We are enjoying some lovely warm temperatures now that we are in the “Dog-Days” of August! This is the perfect time for grilling foods on the patio and there is nothing nicer to serve up with grilled foods than salads. Mediterranean Pasta Salad is one of our favorite summertime salads! With its pretty colors, the abundance of fresh summer vegetables, and zesty lemon and herb vinaigrette, it is a wonderful treat for the eyes and the palate!
It is also very quick and easy to make! It is as simple as cooking some pasta, chopping some fresh vegetables, and whisking together a tasty vinaigrette!
I love serving it here at home, of course, but it is also a great side dish to bring to patio picnics and get-togethers with family or friends. I also love that it uses things that I always have in my kitchen. I recently got a lovely bunch of heirloom cherry tomatoes and they were perfect to use in this fresh and tasty salad!
WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE MEDITERRANEAN PASTA SALAD
The ingredients list for this scrumptious salad is not long. I confess I didn’t show the honey in the photo but trust me, it was absolutely there!
|INGREDIENTS FOR THE SALAD|
|12 ounces dry pasta (I like bow tie pasta, farfalle)|
|1 English cucumber, unpeeled and diced|
|1 cups cherry or baby plum tomatoes, halved|
|2/3 cup sliced kalamata olives|
|4 ounces Greek feta cheese, crumbled|
|½ medium size red onion, peeled and thinly sliced|
|INGREDIENTS FOR THE DRESSING|
|¼ cup extra virgin olive oil|
|3 TBS good quality red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar|
|1 TBS fresh lemon juice|
|2 tsp dried oregano flakes|
|1 tsp liquid honey|
|2 small cloves garlic, peeled and minced|
|¼ tsp coarse ground black pepper|
|¼ tsp fine sea salt|
|Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes|
HINTS AND TIPS FOR MAKING THE BEST PASTA SALAD
Follow my hints and tips for sure success!
1. Read through the recipe several times before beginning to help familiarise yourself with any ingredients or equipment/kitchen tools you might need to use.
2. Assemble all of your ingredients before you begin to cook. This helps to make sure that you don’t accidentally leave out anything integral to the recipe.
3. I like to use Farfalle (bow-tie pasta) for this recipe because I love the shape and it looks really pretty. You can use whatever your favorite pasta might be, however. Spirals and twists are nice as they really hold onto the dressing. If you are looking to eat a bit healthier, whole wheat pasta also works very well in this.
4. Always cook your pasta in an abundance of boiling, lightly salted water in a large saucepan. This gives your pasta plenty or room to cook in and helps to prevent it from sticking together. Also, stir your pasta a few times during the cooking process to help prevent any from sticking to the bottom of your pan.
5. Don’t add your pasta until your water comes to a full boil.
6. Cook your pasta only to al dente according to the package directions. Because of the dressing, which it will absorb to a degree, cooking it only to al dente means it will never be soggy in the finished salad.
7. To cool your pasta off quickly drain it in a colander and then place under running cold water, whilst gently folding it over with a wooden spoon. This helps all of the pasta to cool down quickly.
8. Drain your cooled pasta really well. You do not want any water left in the pasta to dilute your dressing.
9. Always make sure your vegetables are bite sized. This is the size which is most manageable and that can easily be held on a fork and in your mouth without having to cut them smaller.
10. Use a variety of colours if you can! I used a mix of green, yellow, orange, and red baby plum and cherry tomatoes. Very pretty.
11. Make sure you slice your onion thinly. I cut it in half and then slice thinly into half-moons.
12. I like to use whole kalamata olives which I then slice. I think they have a better and firmer consistency.
13. I always use English cucumbers and I do not peel. Wash them really well to remove any pesticides or dirt and then quarter lengthwise, before cutting into cubes/slices. This gives you the perfect size. If you are using regular cucumbers you will need to remove the seeds.
14. You can use low fat feta cheese if you wish.
15. Always use fresh Lemon juice when making the dressing. It gives the best flavour. Also always give the dressing a final whisk before you add it to the salad, making sure it is well emulsified.
