At work, I organize a quarterly potluck for my team in Oregon as a way for us to have time to decompress from our normal lunch routines and work day by socializing together, talking about how our projects are going and how our lives are going to connect professionally and personally. So, I’m always looking out for dishes that I can contribute that can be prepped at home the day before, can be cold or room temperature, and can be vegetarian and nut-free to accommodate some dietary restrictions. This Lemony Spinach and Pasta Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Feta Recipe is one I prepared last time.
So I can definitely tell you from experience that this dish is very easy to make, quick to prepare, and substantial enough to feed a group when you don’t know what everyone else is bringing. In this case I used vegetable pasta, but you can use regular pasta if you wish or gluten-free pasta, and you can use a variety of pasta shapes.
If you want to make this dairy-free as well you can cut out the feta for chopped olives instead to still have bit of slight salty kick and Mediterranean feel. For me, I served the feta on the side so people could choose whether to add it or not. You can also consider adding slivered almonds for texture, or if you want protein some diced grilled chicken.
Lemony Spinach and Pasta Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Feta Recipe
- 12 ounces pasta – penne, rotini, elbow, farfalle shapes all would work well, a shape you can stab with a fork
- 4 cups baby spinach (approximately – I used 4 handfuls!)
- 3 1/2 cups heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved – I like using both red and yellow tomatoes here. Alternately, you could use red tomatoes and for yellow add in some bell pepper.
- 1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
- 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice (approximately a juice of a large lemon)
- 3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
- First, cook your pasta in a pot of salted water until al dente and drain. Immediately rinse with ice cold water to cool the pasta, drain well and place in a large container that has room to toss in the other ingredients. I honestly had to use 2 mixing bowls, and then my final serving vessel to take to the potluck was a big 13×9 casserole dish from my mother-in-law.
- Now, add your 4 cups of baby spinach and the 3 1/2 cups of halved heirloom cherry tomatoes. You can also add in your 1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese now, or hold off and serve the feta on the side as an optional addition.
- In a bowl, whisk the 7 tablespoons of olive oil, 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, 3 tablespoons of whole grain mustard, 2 minced garlic cloves, and 2 teaspoons of grated lemon peel. Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
- Pour the dressing and now toss everything! Now you can put this in the fridge and you are all set to take it to your potluck or gathering the next day, and you can serve this cold or room temperature.
I like how the dressing has the brightness of the lemon, but a bit of bite from the garlic and bit of spiciness from the mustard. The bursts of cherry tomatoes and creamy slight salt from the feta make this a good flavor combination. The colors of the green, red, yellow and white looks great, and it’s healthy to make up for the inevitable stack of sweets that show up at a potluck, am I right?
This recipe is adapted from one on Epicurious for Lemon Pasta Salad with Tomatoes and Feta, but I added the spinach and ignored the bell peppers as I was upping the cherry tomatoes instead. Other versions I have seen include a Lemon Pasta Salad recipe from Food Network by the Neelys that use the same dressing but add asparagus, peas, and dill leaves instead of the spinach, so this is a very versatile pasta salad recipe.
I bought my cherry tomatoes, spinach, and feta from Costco – which meant I now had the unexpected consequence of a LOT of feta since the container was so large. I chose to use the feta in another potluck dish I’ll share in a future post.
Do you have a go to recipe for a potluck? What do you make?