tahini, definitely give it a Greek passport.