Think You're Done with Pasta Salad? This New Recipe Will Change Your Mind.
Getty / Carlo A
Pasta salad can get boring quickly. Whether you're making from scratch or buying from the deli, most of the time it's a pretty standard combination of cooked pasta (often overcooked), cooked broccoli, chopped red and green peppers, maybe a few carrots or celery and so on of onion . Maybe some sliced olives. Generally doused in a bottled Italian salad dressing.
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To be clear, there's no shame in this game, and there is something comforting about this old-school potluck-style pasta salad. But if, like me, you're on a friendship reunion tour this summer with a busy schedule of potlucks and al fresco dining, you might be a little past the standby version by now.
A new, universal (and delicious!) Pasta salad
Let yourself be inspired by Mediterranean flavors for your next pasta salad and increase the taste and fun! This is a ratio based salad so you can propagate it as needed for the size of your congregation. It's vegetarian (vegan if you skip the cheese) with good protein so it can serve as a meatless starter. Additionally, the slight sheen of the olive oil for dressing makes it safe to leave at room temperature for a while, making it ideal for buffets and outdoor gatherings.
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How do I make my all-purpose pasta salad
Use these ratios for every six people you want to serve - and prepare to fall in love with pasta salad again!
½ pound of cooked small pasta like orzo, ditalini, or elbow
1 can of white beans such as cannellini or navy or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 5-oz. Package of fresh baby spinach, well washed and dried
½ cup pitted and halved Kalamata olives (can replace drained and rinsed capers)
¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh dill (can replace basil, chervil or mint if you like)
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
½ cup of roasted pine nuts (can replace slivered almonds)
1 cup of crumbled feta or goat cheese (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil (look for one that has a good fruity taste)
Kosher salt and black pepper
Lemon wedges for serving
Here is all you do:
Mix all the salad ingredients in a large bowl and add enough extra virgin olive oil to coat everything lightly (start with about ¼ cup and add more if you want more) and season with salt and pepper.
The herbs, olives, and cheese work together with the oil to give you the flavor of a "dressing" and I like to serve with lemon wedges for a last minute touch of light acidity that anyone can add to their taste. By leaving out the acid from the salad, you don't risk the spinach going mushy or the pasta going mushy, which means you can cook up to two days in advance. Serve at room temperature for the best taste. For a pop of color, add halved grape tomatoes or chopped sundried tomatoes or strips of roasted red bell peppers.
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