This colorful Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad is loaded with marinated fresh mozzarella, olives, grape tomatoes, and goat cheese all tossed in a flavor-packed sun-dried tomato dressing. This is one delicious side dish!
It’s funny how the weather has a direct connection to my belly. I’ve been so affected by the summer-like temps around these parts that I’ve been whipping all kinds of warm weather fare, including this amazingly easy and amazingly delicious Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad.
The hardest part of putting this salad together is waiting for the pasta to boil. Once that’s done, it literally takes just minutes to toss together. The secret to the BIG flavor is in the dressing.
Table of contents
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing – The seriously flavorful dressing consists of a jar of sun-dried tomatoes in oil, extra virgin olive oil, whole garlic cloves, red wine vinegar, and a little Dijon mustard
- Pasta – My favorite choice for this salad is a spiral pasta like fusilli or rotini. The ridges hold on to the dressing and it looks so pretty. You can substitute another short pasta like penne or bowtie pasta if you’d like.
- Marinated mozzarella – Look for marinated fresh mozzarella balls in the deli/gourmet cheese section of the grocery store. They are so great in salads!
- Tomatoes – Either red cherry or grape tomatoes and a burst of color and sweet flavor.
- Olives – A can of medium black pitted olives. If you aren’t a fan of olives, see below for some tasty variations.
- Cheese – Trust me on this, crumbled goat cheese is absolutely heavenly with this sun-dried tomato dressing. My store carries containers of crumbled goat cheese in the deli/groumet cheese section but you can also buy a log and crumble it up yourself. Crumbled feta cheese or grated Parmesan cheese can be substituted, if you’d like.
- Fresh basil – Adds a summery burst of freshness.
You can add or substitute any ingredients that suit your fancy. So many things work well in this salad.
- Mediterranean-inspired: Add some sliced cucumber, bell peppers, artichokes, red onion, and Kalamata olives to the salad.
- Spicy kick: Add a pinch of red pepper flakes to the sun-dried tomato dressing for a little heat.
- Nuts: Toss in some toasted pine nuts or chopped walnuts for a crunchy texture.
- Protein: Make it a meal by adding grilled chicken, steak, or seafood.
- Fresh greens: Mix in a handful of baby spinach or arugula to add even more color and texture.
How to Make Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad
Before beginning, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Transfer to a colander and rinse with cool water to quickly bring it to room temperature. The pasta should be cool to the touch before tossing it with the other ingredients.
- Make the Dressing: Add the sun-dried tomatoes along with all of the oil from the jar to the bowl of a food processor. Add the olive oil, garlic, vinegar, and mustard and process until smooth. The dressing will be thick and paste-like but will coat the pasta nicely.
- Assemble the Pasta Salad: Toss the cooked and cooled pasta with the sundried tomato dressing, then add the remaining ingredients. Reserve half of the goat cheese and the basil to garnish the salad just before serving.
Make-Ahead – You can make this salad several hours in advance. Just cover and refrigerate it after assembling. When ready to serve, toss, and garnish with goat cheese and basil.
Leftovers – Transfer leftovers to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 to 4 days.
More Summer Pasta Salads You’ll Love
- Chicken Avocado Pasta Salad
- Orzo Salad with Spinach and Feta
- Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad
- Asian Pasta Salad
- Check out my entire collection of salad recipes for more summer inspiration.
Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad
For the Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing
- 8 ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes in oil
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 to 2 cloves garlic, (1 large or 2 small)
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
For the Pasta Salad
- 1 pound dry spiral pasta, fusilli or rotini
- 12 ounces marinated fresh mozzarella balls, drained well
- 1 heaping cup red cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 6 ounce can medium black pitted olives, drained (don’t slice)
- 4 ounces crumbled goat cheese, divided
- ⅓ cup chopped fresh basil
Make the Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing
- Add the sundried tomatoes along with all of the oil from the jar to the bowl of a food processor. Add the olive oil, garlic, vinegar, and mustard and process until smooth. The dressing will be thick and paste-like.
Make the Pasta Salad
- Boil the pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain and then rinse with cold water until cool. Drain very well and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
- Toss the cooled pasta with the sundried tomato dressing, mixing until completely incorporated.
- Add the remaining ingredients through the goat cheese; reserving half of the goat cheese for garnish. Toss together. If making ahead, cover and refrigerate.
- Just before serving, toss with the basil and garnish with the remaining goat cheese crumbles.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated using generic ingredients, and is an estimate not a guarantee. For more accurate results, please refer to the labels on your ingredients at home.
This post was originally published on March 28, 2015. It has been updated with new text and images.