This delightful Lemon Arugula Pasta Salad is filled with incredible flavors and textures that come together to create a truly delicious and beautiful dish. The finely chopped walnuts and parmesan mesh and mingle so wonderfully with the pasta and arugula, creating the perfect texture throughout.
You can enjoy this lemon arugula pasta salad all year round. I love when a bright citrusy pasta salad livens up a dreary winter day. But it's equally amazing for summer gatherings where it can serve as the perfect side dish to a simple piece of grilled meat.
It was partially inspired by another recipe on this site, Italian Green Bean Salad, which also calls for finely diced walnuts as a way to bind the dressing to the salad. And it pairs so well with my amazing Italian Chicken Cutlets.
I will admit, my closest friends and family know me as a pasta salad queen. So in sticking with my reputation, this is actually the third pasta salad recipe on my site. Each is unique and absolutely delicious in its own way. Check them out too!
Ingredients in an Arugula Lemon Pasta Salad
The 9 ingredients in this pasta salad are common pantry staples. Meaning you'll likely already have most of the ingredients on hand.
- Pasta, such as farfalle or orzo
- Lemon juice
- Parmesan cheese
- Dijon Mustard
- White Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Basil (optional)
- Salt, pepper, olive oil
See recipe card for quantities.
As with any pasta salad, make the dressing first. In a large bowl, combine the lemon juice, white balsamic, capers, walnuts, dijon, salt and pepper. Then slowly whisk in the olive oil, and finally, the parmesan cheese.
Next, add the rinsed pasta. We want to get rid of excess starch so we don't thicken this dressing and make the pasta salad seem dry.
Finally, add the arugula and toss the whole salad again.
Hint: At first it might seem like too much arugula, but arugula wilts significantly as it combines with the dressed pasta. I like to use these mixing bowls (affiliate link), which are large and light weight, for easily tossing the salad without the arugula spilling over.
See below for dietary and ingredient substitutions.
- Gluten free - Easily make any pasta salad gluten free by using your favorite gluten free pasta. It's not always this simple when making pasta sauces, where we want pasta starch to help make the sauce. But for pasta salads, go ahead and substitute.
- Nut-free- If you're allergic to nuts, but can eat seeds, substitute with finely diced pumpkin or sunflower seeds. Seeds will provide a similar nutty texture and bind the dressing to the pasta salad.
- Dairy free- leave out the parmesan cheese. Instead use extra walnuts and 1 teaspoon of nutritional yeast if you have it, for a similar cheesy flavor.
- Vinegar - If you don't have white balsamic, use red wine vinegar instead. The combination of lemon plus vinegar makes a more flavorful dressing than just using lemon.
Making the Pasta Salad in Advance
When making a pasta salad in advance, it's best to make the components ahead of time and wait until you're almost ready to eat to combine everything.
- Component 1: The dressing. Make it and leave it in the fridge, covered.
- Component 2: The pasta. Cook it, rinse it, drizzle with olive oil to prevent sticking, and leave it in the fridge, covered.
- Component 3: The arugula.
Entertaining pro tip: If making this pasta salad for a group of friends, ask one of your guests to do the honor of combining all the ingredients right before sitting down to eat. This is an easy, useful way for your guests to help out.
Storing the Arugula and Lemon Pasta Salad
Store leftovers in a container in the refrigerator. I like to eat them within 24 hours before the arugula wilts too much. These ingredients don't stand up well to freezing.
Texture is king in this Lemon Arugula Pasta Salad. The finely chopped walnuts play a huge roll in this texture, helping the dressing bind with the pasta salad rather than sinking to the bottom of the bowl.
As always, if you make this recipe, please take a moment to leave a review below! Thank you!Print
This Lemon Arugula Pasta Salad is beautiful, delicious, and texturally perfect. The way the walnuts and parmesan mesh and mingle with the pasta and fresh arugula is to die for.
- 3.5 oz arugula
- 8 oz pasta, such as farfalle or orzo, cooked and rinsed
- ½ cup walnuts, finely chopped
- ⅓ cup finely grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
- 1 lemon (juice and zest)
- 8 Tb olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 Tb capers plus 1 teaspoon of their brine
- 1 Tb white balsamic vinegar
- 6 basil leaves, cut chiffonade-style (optional)
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- Cook pasta per package instructions, slightly softer than al dente. When the pasta is finished, drain and rinse it well.
- Make the dressing in a large mixing bowl by whisking together lemon juice and zest, white balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, walnuts, capers, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Then stir in the parmesan cheese.
- Add the rinsed pasta and toss to combine.
- Add the arugula and basil, if using, and toss to combine.
Keywords: lemon arugula pasta salad, arugula lemon pasta salad, orzo arugula salad