Pack This Bright & Zesty Pasta Salad for Every Spring Picnic in Your Future

Olives, artichokes, lemons, & so much parm.

By Camille Styles
spring pasta salad with olives, lemon, and artichokes, casa zuma canyon ceramic plate

Everyone needs a delicious spring pasta salad in their repertoire. There’s something about a colorful, packable pasta that just tastes like beach days and picnics in the park. That said, the family reunion-style macaroni salad, made with mayo and highly questionable when served at room temperature, is a hard pass for me. Thankfully, today’s recipe is a far cry—made with green olives, artichoke hearts, lemons, and tons of shaved parm, it’s got that zesty, briny, salty punch that elevates this to summer dinner party status. Read on to see how this very green, spring pasta salad comes together, plus a few tips for pasta salad success.

My inspiration for this pasta salad actually came from one of my favorite pizzas at Gjelina, IMHO the best Italian spot in LA. It’s got green olives, guanciale (an Italian cured meat), and chiles for heat, and the combo is absolutely addictive. I wanted to achieve that same flavor profile in pasta form, swapping in crispy crumbled bacon for the guanciale and parmesan instead of the mozzarella. The goal? To get that delicious combination of flavors in every single perfect bite.

spring pasta salad with olives, lemon, and artichokes_high protein high fiber smoothie
spring pasta salad with olives, lemon, and artichokes - blender, camille cooking in kitchen

How to make this spring pasta salad

A recipe that’s made for breezy warm weather gatherings should be just as breezy to make, so I created this pasta salad to be super easy—you can toss it together in less than 30 minutes.

First, I put my pasta water on to boil, since I want to cook the pasta and let it cool down a bit before I add it to the rest of our ingredients.

While the pasta is cooking, I make the bright zingy dressing by adding parsley, lemon zest and juice, shallot, garlic, and olive oil to a blender. I thin it a little with hot water, then blend it up and store in a mason jar until I’m ready to use it.

spring pasta salad with olives, lemon, and artichokes

I grab the biggest serving bowl I’ve got, add my cooked and drained pasta, then toss in our green olives, artichokes, crumbled bacon, and pistachios (that crunch is absolutely essential.)

Next I drizzle on a big pour of our green dressing along with some salt and pepper, toss it around until each piece of pasta is lightly coated, then add handfuls of arugula and a ridiculous amount of shaved parmesan. Toss it again, add as much heat with red pepper flakes as you like, and it’s ready to roll.

spring pasta salad with olives, lemon, and artichokes, casa zuma wood salad bowl_spring ingredients for gut health
spring pasta salad with olives, lemon, and artichokes

Bring it to a potluck or picnic

I often get questions from you guys about what dishes to bring to a gathering, and this pasta salad happens to make the perfect potluck side.

For one, it can be made completely in advance, and holds up beautifully when transported. Back in my catering days, I quickly learned which dishes taste just as good after sitting on a buffet for an hour, versus those that got sad and wilty. Pasta salads proved to be one of the heartier options, and the ingredients in this one really lend themselves to hanging out for awhile.

This is also a really versatile dish that’s a crowd pleaser with kids and adults alike. I made it for a pool party last weekend, and everyone went back for seconds and took home leftovers. It’s full of veggies and makes a delicious side dish with grilled chicken or steak, but it’s also filling enough to stand in as a main course.

spring pasta salad with olives, lemon, and artichokes, casa zuma wood salad bowl, casa zuma plate

Tips for success

Here are a few things to know that will make this recipe a home run.

What to serve with this spring pasta salad

For a simple weeknight dinner, this pasta salad is hearty enough to be a one-dish meal—pair with a glass of chilled rosé and it’s officially spring.

For a gathering, I love to grill some marinated chicken, salmon, or steak, and serve this alongside. Since it’s packed with veggies and pasta, it’s the only side dish you need.

How to store leftovers

I can say from experience that this pasta salad is just as delicious the next day—just store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge, and serve cold or room temp.

