This Persian-inspired Gemelli Pasta Salad Recipe is fresh and delicious, with texture and umami to spare. Perfect anytime of year, this is the pasta salad that will have everyone coming back for seconds.
Pasta salad - that humble warrior of summertime cookouts, church potlucks and meal prep Sundays. You've served us faithfully for lo these many years. And we love you. But it's time for a refresh.
So today, we're giving you a past-due update. Makeover for macaroni. Transformation for tortellini. Fixer-upper for farfalle.
We'll start with a new shape - gemelli pasta. Gemelli comes from the Italian word for "twins" because of its shape, which resembles two tubes twisted together. It's a great shape for pasta salad because it holds its shape well and can scoop up all the savory sauce from your feta, olives and herbs.
One of the inspirations for this recipe was the talented Alison Roman who insists that the problem with pasta salad has been too much pasta, not enough salad. I concur. We resolve that challenge by adding lots of silky soft and slightly frizzled zucchini and scallions, and mountains of fresh herbs. Problem solved.
My second inspiration came from one of my favorite Persian restaurants in the world - Rumi's, in North Atlanta. With their mezze service, Rumi's brings fresh made pitas, along with a plate including chunks of salty, fresh feta, toasted walnuts, fresh tarragon, dill and mint, green olives and crisp, fresh radishes. On first glance, it's a colorful mishmash of flavors and textures. But when layered onto a fresh, warm pita, the flavor is nuanced and harmonious and unforgettable.
So I've taken all of those Persian flavors and tossed them into our gemelli pasta to complete our macaroni makeover.
Almost time for the reveal party - let's get started!
What you'll need to make this easy recipe of gemelli pasta salad:
- gemelli pasta
- extra virgin olive oil
- green onions
- green olives
- feta cheese
- fresh dill, tarragon and mint
- lemon juice
- salt and pepper
- red chilli flakes
(Full measurements and directions included in the printable recipe card below.)
Step by step instructions for making fresh herb gemelli pasta recipe:
Prepare pasta in a large pot of salted water, about a minute less than the cooking times outlined on the pasta packet directions. Drain the pasta from the salty cooking water, rinse in cold water and set the al dente pasta aside.
Heat olive oil in large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add chopped walnuts and cook until golden brown and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the walnuts, leaving the oil behind. Salt the walnuts and set aside.
To the hot oil (still over medium heat), add quartered and sliced zucchini, a good pinch of salt and black pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Sauté 6-8 minutes, then add the scallions. Continue sautéing the vegetables for another 8 minutes or so, until they are silky soft and a little browned.
Remove the pan of veggies from the heat and add crushed olives and lemon juice. Toss together and let the olives heat through. Add the sautéed vegetable mixture to the tender pasta and toss everything to coat.
Add about ¾ of the fresh torn herbs, feta cheese and roasted walnuts to the bowl. Toss and taste. Add additional salt and pepper.
Garnish with remainder of herbs, feta and walnuts.
Serve room temperature. Like most pasta dishes, this one gets better with time.
FAQ's and Serving Suggestions:
Burst cherry tomatoes would add delicious acidity and sweetness to this pasta dish. Yellow squash, earthy mushrooms, even sun-dried tomatoes would be lovely.
Almost any type of pasta or pasta shape will work with these flavors, including spiral pasta, bowties, shells, rigatoni and orzo.
It's the perfect side dish for a simple grilled shrimp skewer or with a bowl of caldo verde for a light summer meal. Mix in a can of quality tuna in olive oil (drained) and you'll have the best tuna pasta salad in the history of tuna.
Chunks of fresh parmesan cheese would be delicious and complement the nuttiness of the walnuts. Pine nuts would add richness, and if paired with fresh basil, add a deconstructed basil pesto vibe.
You can! I started this recipe with a general "1 cup of fresh herbs" but I love the dill, tarragon and mint combination and it adds such a unique flavor combination that I had to recommend this specific mix. But you can customize the herbs to your liking. It's the perfect way to use up any herbs losing their freshness in your produce drawer, or create a custom blend with your favorites. A little parsley (flat leaf, please!), fresh basil, fresh chives, cilantro - whatever you love should work.
To store, transfer to an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
This recipe post may contain affiliate links for products we know and love.
Check out some of our other delicious recipes:Print