This easy summer pasta salad recipe uses some of our favorite pasta shapes and the best vegetables currently in season. I’ve used a combination of both raw and pan-seared vegetables (for extra flavor and texture), prosciutto cotto (cooked ham), shrimp, and fresh mozzarella, plus a few of our favorite pickled and cured items to round it all out. Everything gets tossed together with a glug of extra virgin olive oil, fresh oregano, a couple of splashes of red wine vinegar, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and a little salt.
A perfect Mediterranean pasta salad recipe for midweek lunches or dinners, or even summer BBQs and picnics. As with most pasta salad recipes, this one can be customized with any ingredients you already have on hand, or with ingredients your family loves.
What’s Pasta Freddo?
Pasta freddo as it’s known in Italy is simply cold pasta, or homemade pasta salad but is most often made without any vinegar at all and instead uses fresh herbs and extra virgin olive oil, and really good ingredients for all of its flavors. This pasta salad recipe is somewhere right in between the best of both worlds using just enough acidity to brighten up the salad without it being overwhelmingly vinegary which some pasta salads tend to be.
Why We Love This Mediterranean Pasta Salad Recipe?
- It has both fresh and sautéed veggies in it for even more flavor and texture
- Sautéed shrimp, fresh mozzarella, prosciutto cotto, and olives add a variety of protein
- Artichokes, cornichons, and sun-dried tomatoes add natural acidity
- Cucumbers, celery, red bell peppers, and onions add crunch
- Trottole pasta (aka pigtail pasta) adds chewy al dente texture and soaks everything up beautifully
- This is an impressive pasta salad that also happens to be one of the easiest things you’ll ever make
- It travels well and is just as good eaten cold as it is at room temperature
Mediterranean Pigtail Pasta Salad w/Shrimp Ingredients
Making pasta salad is a great way to use up bits of pasta, vegetables, cured meats, cheeses, pickles, you name it. For us, the key to a great pasta salad is using ingredients that complement one another in both flavor and texture. So, I almost always end up pan-searing or blanching some of the vegetables and leaving some raw then add a protein or two along with some cured olives, artichokes, sun-dried cherry tomatoes, and something pickled.
- 10 ounces pasta (trottole, mini farfalle, orecchiete, mini pipe rigata pasta) (285g)
- 6 ounces fresh asparagus (8 spears), washed and trimmed (170g)
- 1 large carrot, julienned (3 1/2 ounces) (100g)
- 1 cucumber, peeled, cut in half, seeds scooped out and sliced (5 ounces) (150g)
- 1 stalk of celery, washed and diced
- 5 cornichons pickles, diced
- 1/2 cup frozen or fresh sweet peas (150g)
- 1/3 cup red bell pepper, diced (about 1/2 of a bell pepper) (85g)
- 1 shallot, diced (or scallions) (30g)
- 1/3 cup artichokes in oil, sliced into quarters (85g)
- 1/2 cup prosciutto cotto or deli ham, diced (4 ounces) (125g)
- 1/3 cup pitted black olives (3 ounces) (85g)
- 1 ounce sun-dried cherry tomatoes, sliced (about 2 tablespoons) (30g)
- 1/2 cup mini shrimp (or other shrimp), shells removed and deveined (125g)
- 1 ball of fresh mozzarella, cubed (1/2 cup) (100g)
Simple Pasta Salad Dressing
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, or white wine vinegar (8g)*
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (30g)
- freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste
- 6 to 8 sprigs of fresh oregano, or dried Italian spice blend to taste
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more or less to taste (4g)
- freshly cracked black pepper to taste (optional)
*This dressing provides just enough brightness to the pasta salad without it being overwhelmingly vinegary. The lemon juice helps to achieve a good balance of acidity and compliments all of the vegetables in this dish. If you love a vinegary pasta salad, feel free to increase the vinegar amount to suit your taste.
How to Make Mediterranean Pigtail Pasta Salad with Shrimp, Ham & Fresh Mozzarella
We like to make a batch of pasta salad on Sundays and get a few meals out of it throughout the week without ever having to heat up the kitchen or lift a finger to get dinner on the table. If you’re using multiple types of pasta instead of a single noodle type, be sure to first add the noodles that take the longest time to cook to the boiling water, then add the remaining noodles to the water in the order and time it takes for them to all cook. For this recipe, I drop the artisanal orecchiette first (which takes 15 minutes to cook), then after 7 minutes, I dropped the trottele (which takes 8 minutes to cook), then the mini farfalle, etc.
- Pan-sear the asparagus and carrots. Working in batches, heat a skillet to medium-high heat, drizzle a little olive oil in it, and just before it begins to smoke, add the asparagus in a single layer, season with salt, and cook without moving the spears until golden brown (about 3 minutes). Turn the spears over, add salt to taste, and cook until golden brown on the second side and bright green (about 3 to 4 minutes). Remove the spears to a plate. Drizzle the skillet with a little more olive oil and add the carrots in a single layer and cook until golden brown on the first side (about 2 minutes), toss them, cook for another 2 minutes, and add them to the plate with the asparagus.
- Pan-sear the shrimp. To the same hot skillet with a little olive oil drizzled in it, add the shrimp in a single layer and cook for about 2 minutes, or just until cooked through. Remove the shrimp to the plate with the asparagus and carrots to cool.
- Make the simple dressing. Add the vinegar, lemon juice, and salt to a small bowl and stir to dissolve the salt. Add the olive oil and set aside. There’s no need to whisk or emulsify the dressing because it all gets tossed into the salad anyway, so save yourself the work.
- Cook the pasta and the peas. To a pot of lightly salted boiling water, add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. During the last 4 minutes of cooking time, add the peas and cook until bright green and tender. Strain the pasta and peas and run them under cold tap water to cool them off and keep them from cooking further and add them to a large bowl.
- Assemble the pasta salad. Add all of the remaining ingredients to the bowl with the pasta and toss everything well to combine. You may serve it immediately, or allow it to chill in the refrigerator for a few hours and up to overnight, Enjoy!
A Few More Delicious Mediterranean Recipes You May Also Want to Try
Below are a few of our favorite Mediterranean recipes you may also want to make!
- How to Make Italian Caprese Salad (l’insalata Caprese)
- Prosciutto e Melone (Italian Ham and Cantaloupe Appetizers)
- Easy Authentic Italian Crostata di Marmellata (Italian Jam Tart)
- Classic Lasagna alla Bolognese (Authentic Italian Lasagna Recipe)
- Diver Scallops au Gratin (Capesante Gratinate)
- Italian Speck & Asparagus Lasagna (w/Asparagus Béchamel & Zucchini Crema)
- Mama A’s Eggplant & Zucchini Parmigiana (Pinterest & Food52 Golden Recipe Grand Prize Winner)
- Asparagus Risotto w/Pan-Seared Scallops & Crispy Prosciutto (Risotto con Asparagi, Speck Fritto e Capesante)