Ideas for swaps and modifications

This pasta salad is the perfect dish for riffing based on what’s in season and your personal preference. A few ideas:

  • Make it vegetarian by omitting the bacon.
  • Turn it into an antipasto salad by adding those tiny balls of fresh mozzarella.
  • Swap in any green veggies for the olives and artichokes—blanched sugar snap peas, grilled zucchini, or lightly cooked broccoli would all be delicious additions.
  • You can use any short pasta—gemelli, fusilli, or even penne all work great in this dish.
spring pasta salad with olives, lemon, and artichokes, casa zuma canyon ceramic plate

Other spring pasta salads you’ll love:

We obviously love warm weather pasta salads around here, and these are a few other favorites from our archives:

Green Goddess Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad with Feta and Tahini Dressing

Grilled Veggie Pasta Salad

Scroll on for the recipe, and if you make this spring pasta salad, be sure to leave a rating and comment below.

clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
spring pasta salad with olives, lemon, and artichokes, casa zuma canyon ceramic plate

Lemony Spring Pasta Salad with Olives, Artichokes, and Bacon

  • Author: Camille Styles
  • Total Time: 30
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x


Pack this bright and zesty spring pasta salad for every picnic all season. Super easy to toss together, it’s bursting with vegetables and so much flavor.


Units Scale
  • 1 pound cavatappi or other curly short pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • 1/2 cup green olives, halved (I buy pitted Castelvetrano or Cerignola)
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted and salted pistachios
  • 23 strips crispy bacon, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup Artichoke hearts, quartered
  • Spring Green Dressing (below)
  • 2 cups arugula
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • red pepper flakes, to taste
  • lots of freshly grated parmesan, to taste

For the green dressing:

  • 1/2 bunch parsley
  • 2 lemons, zest and juice
  • 1/2 shallot
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp hot water
  • Salt and pepper


  1. First make the dressing by combining all ingredients in a blender. Store in a mason jar in the fridge until ready to use.
  2. Add the cooked pasta to a large serving bowl.
  3. Add the olives, pistachios, bacon, artichoke hearts, and a big drizzle of the dressing. 
  4. Toss well to combine—add more dressing if needed.
  5. Add the arugula, red pepper flakes, and parmesan. Give it a light toss, taste for seasoning.
  6. Serve, passing more red pepper flakes and parmesan at the table.


  • You can make this pasta salad ahead—combine all ingredients and store in the fridge until ready to serve.
  • Use any short pasta you like: gemelli, fusilli, cavatappi, or penne all work great.
  • Feel free to make it vegetarian by omitting the bacon.
  • Double or triple the recipe to serve a crowd.
  • Prep Time: 30
  • Cook Time: 10
  • Category: pasta, side dish

Keywords: spring pasta salad, easy side dish, potluck side

Comments (6)

  1. Brittany Chatburn says:

    I’ve been eating this for lunch all week and I’m still not tired of it. SO GOOD!

  2. Bella hoyne says:

    Is there anything you’d advise using in place of olives? My husband has an allergy. Thanks!

    1. Casey McKee says:

      We recommend just omitting the olives!

  3. Christina says:

    Camille, This was so so delicious! Loved the combo of flavors. Thanks for another delicious healthy recipe. I’ll be making this all summer!

  4. Ginny says:

    Definitely 5 stars! I made this yesterday for my DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) meeting and service project where we packed boxes of cookies for veterans. 10 people. Everyone loved it and had seconds. I will definitely make this again. And, I linked the recipe for several who requested it. I used all of the dressing, a generous amount of pistachios and Parmesan, more arugula than the recipe called for, and served cold chicken slices and shrimp on the side. This recipe is a keeper. Thank you.

  5. Ginny says:

    I made this salad for a DAR holiday service project where 12 ladies were packing boxes of cookies for veterans. I served cold shrimp and sliced chicken on the side, and a caprese salad. All the ladies raved about the salad, and particularly the dressing. A few picked out the olives, and a few picked out the artichokes, and it was easy for them to do that. I plan to take this to a July 4th party next month.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star