A seriously delicious Greek Pasta Salad with homemade dressing that will have your mouthwatering for more.
I’ve always thought of myself as being somewhat worldly when it comes to food. I’ve done my fair share of globetrotting, eating around and in many cases immersing myself in enjoying what the locals are consuming wherever I travel. Of course, that doesn’t make me a food expert, but I’ve always felt familiar with a lot of foods from various cultures.
Then one day maybe 25 years ago, I was dining in a beautiful Napa Valley restaurant. Greek salad was on the menu. Greek salad? Never heard of it. Suddenly, the world felt very large. What’s in a Greek salad? What are Greek ingredients? I didn’t even really know.
As an aside, since that initial introduction to Greek salad I have been known to put together this Layered Greek Dip and this Greek Chicken Pasta. And goodness knows I love my Greek yogurt desserts (does that count, probably not). So I am no longer completely out of it.
In my own defense, I had never been to Greece. In fact, I still haven’t. But I ordered the salad after I read the promising description of greens, crunchy cucumbers, fresh feta cheese, summer gold tomatoes, and bits of sweet, red onion, all tossed in superb olive oil and vinegar and topped with meaty Kalamata olives from the Peloponnese region of Greece. Wait, what’s a Kalamata olive?
The Kalamata olive is now my favorite olive on the planet. Since that dinner almost 20 years ago, there are always Kalamata olives in my pantry or fridge, just waiting for me to top off that perfect salad. This is one of the reasons I love cooking for people — you just never know when or how you’re going to inspire someone with a new ingredient or dish. The chef in that restaurant has no idea how much that one, simple salad inspired 20 years of eating and creating recipes for me. I can only hope I’ve inspired some of you in the past seven years to try something different, a food or a technique that’s now your specialty.
It turns out the term “Greek Salad” — here in the United States and around the world — has a very loose interpretation. It can include all kinds of Greek-inspired ingredients without being deemed in authentic. In Greece, the salads don’t include greens and are usually a base of cucumbers with various seasonings and herbs, nothing like what the rest of the world calls “Greek salad.” They’re even referred to as “peasant” or “country” salads by the Greek population.
At my house, Greek pasta salad is king. I love tossing together all my favorite “Greek” and other ingredients into a bowl of high quality pasta and serving it as the perfect side dish to so many main courses. And yes, orecchiette is my favorite shape of pasta when it comes to serving this type of dish. In fact, the name of the pasta even feels Greek to me, even though it’s clearly Italian.
Fresh veggies, garbanzo beans and high quality feta cheese round out my pasta salad, making every bite a flavor explosion of epic proportions. This is not an exaggeration!
My favorite ingredient to finish off this recipe is fresh oregano leaves. At the moment, my garden is bursting with this fresh herb and nothing compares to the flavor it adds to every bite. Pick some up in the fresh produce section if you’re not growing it yourself. It really shouldn’t be left out of this recipe.
I hope you and your family enjoy this pasta salad for years to come. It feeds a crowd and will be perfect for your next gathering.
And why not serve this Greek Pasta Salad with other Greek dishes and have yourself an old-fashioned Greek fest. I surely wouldn’t mind enjoying this salad with this Very Greek Grilled Chicken or a few scoops of this Skinny Greek Seven Layer Dip. However, I’ve got my eye on these Greek Cucumber Noodles and this Greek Lemon Chicken Soup. Heck, this pasta salad might even be best as a side dish next to these Greek Lamb Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce.
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Greek Pasta Salad
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/8 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
- 1-1/2 teaspoons finely minced fresh garlic
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 2 (12 ounce) packages orecchiette pasta
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 3 cups chopped English cucumbers
- 30 grape tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
- 1/3 cup finely shopped red onion
- 7 ounces feta cheese, cubed or crumbled
- 1 (9.5 ounce) jar sliced Kalamata olives, drained
- 1-1/4 cups artichoke hearts marinated in oil, halves and quarters, chop them if too big
- 1/8 cup fresh oregano leaves
- For the dressing, add all ingredients to a quart-size mason jar and shake until fully combined. Let it sit for at least two hours so the flavors meld. The dressing can easily be made up to two days in advance and kept in the refrigerator.
- Cook the pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain and rinse well, making sure the pasta is cooled down and the shells aren't sticking together.
- When the pasta has cooled, transfer it to a large bowl and toss it with the dressing until fully combined. Add the garbanzo beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, feta cheese, olives, artichoke hearts and oregano leaves. Toss together with the pasta.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least four hours, or up to 24 hours.