This bow tie pasta salad recipe is packed with lots of fresh summer vegetables and tossed in a zesty homemade vinaigrette dressing. It’s the perfect side dish to make ahead and bring to your next family gathering, potluck, picnic, or BBQ!
Bow Tie Pasta Salad
This bow tie pasta salad is totally scrumptious. It’s brimming with fresh vegetables like crisp cucumbers, sweet bell peppers, onions, and juicy cherry tomatoes. Toss in some black olives, crumbled feta cheese, and fresh herbs such as basil and parsley, and you’re in for a treat.
The bow tie pasta is mixed with the fresh vegetables and tossed with a delicious homemade dressing that’s the perfect finishing touch. The zesty dressing is a refreshing blend of olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and minced garlic.
This pasta salad is so easy to prepare and it tastes even better as it sits, making it an excellent choice for potlucks, BBQs, or family gatherings.
This recipe brings together the flavors of the Mediterranean in a pasta salad that’s perfect for picnics, family gatherings, or a simple weekday dinner. You’ll find the classic Greek combo of feta cheese, black olives, cucumber, and red onion, mixed with cherry tomatoes and bow tie pasta. The Italian influence comes through in the dressing, which is a delicious blend of extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and aromatic herbs.
I love how versatile this recipe is. It’s vegetarian as it’s written, but you can always add grilled chicken, cooked and crumbled bacon, sliced pepperoni, or some diced ham. Love the crunch of fresh veggies? Feel free to throw in some diced broccoli or even sauteed asparagus. If you’re a fan of different types of cheese, swap out the feta for fresh mozzarella, cheddar, or even a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan.
The dressing is another area where you can play around. While the homemade dressing is a tasty mix of lemon juice, olive oil, and red wine vinegar, you can easily switch it up. Try using a creamy Caesar dressing, a tangy balsamic vinaigrette, or even a sweet honey mustard dressing.
Bow Tie Pasta (Farfalle): Farfalle, also known as bow tie pasta, is the pasta we’re using in this salad. Its unique shape holds the dressing and other ingredients well, making every bite flavorful. You can also use other pasta shapes like penne or fusilli if you prefer.
Cherry Tomatoes: Known for their sweet and tangy flavor, cherry tomatoes add a vibrant color and juiciness to the salad.
Cucumber: The crunchiness and freshness of cucumber complements the other ingredients perfectly.
Red Bell Pepper: Not only do they add color, but their sweet flavor and crunch make them an essential ingredient.
Red Onion: Thin slices of red onion provide a sharp and sweet flavor that balances out the other ingredients.
Black Olives: They add a salty and savory flavor to the salad. If you’re not a fan, you can skip them.
Feta Cheese: It adds a creamy texture and salty flavor that elevates the overall taste of the salad. You can substitute it with mozzarella, cheddar, or crumbled goat cheese.
Fresh Basil and Parsley: These fresh herbs bring a fragrant and fresh flavor to the salad.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Olive oil is used as the base of the dressing, giving it a rich and fruity flavor.
Red Wine Vinegar: Red wine vinegar adds a tangy flavor to the dressing.
Lemon Juice: A squeeze of lemon juice brightens up the dressing, giving the salad a refreshing taste.
Garlic: It adds a punch of flavor to the dressing.
Dried Oregano and Basil: These dried herbs enhance the flavor of the dressing and the salad.
Salt and Pepper: They enhance the flavor of the salad and dressing.
Feel free to customize this pasta salad with your favorite add-ins. Some great vegetarian additions include artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus, or fresh mozzarella. You could also add grilled chicken, diced ham, or cooked and crumbled bacon for some protein.
How To Make Bow Tie Pasta Salad
Cook the Pasta: Add your bow tie pasta to a large pot of boiling water and cook until al dente. Once cooked, drain and rinse the pasta under cold water to stop the cooking process and cool it down. (See the recipe card below for the full printable instructions.)
Prep the Veggies: While the pasta is cooking, you can start prepping your vegetables, herbs, and cheese.
Assemble the Salad: In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooled pasta, your prepped veggies, black olives, feta cheese, and freshly chopped herbs.
Prepare the Dressing: In a separate bowl or jar, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, minced garlic, dried herbs, salt, and pepper to create a zesty homemade dressing.
Dress and Chill the Salad: Pour your homemade dressing over the pasta salad and gently toss everything together so the pasta and veggies are coated in the dressing. Cover your salad and place it in the refrigerator to chill and allow the flavors to meld together.
Serve the Salad: Give your chilled pasta salad a quick stir to redistribute the dressing before serving. Enjoy either cold or let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. See the recipe card below for the full written instructions, including ingredient amounts, and helpful tips, etc.
- Always cook your pasta al dente, which means it’s cooked so it’s still firm when bitten. This not only enhances the texture of your salad but also prevents the pasta from becoming mushy when mixed with the dressing.
