Fresh summer veggies are tossed with chilled pasta and a tangy lemon vinaigrette in this simple but satisfying pasta salad! This recipe comes together in under 30 minutes and is great for sharing or as a main dish.
- Cold pasta salad with colorful summer veggies and a tangy lemon vinaigrette
- Ready in just 30 minutes
- Light, refreshing and easy to customize
- No mayo or French dressing!
- Can easily be made in advance
If you like my pasta salad in a jar then you'll love this recipe!
What you'll need
- Rotini pasta or your favorite pasta shape. You can use protein pasta for extra protein, whole wheat pasta or gluten-free pasta to make this recipe gluten-free.
- Mozzarella pearls add a caprese feel with the basil and sliced cherry tomatoes.
- Chickpeas are my vegetarian protein of choice. White beans would also be a good option.
- Veggies: cucumber, orange bell pepper and sliced cherry tomatoes add a pop of color, texture and flavor. Red or yellow bell pepper also works, as do grape tomatoes in place of cherry tomatoes.
- Lemon vinaigrette: I recommend using a "nice" olive oil that you enjoy the flavor of because it is a strong flavor component of this recipe. This vinaigrette is similar to the one I use on my lentil salad recipe.
Step by step instructions
Boil the pasta in well-salted water. There are a few ways you can cool the pasta for the salad:
- Gently rinse until cold water until chilled
- Fill a large bowl with ice. Place pasta in a large bowl and set that bowl on the ice. This will work more quickly than refrigerating the pasta
- Make the pasta 1-2 hours in advance and let chill in the fridge
Make sure to toss the pasta with 2 tablespoons olive oil before chilling (this needs to be done for every method).
Make the vinaigrette by combining the shallots, lemon juice, lemon zest, white wine vinegar, olive oil, basil and salt. I like to make this before prepping the veggies so that the shallots can tenderize.
Prep the veggies and add to the chilled pasta.
Toss the vinaigrette and pasta salad ingredients together. Top with freshly ground black pepper, red pepper flakes and remaining basil. Enjoy chilled.
Expert tips and FAQ
- Sweetness: This is a tangy dressing. Start with one teaspoon agave syrup (or honey) and increase to taste.
- Pasta cooking tips: Cook the pasta to al dente. It should be cooked through but still have a bit of bite. Make sure to cook in well salted water so that the pasta itself is salted.
You can make the salad 24 hours in advance. You can also make the pasta in advance and prep the remaining ingredients the next day.
Making this a day in advance will help the flavors meld together but it's not necessary. I usually make pasta salads the day of for the most crisp veggies and to avoid any chance of sogginess.
For best quality keep covered and refrigerated for 3-4 days. Enjoy cold.
Before chilling in the fridge, toss the pasta with 2 tablespoons of olive oil to prevent it from sticking. If you're chilling the pasta under cold running water you can toss it with olive oil once its chilled.
Looking for more summer salads?
If you're looking for a creamy option you might like this vegan ranch pasta salad.
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Vegetarian Pasta Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
- 12 ounces dry rotini pasta see note #1
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium shallot finely chopped
- ¼ cup lemon juice from 1-2 large lemons
- ½ cup sliced fresh basil divided in half
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon agave syrup or honey more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
- ¼ teaspoon lemon zest from one lemon
- 1 medium English cucumber diced
- 1 medium orange bell pepper diced
- 8 ounces cherry tomatoes sliced in half
- 8 ounces mozzarella pearls
- 15 ounce can chickpeas drained and rinsed
- freshly ground black pepper for serving
- Cook pasta to al dente, according to package instructions, in well salted water. Drain and rinse until cold running water until chilled. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil. You can also refrigerate the pasta for 1-2 hours to chill it (make sure to toss with olive oil first).
- Meanwhile, prepare the vinaigrette. Combine the shallot, lemon juice, ¼ cup olive oil, ¼ cup fresh basil, white wine vinegar, honey, coarse salt and lemon zest in a small mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Let sit for at least 15 minute while you prepare the veggies.
- Prepare the cucumber, bell pepper and tomatoes. Toss with the chilled pasta, mozzarella pearls and the vinaigrette.
- Toss with the remaining ¼ cup fresh basil. Serve topped with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes and a crack of freshly ground black pepper.
- Rotini pasta is my go-to but any medium pasta shape works. You can use protein pasta, whole wheat pasta or gluten-free pasta.
- Make in advance: You can make the salad 24 hours in advance. You can also make the pasta in advance and prep the remaining ingredients the next day.
- Leftovers: For best quality keep covered and refrigerated for 3-4 days. Enjoy cold.