This balsamic summer pasta salad is perfect for your next barbecue or potluck! It is packed with delicious ingredients, has the best balsamic vinaigrette, and is super simple to make.
If you love balsamic dressings and are looking for a pasta salad recipe, look no further! This balsamic summer pasta salad is one of my favorites to make whenever I am craving pasta, fresh vegetables, and a slightly sweet balsamic vinaigrette.
Plus, it is packed with delicious ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese, and arugula. All you need is less than 30 minutes and a few simple ingredients to whip up this flavorful summer salad!
Balsamic Summer Pasta Salad Ingredients
For the pasta salad, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Pasta: You can use any type of short pasta. I recommend rotini or bow-ties. And if you want to make this dish gluten-free, simply use your favorite gluten-free pasta.
- Cherry tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes taste best in this salad! So pick ripe and sweet cherry tomatoes for this summer pasta salad.
- Sun-dried tomatoes: Oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes are another must for this recipe! They add a lot of flavor and taste incredibly delicious. So please make sure to not skip them.
- Olives: Olives are another ingredient that is perfect for adding extra flavor. I recommend using Kalamata olives but other types of olives work just as well!
- Red onion: Red onions are perfect for salads! So I’d highly recommend sticking to red onions.
- Feta cheese: Feta cheese adds some creaminess and extra deliciousness. So be sure to use plenty of it when you make this salad!
- Parsley: Parsley is the perfect herb for this salad. So please make sure to use it.
- Pine nuts: Pine nuts are great for making Italian-inspired pasta salads! Their flavor is really unique and goes very well with the other ingredients such as sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese.
For the homemade balsamic vinaigrette, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Balsamic vinegar: For the dressing, you’ll need balsamic vinegar. Just pick up your favorite brand and use it for this recipe.
- Olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil is perfect for making delicious and healthy salad dressings! You’ll need it to make this summer pasta salad.
- Maple syrup: Maple syrup adds some sweetness and is a must for the dressing.
- Dijon mustard: Dijon mustard nicely binds the ingredients and adds more depth to the flavor. So definitely don’t skip it, even if you aren’t a fan of mustard in your sauces!
- Italian seasoning: I love to use some Italian seasoning but the salad tastes great even if you don’t have any on hand. But if you do, feel free to use it!
- Garlic (optional): Another ingredient you can add if you want is garlic. I love to add a garlic clove, but you don’t have to if you don’t like garlic.
How to make this balsamic summer pasta salad
Making this balsamic summer pasta salad is super simple! Just follow these steps:
- Cook the pasta: First, cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Then drain and let the pasta cool.
- Chop the ingredients: In the meantime, chop the salad ingredients and place them in a bowl.
- Prepare the dressing: In another small bowl, whisk together all balsamic vinaigrette ingredients. Then set the dressing aside.
- Toast the pine nuts: Next, toast the pine nuts in a pan over medium heat until they are golden brown. Lower the heat when needed.
- Combine: Finally, combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss until everything is combined. Then add more salt and pepper if needed. Enjoy!
Tips & Notes
This salad is super easy to make and there aren’t many things that could go wrong. But I’d still recommend checking out the following notes.
- Give the pasta time to cool. It doesn’t have to be completely cold, but you don’t want to use it while it’s still hot. So I’d recommend letting the pasta cool and using some cold water to rinse it if needed.
- Adjust the amount of maple syrup you use for the dressing. I think one tablespoon is best (when making four servings) but you can definitely use more or less than that. It really depends on how sweet you want the dressing. One tablespoon adds a subtle sweetness that goes really well with the ingredients in this salad recipe.
- Don’t use high heat when toasting the pine nuts. If you use high heat, the pine nuts will most likely burn. So be patient and use medium or even medium-low heat when toasting the pine nuts.
The great thing about pasta salads is that you can very easily put your own spin on them. Here are a few ideas to switch things up.
- Pasta: Depending on the pasta you use, this salad is going to taste differently. You could use delicious lentil pasta that adds some extra protein and that is chewier, or you could use tortellini that is filled with delicious cheese.
- Cheese: Another idea is using different types of cheese. Shaved parmesan would taste great in this salad and mozzarella cheese would turn this balsamic summer pasta salad into a delicious variation of a Caprese pasta salad.
- Herbs: If you don’t like parsley or want to try something new, you could use other herbs. I absolutely love fresh basil! And maybe chives and fresh dill would taste great in this salad, too?
- Meat: If you are a meat lover, you could add some diced sausage to this salad. I love that this salad is vegetarian which makes it enjoyable for many people, but feel free to add any type of meat or salami you like.
How to serve this balsamic summer pasta salad
I personally love to make this balsamic summer pasta salad for barbecues so we can enjoy it with delicious grilled meat. But there are other ways to serve it. Here is a small list.
- Protein: I already mentioned that you could enjoy this salad with tasty grilled meat. Another idea is making my favorite German Frikadellen or preparing some pan-seared or air-fried salmon.
- Vegetables: Or maybe you want to add even more vegetables to your meal? I absolutely love to make this air fryer asparagus. It’s absolutely fuss-free and goes really well with this balsamic summer pasta salad.
- Temperature You can serve this pasta salad either at room temperature or cold. If you want to serve it cold, just let it sit in the refrigerator. It also allows the pasta to soak up all of the flavors.
Frequently Asked Questions
It is slightly sweet but it’s definitely not too much! Plus, a little bit of sweetness goes really well with the sun-dried tomatoes, bitter arugula, and salty feta cheese. So there is no reason to be worried!
If you can toast them, I’d highly recommend doing so. I know that it is an extra step, but toasted pine nuts really have a different flavor. And as it only takes a few minutes, I would advise against skipping this quick little extra step.
You can store the pasta salad in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 3 days.
More simple and delicious summer salads
If you are looking for more salads that you can make during summer, check out the following posts. The recipes are all super delicious and very easy to make!
- Herbed Mustard Potato Salad
- German Potato Salad
- Italian-Inspired Pasta Salad
- Balsamic Lentil Salad
- Pesto Spaghetti Salad
Balsamic Summer Pasta Salad
- 8 ounces pasta of choice
- 2 handfuls arugula chopped
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved or quartered
- ½ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes drained and sliced
- ½ cup sliced Kalamata olives
- ¾ cup crumbled feta cheese
- ½ red onion finely diced
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts toasted
Balsamic Vinaigrette Ingredients
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon salt more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper more to taste
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning (optional)
- 1-2 garlic cloves (optional)
- First, cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Then drain and let the pasta cool.
- Next, chop the salad ingredients and prepare the balsamic vinaigrette by whisking together all ingredients.
- Then toast the pine nuts in a pan over medium heat until golden brown. Lower the heat when needed.
- Now add all ingredients to a large bowl. Toss until everything is combined. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Enjoy!
- Make sure you don't toast the pine nuts using high heat as they tend to burn very quickly. Using medium or medium-low heat is ideal.