Let’s talk pasta salad. I know we’ve done a few versions over the years together, but this one has been a go-to recently. It is a Mediterranean pasta salad. Ish. And it fires on all engines. It is flavor-packed, nutritious, and the leftovers are legit amazing. You start with a base of good pasta. Beyond that, there’s a blast of green from fresh herbs, flecks of briny olives, and pops of tomato goodness. The creamy, tzatziki-inspired yogurt dressing is punctuated with garlic, grated cucumber and herbs and coats the pasta beautifully. The whole thing is a shade over the top, admittedly a bit maximalist, but it’s a favorite feel-good lunch around here.
A few more details. This Med-centric pasta salad is loaded with quick marinated cubes of tofu vamping for more typical feta cubes. Record scratch, I know. If this hurts your sensibility, no problem. Use feta. Or do a combination. I find using the tofu keeps me going throughout the afternoon, and the yogurt brings plenty of creaminess in place of a soft, salty cheese like feta. Lastly, this recipe makes a lot of pasta salad so it’s the perfect sort of recipe for Sunday meal prep.
Mediterranean Pasta Salad: The Main Ingredients
- Pasta: Use whatever your favorite short pasta you like here. I love the Sfoglini Whole Grain Reginetti for pasta salads like this — it’s what you see pictured above. The texture and flavor is great and you get a good bump of protein and fiber over a white pasta. Penne, rigatoni, and farfalle are alternate pasta shape that work great here.
- Cucumber: This recipe calls for two. You grate one and stir it into a tzatziki inspired, garlic-boosted yogurt sauce. The other is chopped into tiny cubes and tossed into a big bowl with the pasta and the other ingredients.
- Olives: Use dry, oil-cured black olives if you have them, but don’t sweat it if you don’t. I’ve done this pasta salad with a wide range of olives in the past, some are better than others, but you’re going to get that briny, salty punctuation whatever olives you choose. Big, meaty green Castelvetrano olives are another favorite, but a canned black olive can do the job as well.
- Yogurt: As long as it’s plain, use what you’ve got in your fridge. Greek yogurt will make your sauce quite a bit thicker, but everything is getting well tossed together, it all works itself out. And low-fat yogurt is also fine if that is what you keep on hand. Long way of saying, don’t make a special trip to the store to get an alternate yogurt if you already have some. The spirit of this whole recipe is adaptability.
- Tomatoes or Other Seasonal Vegetables: If tomatoes are in season, use cherry tomatoes here. Bonus points if you make them roasted cherry tomatoes. For example, if it’s spring, swap in something equally colorful and seasonally specific - cooked favas, blanched asparagus, and or spring peas.
- Herbs: The yogurt sauce calls for dried herbs, and the pasta salad calls for fresh. The more the better as far as I’m concerned. I often season the yogurt with a good amount of za’atar, but you might have dried thyme or dill and prefer to use that. Finishing the pasta salad with a pile or fresh arugula, basil leaves, or cilantro are all good options.
- Tofu or Feta: Making this with cubed tofu in place of feta will likely draw some sneers, but honestly, it’s not a bad way to roll. I like the added protein boost.
The leftovers here are great. Especially the day after, and the day after that. Day three and the pasta texture changes and loses some structure. By day three, I’m a pass. Before that, the pasta holds up, the herbs and onions infuse the creamy dressing and cucumbers. It’s on par with a good day-old macaroni salad, but loaded with good stuff like tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs and olives.
More One-Bowl Pastas & Pasta Salads
- Fregola Sarda
- Easy Tomato Pasta Salad
- Pasta with Smashed Zucchini Cream
- Macaroni Salad
- Pasta with Creamy Crushed Walnut Sauce
- Pasta with Etruscan Sauce
- all pasta recipes
Mediterranean Pasta Salad
Use your favorite short pasta here. Penne, farfalle, fusilli are all great choices. If you’re going to use feta in place of the tofu, use about 5 ounces. This is one of those recipes that is great for using ingredients you have on hand. I offer up some suggestions for alternate herbs and additions in the post up above. If you don’t have za’atar, substitute dried dill, thyme and/or basil to taste. And if you don’t have time to roast cherry tomatoes, raw are fine. Raid your fridge!
- 10 ounces extra firm tofu, drained and cut into small cubes
- 2 tablespoons good tasting white or red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- scant 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, plus more for salting pasta water
- 12 ounces short pasta, preferably whole grain
- 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
- 2 teaspoons za’atar or other dried herbs
- 2 medium cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 medium (6-inch) cucumbers, peeled and seeded
- 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 12 black olives, pitted and torn into quarters
- 12 ounces roasted cherry tomatoes (12 ounces before baking)
- 2 cups fresh arugula, basil, and/or cilantro, torn or chopped bite-sized
- For serving: chile oil, chives
In a wide, flat-bottom bowl combine tofu with the vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Stir gently and allow to marinate, stirring occasionally, while you prepare the rest of the salad. If you’re using feta, whisk up the marinade in a small cup and keep the feta separate.
Boil the pasta in well-salted water until tender. Drain and run under cold water to cool. Transfer to a large serving bowl.
While the pasta is cooking prepare the dressing by combining the yogurt and za’atar (or other dried herbs) in a small bowl. Sprinkle the garlic cloves with the remaining scant 1/2 teaspoon of salt and use a knife to smash and chop into a paste. Grate one of the cucumbers on a box grater, press out any remaining moisture using a clean dish towel (or paper towels) and transfer to the bowl of yogurt along with the garlic paste. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust with more salt if needed.
Chop the remaining cucumber into small, 1/4-inch cubes. Add the cubed cucumber to the bowl of pasta along with the red onion, black olives, and cherry tomatoes. Add the marinating tofu (or feta) along with marinating liquids and gently toss. Ladle about half of the yogurt dressing on top of the pasta salad ingredients, and give another gentle toss. Serve topped with arugula, a big drizzle of chile oil (or olive oil) and lots of chives. Serve remaining dressing on the side.