Italian-Inspired Gluten Free Pasta Salad Recipe
How to Make Gluten Free Pasta Salad with Mozzarella, Sweet Peppers & Edamame
Colorful, convenient, and satisfying—this vegetarian gluten free pasta salad recipe is perfect for packed lunches or less-stress meals at home! Made with mozzarella and shelled edamame, it’s a meatless lunch with plenty of protein, as well as loads of nutritious veggies. Between the sweet peppers, tomato, olives, and basil, it’s full of Italian inspired flavor and easy to make with your choice of gluten free pasta.
Cold gluten free pasta salad is one of my go-to meal prep lunches. Not only can I keep it in the fridge all week, but I can also serve and enjoy it cold. Plus, with this recipe, I get a meal that’s also nourishing and satisfies me like a real sit-down lunch. Tossed in a simple dressing of olive oil and red wine vinegar, alongside that fresh basil and some dried oregano, there’s plenty of scrumptious Italian flair!
And, if you’re not a fan of the specific vegetables I’ve used in this Italian gluten free pasta salad recipe, but don’t be afraid to get creative with your favorites instead. Swap the raw sweet peppers for roasted red peppers, add chopped broccoli instead of tomatoes, replace the edamame with chickpeas—make this lunch your own!
What is the best gluten free pasta brand?
My best recommendation is this: look for an option with a shorter, simpler ingredients list. You can find many GF pastas out there with just “brown rice and quinoa” or just “chickpeas” in the ingredients list! For this healthy gluten free pasta salad recipe, I personally used a brown rice and quinoa fusilli from Thrive Market. In general, I like rice-based gluten free pastas because they tend to be sturdier and hold up better after cooking, relative to many bean pastas.
But, I do also love chickpea pasta and lentil pasta, from brands like Banza and Barilla. Both of these options can also work great in this recipe, as well as add some additional protein! Chickpea pasta is actually my #1 favorite gluten free pasta, but primarily for warm pasta dishes like chickpea mac and cheese. And red lentil pasta can add some fun color and brightness to a dish, like my Hawaiian vegan pasta salad recipe!
How can I make gluten free pasta taste better?
Generally, I think gluten free pastas taste pretty great! (Full disclosure: I am not a traditional pasta aficionado.) However, the issue with many gf pastas is often the texture. Cook for too little time, and the texture can be overly tough or chewy. Or, cook for too much time, and the pasta can become overly soft, gummy, and might fall apart. Neither result is ideal, so here’s what I recommend:
Always undercook gluten free pasta by 1-2 minutes!
When cooking gluten free pasta of any kind, I recommend cooking the pasta for 1-2 minutes less than indicated on the box. So, in this gluten free pasta salad recipe for example, my brown rice and quinoa pasta instructs me to cook for 7-9 minutes. Instead, I cook it for about 6 minutes before draining it, and then rinse with cool water to stop the cooking process.
How do you know when gluten free pasta is done?
Ideally, check the doneness of your gluten free pasta with taste rather than the cook time alone. The noodles should be fully cooked through, but not mushy or gummy. A bit of firmness is a good thing, since you’ll toss the noodles into your vegetarian gluten free pasta salad shortly!
To check your pasta’s doneness, bite into one of the noodles and look at it. If there’s a dark spot in the center of the noodle, or if the color isn’t consistent all the way through, it’s not cooked through yet. You want the color and texture to be the same all the way through the noodle!
Should you rinse gluten free pasta?
For this gluten free pasta salad recipe, yes—rinse your pasta after cooking. Pour the pot of cooked pasta and water into a colander, then rinse with cool water. Toss lightly to ensure that you rinse all of the noodles. This will help to stop the cooking process. Then, allow it to drain completely and give it a toss in a bit of oil while it sits to prevent sticking!
In some cases, particularly when you’re cooking pasta for a dish involving sauce, rinsing is not always a good idea because it can affect how the sauce adheres to the pasta. But for an Italian gluten free pasta salad like this, with just a simple oil and vinegar dressing, the rinsing isn’t an issue. It will just help to cool your pasta down sooner, so you can assemble your cold pasta salad straight away!
Vegetarian Gluten Free Pasta Salad Recipe Notes
Pasta salad is a go-to meal prep lunch for me because it’s easy to prep, convenient to pack and serve cold, and it’s so versatile. Don’t feel limited to the ingredients I’ve chosen in the recipe below. Get creative with your gluten free pasta salad and switch things up however you like! Here are some ideas for ingredient swaps & substitutions:
- Gluten Free Pasta Noodles—I like brown rice and quinoa pasta for a cold pasta salad recipe like this, but you can also use chickpea pasta, red lentil pasta, or whichever variety of GF pasta noodles you prefer.
- Edamame—a nice addition for color, texture, and plant-based protein! You’re welcome to substitute a different bean like chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, or anything you like.
- Vegetables—the peppers, tomatoes, and olives give this Italian pasta salad it’s flavorful flair! Of course, you can experiment with different veggies to switch things up. Try roasted red peppers, chopped broccoli, arugula or spinach, cucumber, or get creative with fruits like grapes or diced apple!
- Mozzarella—I personally love the mozzarella balls in this gluten free pasta salad recipe, but there are got loads of other options. Swap them out for crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese if you prefer, or you can omit them altogether for a vegan pasta salad!
- Basil—an essential for that Italian inspired flavor palette! If you’re not a fan, try a different herb like parsley, or just omit the fresh herbs and stick with oregano.
- Olive Oil & Vinegar—this is a classic, simple dressing option, but don’t be afraid to mix things up! I also like to serve my vegetarian pasta salad in a pesto yogurt dressing every once in a while. For this recipe, I’d toss everything in a mixture of ~¼ cup pesto + ¼ cup plain yogurt.
You can see how this recipe is made in my Vegetarian Bento Box Lunches video!
Vegetarian Gluten Free Pasta Salad Recipe
Gluten Free Pasta Salad
- 8 oz brown rice & quinoa pasta any shape, or GF pasta of choice ¾ cup edamame, shelled½ cup mini sweet peppers, sliced½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved/quartered½ cup kalamata olives, sliced½ cup fresh mozzarella balls¼ cup fresh basil, chopped (or parsley)2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil1 Tbsp red wine vinegarpinch of saltpinch of pepperpinch of oreganochopped parsley, for topping
- Cook pasta according to package directions. (With gluten free pastas, I recommend cooking for ~1 minute less than box calls for. This results in less sticky/gummy pasta!)
- Drain pasta once cooked and rinse in cold water. Drizzle with a bit of oil and toss so it doesn’t stick.
- Once cooked pasta is cool, combine all Italian pasta salad ingredients in a large bowl. Toss well to coat.
- Serve and enjoy immediately, or store for later. Best after sitting overnight!
- Store in airtight container(s) in the fridge for up to a week.
- Yields ~7 cups gluten free pasta salad.