Looking for an interesting make ahead lunch option that’s nutritious, filling, and easy – and that isn’t a sandwich? Then this meal prep Mediterranean penne pasta salad is for you!
Hands up if you quickly get bored of having sandwiches for lunch?
I certainly do, but usually I have neither the time, ideas, or inclination to make anything fancier.
It’s enough to get a decent dinner on the table every day!
The fanciest I ever get is having leftovers from the night before for lunch. That feels like a real score!
Which is why I’m feeling pretty smug that I came up with this Mediterranean penne pasta salad.
I’m not usually the biggest fan of pasta salads, but I thought I’d try to make one that I would really like.
What usually puts me off pasta salads is the carb overload. There always seems to be far too much pasta to chew through compared to all the other bits.
So what this Mediterranean penne pasta salad has is LOADS of vegetables. Deliciously caramelised roasted vegetables, to be exact.
This pasta salad also has:
- a generous amount of tasty basil pesto
- a bit of crunch from toasted pine nuts
- a scattering of fresh mint (from our garden! It’s taking over, as mint tends to do, so we really need to eat plenty of it before the caterpillars do!)
- a sprinkle of feta cheese because, well, feta cheese… (you know I can’t help it)
I’ll admit it takes a bit of time to chop up all the veggies, but once you’ve done that it’s just a case of cooking the pasta and tossing everything together.
A perfect meal prep lunch!
Now for the best part…
This Mediterranean penne pasta salad keeps really well in the fridge for quite a few days. Which means it makes a perfect make-ahead lunch.
Meal prep is a big thing right now, and after making this I can see why. How smug do you feel when you reach inside the fridge and grab a healthy and delicious lunch that you’ve prepared yourself?
Very smug, if you’re me 😉
This pasta salad recipe makes 4 big portions, so you can make a meal for the whole family or lunch for yourself for almost a whole week.
What to serve with your pasta salad
This also makes a great dinner side dish. We sometimes have it with baked fish or roast chicken, but it would be just as good just by itself.
Try it alongside these delicious and very easy halloumi kebabs with chorizo and tomatoes and honey lime dressing (seriously, it’s a party in your mouth), these easy baked chicken thighs, crispy panko chicken (a crowd pleaser!) or this legendary crustless quiche (aka impossible quiche!).
It’s also a great salad to take along to parties or BBQs. It’s super easy to prepare ahead, and doesn’t spoil or need to be kept warm.
Make it your own
You can include whatever veggies you happen to have, you can replace the pine nuts with another kind of nut (like walnuts or pecans), or just leave the nuts out altogether.
You can scatter with a different kind of cheese, or don’t scatter with cheese at all.
Special diet requirement? Use gluten free or whole wheat pasta, or pesto without cheese and egg-free pasta if you’re vegan.
I like to use penne pasta, but use a different kind of pasta if you like.
Adapt this Mediterranean penne pasta salad recipe all you wish to your family’s likes and dislikes!
I’m also not ashamed to admit that I usually use a good quality pre-made pesto for this recipe. In this case I don’t see the point in making extra work for myself!
What kind of container should I use?
If I’m making this ahead for lunches during the week, I like to use glass meal prep containers like these ones. They’re good for fridge, oven, microwave, and freezer!
More pasta salads you might enjoy
- This orzo salad with feta, asparagus and chickpeas is off-the-charts delicious. It also makes a great meal prep lunch option!
- Another orzo salad – spinach, pesto and parmesan orzo salad. Makes a great side dish!
- This amazing pasta alla norma (eggplant and tomato pasta) is great hot or cold! Serve as a BBQ side, or take to work for lunch.
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Mediterranean penne pasta salad (meal prep)
Ingredients (UK/Australia? Click below for grams/ml)
- 3 bell peppers chopped into small pieces (1 green, 1 yellow, 1 red if possible) Australia = capsicum
- 1 zucchini sliced (I then quarter each slice)
- 1 eggplant chopped into small cubes
- 7 ounces mushrooms chopped into small pieces (I used 4 medium brown mushrooms)
- 9 ounces cherry tomatoes halved
- olive oil for cooking
- 10.5 ounces penne pasta dried
- 2/3 cup pesto
- 4 tablespoons Greek yogurt optional – for a little creaminess!
For sprinkling (optional but highly recommended)
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts (buy pre-toasted, or lightly toast in a dry frying pan, shaking every now and again)
- crumbled feta cheese
- a little chopped fresh mint
- Preheat the oven to 430F / 220C.
- Line 2 to 3 large baking trays with baking paper and scatter all of the vegetables except the tomatoes over the baking trays in a single layer.
- Drizzle with a little olive oil, then toss well with your hands. Sprinkle with plenty of salt and pepper, then roast for 15 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes to the tray. Roast for another 15 to 20 minutes until slightly browned and caramelised.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package instructions (8 to 10 minutes).
- Drain the pasta and tip it into a large bowl. Tip in the vegetables and stir through the pesto and yogurt (if using).
- Sprinkle with the pine nuts, feta and mint just before serving.
This may be a dumb question… but do you eat this hot or cold? Thanks 🙂
Hi Megan! Not a dumb question at all! I usually serve it cool or cold as a pasta salad – so it’s great for lunch boxes, parties, summer sides etc. But there’s nothing wrong with eating it hot if you prefer. I’d still serve it as a side with a protein, but of course it’s up to you. Enjoy!
I absolutely love this recipe!! I replace the regular penne pasta with banza penne or quinoa and it still tastes great!! If I do the quinoa option I will serve it under salmon or grilled chicken. Great for a quick lunch or dinner side!
Hello Rachel! Thank you so much for letting me know! I love the idea of using quinoa instead of pasta. In fact I’m going to try that too. Thank you for the idea!
Wow!!! Im so glad i discovered this!!! I tried it with red pesto and it was delicious! Thank you for your amazing recipe!
Oh yes, it’s extra delicious with red pesto. Thanks so much for the feedback, Kerime!
i made this yesterday and had it for lunch today. so delicious! left out all the optionals because i’m trying to manage my budget but it was still really good. and i felt really healthy eating all the veggies. just wanted to check if i’m able to keep them for four days in the fridge? as i have plenty of leftovers!
Hi Sarah! I’m so glad you enjoyed this. Yes, there are tons of veggies in, right. Tasty, AND you feel really smug! And yes to keeping it in the fridge for four days. It’ll be fine!! Merry Christmas!
Anthony Allen says
This is a delicious salad. The vegetables have that great grilling flavor. It does take a bit of time but it is well woth the effort. I have taken it to two different parties this holiday and EVERYONE raved about it and asked for the recipe!!!🙂 Thanks so much for sharing!
Anthony, this message has truly made my day. I’m so glad this was such a rip roaring success and thank you so much for taking the time to let me know. It means a lot!
Happy Thanksgiving! (I’m assuming you’re in the US!)
I love this kind of simple, delicious meal that’s LOADED with flavor! We’ll be trying this soon, Helen!
Thanks Marissa! I really hope you do try it. I think it’s right up your street! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!
Yup, I love the veggie to pasta ratio! This salad would be perfect for my lunches next week!!
So glad you like it, Liz! Thanks so much for leaving a review!
Love all the bright flavors.
Thanks Suzy! Hope you try it!
Wilhelmina Wessel says
This pasta salad is one that I could happily eat every day! Love this!
I pretty much DO eat it every day after I’ve made a big batch. Don’t mind at all!