Recipe: Fresh Mediterranean Pasta Salad
Pasta salad is a summertime staple. It’s quick to make, universally enjoyed, and affordable. The only downside to the usual pasta salad? Gobs of mayo, and overcooked pasta.
You’re not going to find either of those things in this recipe!
This salad uses extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice; the juice from the fresh tomatoes also adds moisture. And for the pasta, I tend to use only Barilla brand. I think they are the best commercial brand out there, and you can choose from traditional, whole wheat or mixed.
The real star of this dish, though, is the produce. You can add a huge burst of flavor, color and nutrition with the creative use of veggies of all kinds. In this particular version, I used what I had on hand, but the variations are endless.
I’ve posted a similar recipe before — my Campanelle Pasta Salad with Roasted Grape Tomatoes. I adore that dish, but this one uses only raw, fresh veggies. It’s quicker, and although I kind of miss the sweetness from the roasted tomatoes, the fresh burst that you get from the raw ones is equally delicious.
1 pound Barilla “Campanelle” pasta (this shape gives the small pieces of onion and garlic somewhere to hide)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 medium red onion, finely minced
2 t Viva Italia! blend
1/2 t sea salt (I use my Sicilian Trapani salt but you could use your own favorite)
1 lb grape tomatoes, washed and halved
1 lb fresh spinach, sliced into 1″ shreds
20-25 pitted black olives (an oil-cured variety works best)
Juice and zest of one fresh lemon, or 2T lemon juice
optional: 8 oz crumbled feta cheese
Prep all of the vegetables before cooking the pasta.
Prepare the pasta according to package directions, al dente. When it’s cooked, drain it well and leave in the colander. Do not rinse it!
Add the olive oil to the same pot you used for the pasta. Add in the garlic, onion, Viva Italia! and the sea salt. The residual heat from the pot will very slightly cook the garlic and onion, taking the edge off.
After 2-3 minutes, add the rest of the vegetables, then the cooked pasta. Add the lemon juice and zest. Stir gently to coat. Taste for seasoning. Add a touch more Viva Italia! or sea salt as needed.
The salad can be served warm right away, or refrigerated for later. This yields 4 servings as a main dish or 6+ as a side dish.