Pasta salad is a summer staple at barbecues and cookouts. Part starchy side dish, part vegetable salad, it goes with just about any grilled meat. What makes this one particularly well-suited for serving at outdoor gatherings, though, is that it tastes best at room temperature and usually uses an oil and vinegar or lemon juice based dressing. In contrast, mayonnaise-based dressings don't hold up in the heat. Of course, pasta salads can be served year-round as a lunch entree or dinner side dish, and the ingredients customized to suit your mood.
The ingredients you choose depend on your personal taste, what is in-season and, to some extent, the region where you live. The one notable mayonnaise-based version of pasta salad is macaroni salad which is made predominately with elbow shaped pasta and just a few additions such as small diced onions or celery. But the more elaborate, vinaigrette-based pasta salads tend to use bigger shapes of pasta and include a larger quantity of assorted vegetables and cheeses. Some options for additives can be fresh herbs, nuts, cured meats, and beans.
This recipe is bursting with the flavors of Mediterranean cuisine with the inclusion of tomatoes, fresh basil, olives, and tangy feta cheese. The lemony vinaigrette dressing also includes good extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and oregano for a distinctly savory Mediterranean flavor.
- For the Pasta Salad:
- 1 pound dry pasta shape of your choice
- 2 cups baby arugula
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 red onion, peeled and sliced
- 1/2 cup pitted black olives
- 1 English seedless cucumber, sliced or diced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- For the Creamy Vinaigrette Dressing:
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced or grated
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Cook the pasta according to package instructions.
While the pasta is cooking, make the vinaigrette by whisking together the minced garlic, extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, mayonnaise, mustard, dried oregano, salt, and pepper. When the pasta is ready, drain and toss with half the vinaigrette.
While the pasta is still warm, stir in the arugula, tomatoes and red onions. They will soften and cook a bit as the pasta cools. Once cool, stir in the cucumbers, olives and crumbled feta cheese. Pour on the remaining dressing and serve at room temperature.