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Best Italian Pasta Salad with Sun Dried Tomatoes

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Pasta salad is my favorite and this recipe for the Best Italian Pasta Salad is tops!! Loaded with fresh veggies like, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, spinach and dressed in a bright and simple balsamic vinaigrette!

It’s perfect to bring to your next picnic or potluck or make or use as meal prep, add a protein and enjoy the leftovers all week long. It saves beautifully and you can even make it ahead of time. In fact, it gets better with a little time.

Try tese other reader favorites! Bacon Balsamic Macaroni Salad or Italian Pasta Salad with Balsamic

Simple Ingredients

  • Bow tie pasta, cooked and drained in cold water
  • Sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
  • Red bell pepper, diced (or other color(s) if desired)
  • Black olives, sliced or try Kalamata or green olives too
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Baby spinach, chopped
  • Fresh basil, chopped

Dressing Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • White balsamic vinegar (I used white, but dark balsamic, or any other vinegar would taste yummy too.) *A little more or less depending on the strength of your olive oil
  • Kosher salt & Black Pepper
  • Sugar | I always use all natural cane sugar
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried basil
  • Garlic clove

This past weekend was our Family Reunion, which is my Dad’s side of the family. My grandparents were of hearty German-Prussian stock; married in 1912, they had 7 boys over the course of 19 years.

My dad; the youngest was born when my grandmother was 47, this was back in 1932! She used to tell the boys, “that’s when the bottom dropped out.” She had a great sense of humor!

white bowl filled with colorful Italian Pasta salad with bowtie pasta.


They raised their family through two World Wars; 2 of their boys serving in WWII; they survived the depression while raising a large family in a small two-bedroom house with an attic converted into a bunk room and watched our world change in ways we’ll probably never see again.

Close up of sun-dried tomato salad with dressing, basil and cheese.

In hindsight, I would have given anything to know my grandmother better; I was only 14 when she passed, my grandfather had passed away shortly after my parents married.

Knowing Your Family History

Ask questions of your elders; ask about what they remember from growing up, look at pictures together, talk about past world events, heritage, faith, hardships; we can learn so very much from them, it’s a lost art. That darned hindsight, always 20-20. In fact, we learned from this and have since been trying to capture video “interviews” if you will, of our parents and relatives to preserve some of this rich history.

Below are my grandparents circa 1910. I love this picture! A little smile on each of their lips and those hats!

My grandmother “Flo” born in 1885 and grandfather “Harry” born in 1891 (he lied about his age for years). Was it scandalous that she married a younger man and was “older” for that time period, marrying at 27? She held several jobs, was she a suffragette?

They went from horse and buggy to autos, from gas powered lighting to electricity, letters to telephones, radio, phonographs, and finally TV. From trains to air travel…all of the amazing inventions experienced in the 20th Century, things we certainly take for granted.

What a legacy they left their sons, they were not perfect, no, not one of us is, but I am so grateful for this heritage. I’m so glad that a couple of my Aunts decided we needed a family reunion back in 1991, we’ve been doing them ever since!

I thought I had heard just about everything about our family, but somehow I missed this gem! My great-Uncle Adolph (below) my grandfather’s oldest brother; fought in the Spanish-American war with Teddy Roosevelt! That’s a fun bit of family history!

Image of great Uncle who served in Spanish American War.

While most of our meals were provided by the Y (beautiful place to have a family reunion if you need one, YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park) we chose to eat our lunch in our meeting room.

I digress, back to the best Italian pasta salad (you thought I forgot what I was blogging about didn’t you…admit it!). This would be perfect for a large family gathering, it makes a lot, and it holds up well in less than ideal conditions. Plus it’s outta this world — hands down, delicious


Start by cooking your pasta al dente, follow your package instructions and cook on the lower side of recommended time. Rinse with cold water in a colander and toss into large bowl. Chop red bell pepper into small chunks, toss into pasta.

 Bow tie pasta cooked in bowl with chopped red pepper.

Drain sun-dried tomatoes (chopping if desired into smaller bite size pieces) and toss onto pasta. Or you may use sun-dried tomatoes that are not packed in oil. 

Jar of sun-dried tomatoes in background and another poured on top of the pasta salad.

Slice (if desired) your olives (I used black, but Kalamata or any other type would be yummy), toss onto pasta.

Sliced black olives on top of pasta salad.

For the most outrageous pasta salad, add grated Parmesan cheese.

Adding grated parmesan cheese to the pasta salad.


Add olive oil and white balsamic vinegar (or regular dark balsamic works too, it’ll just darken your pasta) to a mason jar with a lid, like this Loaded Italian Pasta salad.

Vinegar and oil in a jar for vinaigrette.

Measure sea salt, sugar, basil and oregano, and chopped garlic.

 Adding chopped garlic to dressing jar.

Cover with lid (this is why I love making my dressings in a mason jar) and shake like crazy to mix and even emulsify it a bit.

Shaken white balsamic vinaigrette in mason jar.

Pour over top of salad and gently toss mixing all ingredients well. Chill until ready to serve, best if it sits for an hour or several, even overnight.

Just prior to serving, chop fresh baby spinach and basil and stir into salad, adding a bright pop of green and nutrients.

Forkful of Italian Pasta Salad with bowtie pasta, basil, artichoke heart and sun-dried tomato on fork.

Please give these other summertime recipes a try:

Pin for Italian Pasta Salad with sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, olives and fresh basil.

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Kathleen Pope, The Fresh Cooky.

About Kathleen Pope

Recipe Innovator | Food Photographer | Food Writer

Hi, I’m Kathleen Pope. Here at The Fresh Cooky you will find easy, mostly from-scratch, trusted recipes for all occasions. From speedy dinners to tasty desserts, with easy step-by-step instructions. I am here to help teach you how to make mouthwatering recipes without spending hours in the kitchen. Read more about Kathleen here.

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  1. 5 stars
    Brought this delish salad to a holiday lunch and it was a hit. Made it the night before and then added the fresh basil and spinach just before serving. Adding those fresh ingredients really helped round out the flavors that had marinated the night before. We enjoyed leftovers the next day and they were just as tasty! Easy to adjust ingredients based on what you like and have on hand.

  2. This pasta salad hit the spot! I reorganized our pantry and found a jar of sun dried tomatoes that I had forgotten about and this was the perfect way to use them!

  3. So, you had my stomach at artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes…but then, you captured my heart with the story of Flo and Harry! What a wonderful story. Like you, my dad’s family hails from Germany as well and had a hardscrabble life during the depression as immigrants.

    Our family histories are invaluable …how wonderful that your aunt is keeping the family together.


  4. We made this this week for having a summer party in the backyard. Just the family. It was great. Easy to make and delicious. The family loved it. It’s been so hot lately that it was great to have a summer pasta.

  5. That looks delicious! I was quite lucky to have my grandparents alive most of my life but I still feel like I didn’t really appreciate all that they lived through and learned until I was much older and even then I regret things like not getting my memere’s mac and cheese recipe (she made one with canned whole tomatoes that I just loved).

    1. Thank you Joanne! It’s so true about our family, the adage of youth is wasted on the young is so true! The wisdom we gain as we get older…sigh. Wonder if you could piece together your mermere’s mac and cheese. I love tomatoes on my grilled cheese, sounds lovely in a mac!