This balsamic pasta salad is super easy to throw together because it features jarred ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and roasted red peppers. It is popping with briny and zesty flavor and it comes together in just about 30 minutes!
I really struggled to come up with a name for this pasta salad because it is a lot of things. Just like my couscous salad, it's tangy from a simple balsamic vinaigrette. But it's not a classic veggie pasta salad because instead of freshly chopped vegetables it features marinated vegetables.
Roasted red peppers, marinated artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, and sundried tomatoes pack a huge punch of tangy, briny flavor that you just don't find in most pasta salads.
- Filled with tangy, briny, and acidic flavors balanced out by crisp cucumber, bowtie pasta, and French green lentils.
- Quick & easy: Ready in just about 30 minutes with very minimal chopping required. This pasta salad only requires a few minutes of active time to make!
- Veggie-packed: Cucumber is the only fresh vegetable in this pasta salad, but we're also using marinated artichokes and roasted red peppers.
- Balanced: This pasta salad features plant-based protein, carbs, veggies, and healthy fats, making it a great lunch option.
- Pasta: I prefer short pasta shapes like bowtie or penne for pasta salads. Use your favorite gluten-free pasta to make this recipe gluten-free.
- French green lentils: I like to use these lentils in pasta salads because they hold their shape well, but regular brown or green lentils also work. Canned lentils are a good time-saving option.
- Roasted red pepper: Choose roasted red pepper strips.
- Artichoke hearts: Choose quartered marinated artichoke hearts. While canned artichoke hearts work, the marinated kind are much more flavorful.
- Sun-dried tomatoes: I use julienned sun-dried tomatoes from a bag, but sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil also work.
- Kalamata olives: Feel free to omit these if you don't like olives. Choose pitted, sliced olives.
- Balsamic vinegar and olive oil: Because these two ingredients contribute a lot of flavor, I recommend choosing a "good" olive oil and balsamic if you are able. They don't have to be the most expensive, but I don't recommend choosing the least expensive ones either.
Step by step instructions
This balsamic pasta salad is downright simple. Cook the pasta and lentils, and while those cook prep the cucumber and parsley.
Cook the pasta to al dente. Drain off the water and toss the pasta with olive oil. This step ensures that the pasta pieces don't stick to each other.
Add the balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Toss to combine.
Add the remaining ingredients to the pasta salad. It's okay if some of the marinade or packing oil from the veggies gets added to the salad.
Toss to combine. Add a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper.
- Because this pasta salad is very lightly dressed, the pasta will absorb some of the vinaigrette. Leftovers are best with an extra drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
- For a completely chilled pasta salad, either prep the pasta and lentils in advance or cover the pasta salad and let it chill in the fridge for 2-3 hours.
- For more flavorful lentils, cook them in vegetable broth in place of water.
- If you're not a fan of lentils or are short on time, add a can of chickpeas or white beans instead.
How to make ahead
- Cook the lentils up to 2-3 days in advance. Rinse under cool running water, then transfer to a closed container. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Cook the pasta up to 24 hours in advance. Toss with olive oil before covering and refrigerating.
- Assemble the pasta salad up to 24 hours in advance, omitting the balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. Chill until ready to use. Toss with balsamic vinegar and lemon juice before serving.
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Balsamic Pasta Salad
- 8 ounces bowtie pasta
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup dry French lentils see note #1
- 2 cups water or vegetable broth
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest from one lemon
- 6 ounces marinated and quartered artichoke hearts without the liquid
- ½ cup roasted red pepper strips
- 1 and ½ ounce sun-dried tomato strips half of a 3 ounce bag
- 1 medium cucumber diced into quarters
- ¼ cup sliced kalamata olives pit removed
- 4 ounce block of feta crumbled
- ¼ cup roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- salt to taste
- Cook bowtie pasta in well salted water until al dente. Once cooked, add drained pasta to a large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil.
- Meanwhile, cook the lentils. Combine lentils, water, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer until lentils are cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Drain off excess water.
- To the cooked pasta, add ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
- Stir in the drained lentils, drained artichoke hearts, roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomato strips, cucumber, kalamata olives, crumbled feta, and parsley.
- Toss to combine. Taste for balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Add freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste. Enjoy as a warm salad, or cover and transfer to the fridge to chill for 2 hours before serving.
- Lentils: Green or brown lentils also work. I don't recommend using orange or red lentils.
- Make ahead option: Lentils can be cooked up to 3 days in advance and pasta can be cooked and tossed with oil up to 24 hours in advance. Assemble the pasta salad up to 24 hours in advance, omitting the balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. Chill until ready to use. Toss with balsamic vinegar and lemon juice before serving.
- Leftovers: Keep refrigerated and enjoy within 3-4 days. Leftovers are best with an extra drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.