Everyone needs a delicious spring pasta salad in their repertoire. There’s something about a colorful, packable pasta that just tastes like beach days and picnics in the park. That said, the family reunion-style macaroni salad, made with mayo and highly questionable when served at room temperature, is a hard pass for me. Thankfully, today’s recipe is a far cry—made with green olives, artichoke hearts, lemons, and tons of shaved parm—it’s got that zesty, briny, salty punch that elevates this to summer dinner party status. Read on to see how this very green, spring pasta salad comes together, plus a few tips for pasta salad success.
My inspiration for this pasta salad actually came from one of my favourites pizzas At Gjelina, IMHO the best Italian spot in LA. It’s got green olives, guanciale (an Italian cured meat), and chiles for heat, and the combo is absolutely addictive. I wanted to achieve that same flavor profile in pasta form, swapping in crispy crumbled bacon for the guanciale and parmesan instead of the mozzarella. The goal? To get that delicious combination of flavors in every single perfect bite.
How to make this spring pasta salad
A recipe that’s made for breezy warm weather gatherings should be just as breezy to make, so I created this pasta salad to be super easy—you can toss it together in less than 30 minutes.
First, I put my pasta water on to boil, since I want to cook the pasta and let it cool down a bit before I add it to the rest of our ingredients.
While the pasta is cooking, I make the bright zingy dressing by adding parsley, lemon zest and juice, shallot, garlic, and olive oil to a blender. I thin it a little with hot water, then blend it up and store in a mason jar until I’m ready to use it.
I grab the biggest serving bowl I’ve got, add my cooked and drained pasta, then toss in our green olives, artichokes, crumbled bacon, and pistachios (that crunch is absolutely essential.)
Next I drizzle on a big pour of our green dressing along with some salt and pepper, toss it around until each piece of pasta is lightly coated, then add handfuls of arugula and a ridiculous amount of shaved parmesan. Toss it again, add as much heat with red pepper flakes as you like, and it’s ready to roll.
Bring it to a potluck or picnic
I often get questions from you guys about what dishes to bring to a gathering, and this pasta salad happens to make the perfect potluck side.
For one, it can be made completely in advance, and holds up beautifully when transported. Back in my catering days, I quickly learned which dishes taste just as good after sitting on a buffet for an hour, versus those that got sad and wilty. Pasta salads proved to be one of the heartier options, and the ingredients in this one really lend themselves to hanging out for a while.
This is also a really versatile dish that’s a crowd pleaser with kids and adults alike. I made it for a pool party last weekend, and everyone went back for seconds and took home leftovers. It’s full of veggies and makes a delicious side dish with grilled chicken or steak, but it’s also filling enough to stand in as a main course.
Tips for success
Here are a few things to know that will make this recipe a home run.
What to serve with this spring pasta salad
For a simple weeknight dinner, this pasta salad is hearty enough to be a one-dish meal—pair with a glass of chilled rosé and it’s officially spring.
For a gathering, I love to grill some marinated chicken, salmon, or steak, and serve this alongside. Since it’s packed with veggies and pasta, it’s the only side dish you need.
How to store leftovers
I can say from experience that this pasta salad is just as delicious the next day—just store left overs in an airtight container in the fridge, and serve cold or room temp.
Ideas for swaps and modifications
This pasta salad is the perfect dish for riffing based on what’s in season and your personal preference. A few ideas:
- Make it vegetarian by omitting the bacon.
- Turn it into an antipasto salad by adding those tiny balls of fresh mozzarella.
- Swap in any green veggies for the olives and artichokes—blanched sugar snap peas, grilled zucchini, or lightly cooked broccoli would all be delicious additions.
- You can use any short pasta—gemelli, fusilli, or even penne all work great in this dish.
Other spring pasta salads you’ll love:
We obviously love warm weather pasta salads around here, and these are a few other favorites from our archives:
Green Goddess Pasta Salad
Pasta salad with feta and tahini dressing
Grilled Veggie Pasta Salad
Scroll on for the recipe, and if you make this spring pasta salad, be sure to leave a rating and comment below.
- 1 pound cavatappi or other curly short pasta, cooked according to package directions
- 1/2 cup green olives, half (I buy pitted Castelvetrano or Cerignola)
- 1/2 cup chopped roasted and salted pistachios
- 2 – 3 strips crispy bacon, crumbled
- 1/2 cup Artichoke hearts quartered
- Spring Green Dressing (below)
- 2 cups arugula
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- red pepper flakes, to taste
- lots of freshly grated parmesan, to taste
For the green dressing:
- 1/2 bunch parsley
- 2 lemons, zest and juice
- 1/2 shallot
- 1 garlic clove
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp hot water
- Salt and pepper
- First make the dressing by combining all ingredients in a blender. Store in a mason jar in the fridge until ready to use.
- Add the cooked pasta to a large serving bowl.
- Add the olives, pistachios, bacon, artichoke hearts, and a big drizzle of the dressing.
- Toss well to combine—add more dressing if needed.
- Add the arugula, red pepper flakes, and parmesan. Give it a light touch, taste for seasoning.
- Serve, passing more red pepper flakes and parmesan at the table.
- You can make this pasta salad ahead—combine all ingredients and store in the fridge until ready to serve.
- Use any short pasta you like: gemelli, fusilli, cavatappi, or penne all work great.
- Feel free to make it vegetarian by omitting the bacon.
- Double or triple the recipe to serve a crowd.
- Prep Time: 30
- Cook Time: 10
- Category: pasta, side dish
Keywords: spring pasta salad, easy side dish, potluck side
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