16. If you want to add a new flavour and different texture to the mix you can add some chopped sun dried tomatoes.
17. It is quite easy to turn this into a main dish salad by adding chopped cooked meat or fish. Chicken, ham, tuna, etc. all go very well.
18. Just as you should heat your plates prior to serving hot foods, it is equally as desirable to chill your plates when serving cold foods.
HOW TO MAKE MEDITERRANEAN PASTA SALAD
Quick and easy to make, this is a real doddle.
Fill a large saucepan with lightly salted water and bring to the boil. Add the pasta and cook just to al dente according to package directions. Drain well, rinse under cold running water and drain again. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Prepare your vegetables. Chop your cucumber, slice your onion, halve your tomatoes, slice your olives.
Put them into the bowl with the cold pasta.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients.
Pour the dressing over top of the pasta/vegetable mixture. Toss everything well together to coat with the dressing.
Sprinkle the crumbled feta cheese and serve, tossing again just before spooning out onto the plates. Enjoy!
WHAT TO SERVE WITH MEDITERRANEAN PASTA SALAD
This is a very versatile salad in that you can add just about any vegetable you like to it. Chopped raw zucchini is very nice in it, as are blanched green or yellow beans or drained marinated artichokes. I like to serve this with food that has been grilled on either the outdoor or indoor grill, steaks, chicken, fish, etc. It is great served with cold cuts as part of a cold plate. Sliced chicken, ham, corned beef, all go very well, as does drain tinned fish such as salmon or tuna.
Try to leave it in larger chunks. If you want you can add meat or fish to the salad and turn it into a main dish salad! From time to time I will also serve an assortment of sliced tomatoes and cucumber on the side, especially when they are abundant and in season. You can never have too many fresh seasonal vegetables in my opinion! Crisp and toasted slices of garlic bread also go very well! Feel free to garnish the salad with sprigs of fresh basil, using the smaller leaves!
I had leftover chicken on the day I made this and it went very well with the salad, sliced into chunks and set alongside the salad on the plate. It made for a nice light supper on a really hot day when our appetites were smaller and we were not wanting to heat up the kitchen.
One thing is certain, no matter the occasion this is a salad that will be well received by your family or friends! I have never taken it to a potluck supper without returning home afterwards with an empty bowl. With its fresh flavours, bright colours, and zesty dressing, it always goes down a real treat, anytime, anywhere, anyhow!
For the salad:
- 12 ounces dry pasta (I like bow tie pasta, farfalle)
- 1 English cucumber, unpeeled and diced
- 1 cups cherry or baby plum tomatoes, halved
- 2/3 cup sliced kalamata olives
- 4 ounces Greek feta cheese, crumbled
- ½ medium size red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
For the dressing:
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 TBS good quality red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
- 1 TBS fresh lemon juice
- 2 tsp dried oregano flakes
- 1 tsp liquid honey
- 2 small cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- ¼ tsp coarse ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- Fill a large saucepan with lightly salted water and bring to the boil. Add the pasta and cook just to al dente according to package directions. Drain well, rinse under cold running water and drain again. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
- Prepare your vegetables. Chop your cucumber, slice your onion, halve your tomatoes, slice your olives. Put them into the bowl with the cold pasta.
- Whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over top of the pasta/vegetable mixture. Toss together to coat everything in the dressing.
- Sprinkle the crumbled feta cheese and serve, tossing again just before spooning out onto the plates. Enjoy!
Yield:Serves 6 - 8
Serving Size:Serves 6 - 8
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 246
Marie Rayner is a retired Chef, freelance writer, recipe developer, food blogger, and Cookbook author. She makes her home in Chester, UK, where she lives with her husband, Todd, and their much beloved English Cocker, Mitzie. Her motto is “Life is far too short to eat bad food,” and her goal is to share delicious and easy recipes which anyone can enjoy and cook in the comfort of their own home.