Become a pasta salad pro in this crash course that includes a recipe for Greek Pasta Salad. This classic side dish is a cinch to make and is perfect for potlucks, picnics and barbecues.
WINGING A PASTA SALAD
Do you know what I think? No one should need a recipe for pasta salad! No one. A pasta salad–and salads in general–is just a mixture of raw or cooked vegetables tossed with noodles and a zingy salad dressing. Sometimes there’s protein, sometimes there’s not. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to knock pasta salad. I love pasta salad. It’s one of my favourite things to bring to a gathering because it’s so darn easy to make. When you know how to make pasta salad, you don’t need to think about what to pack for a picnic or bring to a potluck. There’s freedom in learning the formula. Let me show you.
GREEK PASTA SALAD RECIPE VIDEO
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PICK A NOODLE, ANY NOODLE
Noodles make the base of a pasta salad. If that wasn’t the case, it wouldn’t be a pasta salad, now would it? There’s so much beauty in this, you have no idea. If you don’t eat gluten, you can choose a pasta made with quinoa, black beans, or rice. There’s the option of being virtuous and selecting whole grain or buckwheat noodles. Then there’s the shape. Did you know that there are hundreds of different shapes and sizes of pasta? My favourites for salad in alphabetical order are farfalle, fusilli, gemelli, and orzo.
The next thing I want you to do is figure out what you want to add to those noodles of yours. Is this going to be a vegetarian salad? Is there anything in your fridge that needs to get used before it expires? Do you want eggs in there? Tuna? Ham? Cheese? Herbs? This is where things get exciting. The best part is that you don’t need to get any measuring cups dirty. Just throw everything into a large mixing bowl in proportion to how much pasta you cooked for this salad of yours. If you’re stumped, here’s some inspiration to get you started.
COMBINATIONS FOR PASTA SALADS
- Apples, beets, dill, goat cheese and walnuts
- Asparagus, cherry tomatoes, sesame seeds, and shrimp
- Avocado, black beans, corn, cilantro and chopped tomatoes
- Avocado, bacon, hard boiled eggs and spinach
- Basil, bocconcini and cherry tomatoes
- Black olives, green beans, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes and tuna
- Blue cheese, BBQ chicken, corn and red onion
- Corn, garlic, green beans and pickles (this sounds weird, but to date, this is what composed the best pasta salad I’ve ever eaten. There’s a lot of garlic and a whole lot of mayonnaise).
DRESSING UP A NOODLE SALAD
Don’t leave your salad naked! I mean, I guess you can if that’s what you want, but think how much better it would be with a good dressing to make your salad shine. A vinaigrette is another one of those things that’s a cinch to make, so I almost never buy commercial salad dressings. Caesar dressing is the exception, but really, that’s an easy one to make, too. It all boils down to convenience, but what if I told you can make a basic dressing that only takes a minute or two to prepare?
WHIPPING UP A SIMPLE VINAIGRETTE
Okay, okay, I know this is a crash course in pasta salad, but I can’t resist giving you the lowdown on a basic vinaigrette. Five ingredients, that’s all you need. Are you ready?
- Oil. My favourites are extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and grape seed oil.
- Acid. My go-to acids are red wine vinegar, tarragon vinegar, and lemon.
- Dijon mustard. This helps emulsify the dressing.
- Sweetener. I almost always use honey for this.
- Flavourings. Think salt, pepper, herbs, garlic, shallots, sesame oil, orange juice, etc,. etc.
As a general rule, the oil to acid ratio is 3:1. In the recipe below, I break it down into a specific measurement, but what I usually do is measure it out in a shot glass: three shots of oil and one shot of acid. Easy peasy. Then I add a teaspoon of mustard, a teaspoon of honey, and my flavourings. To mix it up, I shake everything in a tightly sealed jar, but I’ve also been known to use an immersion blender if I want a thick, creamy texture that sticks. The number one rule in making salad dressing is taste, taste, taste! Too sour? Add more oil or sweetener. Too bland? Add lemon to brighten the concoction. Play around and have fun!
YOU’RE ALL SET!
That’s it, you did it! You completed the course! Maybe you were already well versed in pasta salad making, but maybe you gleaned something useful from all of this. In any case, I hope you will share your thoughts in the comments below. What are your favourite combinations?
GREEK PASTA SALAD RECIPE
I ardently lectured you on the virtues of learning the pasta salad formula, but now I’m giving you a recipe? What a hypocrite! I beg of you to think of this as a guideline more than anything. That’s what a recipe is supposed to be. Cooking is about playing and experimenting. It’s about challenging yourself and using what you have in your fridge and pantry. I want you to look at my recipe and see three things: pasta, complementary ingredients and dressing. Then I want you to go forth and make your own, and I want you to tell me about it.
GREEK PASTA SALAD
- 454 grams Farfalle Cooked
- 1/2 Cucumber Chopped
- 1 Tomato Chopped
- 1 Green Pepper Chopped
- 1/4 Red Onion Chopped
- 1/2 cup Feta Crumbled
- 1/4 cup Black Olives Sliced
- 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 Tbsp + 2tsp Red Wine Vinegar
- 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
- 1 tsp Honey
- 1/2 tsp Oregano Dried
- Salt + Pepper to taste
- Shake ingredients together into a jar.
- Assemble ingredients together in a large mixing bowl
- Add vinaigrette and toss well
SHOP THIS POST
- I can’t recommend The Flavor Bible enough. It’s a terrific reference book that every enthusiastic kitchen sprite should own. If you need inspiration on what goes well with fennel, for example, this book holds the key. The converse is true as well, so if you’re unsure of a food item’s complementary nature with another ingredient you’re considering, The Flavor Bible will have your back.
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Love and gratitude,