The Best Quick And Easy Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad

The Best Quick And Easy Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad
Vegetarian

Do you know what I love? Healthy and easy weeknight dinners that can be made in under 30 minutes. If you are looking for healthy dinner ideas, you have come to the right place. My pasta salad with sun-dried tomatoes is quick, easy, and healthy and I can have it on my dinner table in under 20 minutes! Serve it with a piece of garlic bread and you have a perfect weeknight dinner.

This recipe is super versatile – you can use regular pasta, whole wheat pasta, chickpea pasta, or zoodles as the salad’s flavorful foundation. Tangy sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan cheese, spinach, and fresh lemon are the stars of this dish. You can add grilled chicken breast or sautéed shrimp to the salad for a protein kick. Or, you can serve it as is – it is that good. It is a great vegetarian or a Meatless Monday meal!

Please note, this post contains affiliate links which means I will receive a small commission on the sale of these items at no cost to you. 

A large bowl of sun-dried tomato pasta salad

Easy Weeknight Dinners

I am always looking for quick and healthy dinner ideas for weeknights. Our family is constantly on the go, especially during the week. So, instead of driving through a hamburger joint on the way home, I like to have a full arsenal of easy, healthy meals that I can throw together with minimal effort.

These easy meals need to come together in no more than 30-40 minutes OR they need to be easy to make ahead of time, so I can throw them in the oven right when we get home.

This pasta salad recipe requires minimal work. Cook your pasta and mix it with a quick sun-dried tomato dressing, parmesan cheese, and baby spinach. Easy-peasy!

Below are some of my other favorite easy weeknight dinners:

Trendgredient Alert: Sun-Dried Tomatoes

I feel like sun-dried tomatoes need more love. These tiny, tangy flavor bombs add a depth of flavor that is unparalleled. In addition to being scrumptious, they are incredibly healthy!

According to WebMD, sun-dried tomatoes “are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They have a particularly high concentration of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant.” Other foods that have lycopene are guavas, watermelon, grapefruit, and papayas, to name a few.

Sun-dried tomatoes are also a great source for Vitamin C, which helps build and maintain a strong immune system. They help with digestion, too! WebMD states that “just 100 grams of sun dried tomatoes has more than 40% of your daily recommended intake of dietary fiber.”

This recipe calls for an 8.5 oz. jar of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil. I love to add the whole jar, olive oil and all, because the olive oil has been infused with sun-dried tomato flavor.

You don’t have to use jarred sun-dried tomatoes, though. Did you know you can make your own sun-dried tomatoes at home? If you decide to make your own sun-dried tomatoes to use in this recipe, be sure to add an additional 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil to the dressing, so it can coat the pasta noodles.

Close up of sun-dried tomato pasta salad.

Sugar: A Controversial Ingredient

As you skim my recipe, you may notice that the dressing for this pasta salad calls for 1 tablespoon of sugar. I know, I know – how weird! Believe it or not, there is a reason behind adding sugar to this recipe. Also, it isn’t a huge amount of sugar, so it should not negatively impact the nutritional value much. If you are concerned about sugar, a sugar substitute may be used. Just be sure you measure the correct amount – not all sugar substitutes hold a 1:1 ratio with granulated sugar!

So, why put sugar in pasta salad? It actually has to do with the sun-dried tomatoes and the lemon. Both of these ingredients are bright, fresh, and tangy. However, they need a tiny bit of sweetness to mellow out their acidity.

Think about spaghetti sauce: it is not uncommon to find sugar in spaghetti sauce. Tomato-based sauces often contain sugar to cut the acidity of the tomato. Similarly, without sugar, the salad would be much more acidic. Its acidity would overpower the delicate saltiness of the parmesan cheese. Sugar also brings out the sweetness of the sun-dried tomatoes. So, take my word for it: add the sugar!

Easy Variations

I love writing recipes that are easy to tailor to your family’s needs and your pantry. That is the key to having your back-pocket list of easy weeknight dinners – flexibility. You don’t have to struggle to find healthy dinner ideas when you have a cache of recipes that can be customized to your needs.

Here are some variations on the ingredients of this recipe:

For a Protein Kick, Add:

  • Grilled Chicken
  • Sautéed Shrimp
  • Chickpeas – canned, drained

Fully Customizable Pasta Options:

  • Regular pasta – I prefer penne in this recipe
  • Whole wheat pasta – Again, whole wheat penne is my favorite here
  • Chickpea pasta – a trendgredient all on its own, this option is vegan and packed with plant-based protein
  • Zoodles – Another vegan option, you will need a spiralizer to make your own

For More Nutritional Value, Try Adding:

  • Artichoke hearts (drained)
  • Roasted Zucchini
  • Olives
  • Capers

Additionally, this dish does NOT have to be a dinner dish only! It is perfect to serve for lunch, for brunch, as a side dish, at a pot luck… the possibilities are endless!

A plate of sun-dried tomato pasta salad.

Essential Tools

Please note, this post contains affiliate links which means I will receive a small commission on the sale of these items at no cost to you. 

All of my posts contain my recommendations for essential tools. I have researched these tools. Many of them are already in my kitchen. The ones that are not come highly rated. I do the research so you don’t have to and I only recommend high-quality tools.

My essential tools when making this pasta salad recipe include the following:

A large bowl of sun-dried tomato pasta salad

The Best Quick And Easy Pasta Salad With Sun-Dried Tomato

Add this easy pasta salad recipe with sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan cheese, spinach, and lemon to your arsenal of easy weeknight dinners.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 11 mins
Total Time 16 mins
Course Dinner, Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Servings 8 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb. pasta cooked
  • 8.5 oz. jar sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
  • 1 large lemon zested and juiced
  • 1/8 cup olive oil extra virgin
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 5 oz. shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups baby spinach

Instructions
 

  • Cook pasta, per instructions on box. Chef's tip: for added flavor, cook pasta in water that has been salted (about 1-2 tbsp. of salt).
  • Make the dressing. In a large mixing bowl, stir together sun-dried tomatoes (including the olive oil in the jar), lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and granulated sugar.
  • Add cooked pasta, parmesan cheese, and spinach to the mixing bowl with the dressing. Combine thoroughly (spinach should wilt slightly and parmesan cheese should melt).
  • Serve warm or at room temperature.
Keyword Easy, Favorites, Meatless, Quick, Vegetarian


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