There are so many different ways to make pasta salad. But that is one of the best things about it! You can really adapt any recipe to suit you. When I make a Pasta Salad in the Summer, it is always cold and packed with delicious, fresh vegetables! Here is a basic Summer Pasta Salad recipe and dressing that is easily adaptable.
In a good pasta salad you want one good "lead" vegetable. You also want at least two other "back-up" vegetables, one or two "exotic" vegetables, and you can optionally add a cheese. A great way to add something special is to use a combination of fresh herbs too. And of course you have your pasta and dressing!
This concept is simple. Pick your favorite veggie, your hubby's favorite, or something everyone will eat! You don't want to pick anything that has too much flavor that might distract from your other ingredients. For example, roasted peppers, olives, or feta cheese are too strong to lead. For this recipe, use 1 cup of your lead vegetable.
All other vegetables should be used in a quantity of 1/2 of your lead vegetable, so 1/2 a cup of each in this recipe. You can use two, three, or four. But be careful! You don't want too many things going on in your salad that you can't taste the flavor of each individual vegetable.
Exotic ingredients only need to be used in a quantity of 1/3 your lead vegetable. Vegetables in this category aren't necessarily exotic, just bolder in flavor or better used in smaller quantities. Your exotic ingredients can really make or break your salad.
You want to pick a cheese that meshes with your other ingredients. Feta is one of my favorites to use with tomatoes or cucumber. Fresh mozzarella can be delicious but is still mild too.
When in doubt go with Parsley! Parsley is so versatile that it will most certainly compliment just about any pasta salad you make. As we all know, there are endless different herbs that can add depth and flavor to any dish. But always use fresh! In a Summer vegetable pasta salad, fresh herbs are a must.
Here are a few examples of different vegetables that fit into the categories above:
Lead and Back-up Veggies
Fresh Green Beans
Roasted Red Bell Pepper
Roasted Green Bell Pepper
Fresh, diced Mozzarella Cheese
First step in creating your dish is to select your pasta. Hearty pastas are usually better suited for this type of recipe. Penne, Bow Tie, and Tortellini are good basic options. Penne is my personal favorite!
Next, have fun selecting your ingredients. You can pick some of your families' favorites or wait and see what looks the best at the market. Here is one of my favorite combos:
1 package Penne Pasta
1 cup Broccoli (Lead)
1/2 cup Fresh Green Beans
1/2 cup Cherry Tomatoes, sliced
1/3 cup Sliced Kalmata Olives
1/3 cup Sliced Green Onions
1/3 cup Crumbled Feta Cheese
1/4 cup Chopped Parsley
First cook your pasta according to the package directions. And now for a big tip!! Throw in your really crispy vegetables with the pasta for the last 30 seconds to 1 minute of cooking time. Then strain and rinse with cool water. Lay your pasta and VERY slightly cooked vegetables out on a cutting board or cookie sheet to cool. Veggies like broccoli, green beans, and cauliflower really blend with your salad better if they are slightly cooked. Be sure not to overcook them though. You still want them to have a crunch, just not raw.
Once your pasta has cooled mix all your veggies, cheese, and herbs in. Then make your dressing:
1/2 cup Mayo
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup Red Wine or Champagne Vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 teaspoon Lemon Zest
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Pepper
1 clove Garlic, minced
Whisk all ingredients together except the olive oil. Once all other ingredients are combined, very slowly whisk in your olive oil. Only add a very small amount at a time and whisk, whisk, whisk! This step will help your dressing to not separate.
After your dressing is completed, add the desired amount to your pasta and veggie combination! You can now enjoy!! This recipe can be made a few hours in advance and stored in the fridge as well.