- After cooking your pasta, rinse it under cold water to cool it down quickly. This stops the cooking process and prevents the pasta from sticking together. Plus, it helps your salad chill faster in the fridge.
- If you’re planning to make the salad ahead of time, save a little bit of the dressing to toss with the salad just before serving. It gives the salad an extra fresh and flavorful boost.
What Are The Different Types Of Bow Tie Pasta?
Bow tie pasta, or farfalle, comes in a variety of sizes for different uses. The miniature version, farfalline, is perfect for soups or stews. The larger kind, farfalloni, is fantastic for heartier dishes. Whatever the size, they all have the distinctive bow tie shape that’s fun and perfect for holding onto delicious sauces and dressings.
Should You Rinse Pasta After Cooking?
When it comes to pasta salad, yes! Rinse your pasta with cold water after cooking. This stops the pasta from cooking further and cools it down quickly, which is important for a cold pasta dish like this one. Plus, it helps to wash off excess starch and prevent the pasta from sticking together.
Does Salting Pasta Water Make It Boil Faster?
While the common belief is that salted water boils faster, this isn’t actually the case. Salt increases the boiling point of water, meaning it could take slightly longer to boil. However, the reason we salt pasta water isn’t for speed, it’s for flavor. The salt seasons the pasta itself as it cooks, adding depth to your final dish.
How Do You Keep Bow Tie Pasta From Sticking Together?
Rinsing pasta with cold water after cooking not only cools it down but also removes excess starch, which can cause sticking. Another tip is to toss the drained pasta with a little olive oil. This creates a thin barrier that helps prevent the pasta pieces from sticking to each other.
Mistakes To Avoid When Making Pasta Salad
Overcooking the pasta is a common mistake. We want our pasta al dente, or ‘to the tooth’, which means it should still have a bit of bite to it. Also, be sure to give your pasta salad enough time to chill in the fridge before serving. This allows the flavors to meld together for the best flavor.
Is It Better To Make Pasta Salad The Night Before?
Yes! Making your pasta salad the night before allows the pasta to absorb the flavors of the dressing and the other ingredients. If I’m making pasta salad the day before, I like to dress it with 2/3 of the dressing, and reserve 1/3 to mix in right before serving.
What Other Dressing Can I Use For This Salad?
You can switch up the dressing to suit your tastes. Some delicious alternatives could be a creamy caesar dressing, a tangy balsamic vinaigrette, or even a sweet honey mustard dressing. Feel free to get creative!
Can I Add Some Protein To This Salad?
Of course! If you’d like to add some protein, grilled chicken, canned tuna, or crispy bacon would all make wonderful additions. For a vegetarian option, you could add roasted chickpeas or tofu.
How Long Can I Store This Salad In The Refrigerator?
This salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The flavors actually meld together and improve over time, so it’s a great make-ahead dish. Just be sure to give it a good stir before serving.
Keep In Touch
I’d love to hear what you thought of this recipe in the comments or on Instagram! @KeyToMyLime #KeyToMyLime
If you like this recipe, be sure to check out all of our other recipes perfect for summer. Some reader favorites are:
- Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
- Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing
- Rotini Pasta Salad
- Ranch Pasta Salad
- Shrimp Pesto Pasta
- Chicken Macaroni Salad
- Strawberry Spinach Salad with Feta Cheese
- 12 ounces bow tie pasta (farfalle)
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
- 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup sliced black olives
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Pasta Salad Dressing:
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the bow tie pasta according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain the pasta through a colander. Rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking process and cool the pasta.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked pasta, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red bell pepper, red onion, black olives, feta cheese, basil, and parsley.
- In a small bowl or jar, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, minced garlic, dried oregano, dried basil, salt, and black pepper to create the homemade dressing.
- Pour the homemade dressing over the pasta salad and toss gently to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, if needed.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to combine. The pasta salad can be made up to a day in advance.
- Before serving, gently stir the pasta salad to redistribute the dressing. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
This can be made the day before. If I’m making pasta salad the day before, I like to dress it with 2/3 of the dressing, and reserve 1/3 to mix in right before serving.
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Be sure not to overcook the pasta, as it will become mushy when mixed with the dressing and vegetables.
To save time, you can chop the vegetables while the pasta is cooking.
Feel free to customize this pasta salad with your favorite vegetables, cheeses, or meats. Some great additions include artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, diced chicken, or fresh mozzarella.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 335Total Fat: 17.4gCarbohydrates: 37.3gFiber: 3.1gSugar: 4.4gProtein: 7.6g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
Bow tie pasta salad is a versatile, easy, and delicious dish that you can customize to your liking. It’s perfect for family gatherings, picnics, or a simple weekday dinner. I hope you and your family enjoy this salad as much as mine does.