Juicy tomatoes, fresh spinach, sweet Vidalia onions, and olives are tossed with whole wheat pasta in a light lemon dressing to make the perfect pasta salad! This extra-easy recipe is excellent for customizing with your favorite ingredients and will become your go-to when you need a fast, delicious side dish.
As a light lunch, side dish, for pot lucks, or BBQs, my Best Caprese Pasta Salad or Mediterranean Pasta Salad are tried and true favorites you’ll love.
Pin This Recipe For Later
I could eat this salad about every day. As a matter of fact, I have it on repeat in the summer. It’s crazy easy with just a few fresh, seasonal ingredients and a homemade dressing that’s light and bright.
You get it, right? This pasta salad makes me feel good, so it’s kind of like a salad best friend!
In This Post You’ll Find
- Pin This Recipe For Later
- Ingredients Needed For This Recipe
- Variations For Penne Pasta Salad
- Dressings For Pasta Salad
- Tips For Making The Best Easy Penne Pasta Salad
- Making Ahead And Storing
- Frequently Asked Questions With Answers
- What To Serve Penne Pasta Salad With Veggies
Ingredients Needed For This Recipe
- Penne Pasta – I use whole wheat in this recipe.
- Fresh Baby Spinach
- Cherry Tomatoes – grape tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, or any variation that you like.
- Kalamata Olives
- Vidalia Onion – red onion also works well in this recipe.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Fresh Lemon Juice – you can substitute red wine vinegar or champagne vinegar.
- Kosher Salt
- Fresh Cracked Pepper
Scroll Down For Measurements And Instructions
Variations For Penne Pasta Salad
This recipe is my go-to for making pasta salad, but you can get creative and add ingredients to suit your own taste buds. Here’s some inspiration:
- Add in more veggies like cucumber, bell peppers, green beans, corn, shaved Brussels sprouts, or green peas. Leafy greens like kale or arugula are also yummy in this salad.
- Toss in fresh basil, oregano, thyme, or parsley for a pop of freshness.
- Change out the Parmesan cheese for Feta, cheddar, mozzarella, or Pepper Jack.
- Turn it into a main dish with bacon and leftover chicken, salmon, or steak.
- Add a Mediterranean twist from Greek Pasta Salad or Caprese Pasta Salad.
Dressings For Pasta Salad
This super easy recipe has a quick and simple dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, but you can easily change things up a bit. Just remember to use good ingredients so that each component of the salad can shine through without being overpowered.
Some of my favorite dressings for penne pasta salad are my Homemade Greek Salad Dressing, Creamy Vinaigrette, or Green Goddess Dressing.
Tips For Making The Best Easy Penne Pasta Salad
- Cook the pasta al dente, meaning it has a slight bite to it. Overcooked pasta can become mushy, and no one wants a mushy pasta salad.
- Use fresh and seasonal vegetables. I love going to my local farmer’s market to find veggies and fruits that are in season.
- Don’t overdress the salad. Start with a small amount of dressing and gradually add more as needed.
- Allow the salad to chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving. This helps the flavors meld together and will bring out the overall taste.
Making Ahead And Storing
Pasta salad recipes are great for making ahead of when you want to serve them. They keep well in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3–4 days.
Before serving, I like to remove the salad from the fridge and sit the container on the counter for about 15 minutes, then I give the ingredients a stir to mix in any dressing that may have settled.
Frequently Asked Questions With Answers
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne pasta and cook according to the package instructions until it is al dente. Drain the pasta and rinse it under cold water to stop cooking.
Sure! Even though it’s called penne pasta salad, you can use any type of pasta noodles that you like. Macaroni, bow tie, and rigatoni are great in this salad.
Store the salad in the fridge in an airtight container, for up to 3–4 days.
What To Serve Penne Pasta Salad With Veggies
I’m crazy about this salad for lunch, but it also makes a great side dish, especially with anything cooked on the grill. Serve it with BBQ Chicken Legs, Air Fryer Chicken Legs, Oven Baked BBQ Chicken, Roast Beef Sandwiches, or Crock Pot Country Style Pork Ribs.
It’s a must for your next potluck, cookout, or covered dish supper. This pasta salad travels well since it does not have any mayonnaise in it.
- 2 cups whole wheat penne pasta
- 2 cups fresh spinach
- 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes – halved
- 1 cup Kalamata olives – halved
- ½ cup sliced Vidalia onion
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
- ¼ cup shaved Parmesan cheese
- Cook pasta in salty water according to package directions, about 11 minutes or al dente.
- While pasta is cooking, slice tomatoes, olives and onion, set aside.
- Wash spinach and trim any stems.
- When pasta is almost finished cooking, add spinach to the pot. Cook for 1 minute. This will wilt the spinach just enough to be tender. ***You can skip cooking the pasta if desired***
- Drain pasta and spinach and place in a large bowl. Add tomatoes, olives and onion. Toss gently.
- Drizzle on olive oil, and lemon juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss.
- Top with shaved Parmesan cheese and chill in the refrigerator for about an hour, allowing the flavors to come together.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne pasta and cook according to the package instructions until it is al dente. Drain the pasta and rinse it under cold water to stop cooking.
- This recipe is great for making ahead of when you want to serve it. It keeps well in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3–4 days.
- Before serving, I like to remove the salad from the fridge and sit the container on the counter for about 15 minutes. Lastly, I give the ingredients a stir to mix in any dressing that may have settled.
This post was originally posted in April, 2012 and updated in May, 2023.
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