as someone who doesn’t eat hot dogs, hamburgers, or mayo, the pickings can be somewhat slim for me when i attend summer BBQs (goodbye staples from the grill and all of the side dish standbys!). thankfully, there exists in this universe a tasty cold pasta salad that does not require a vat of The Gloopywhite! even better, it’s quick and easy to make, because who wants to spend hours at a hot stove during the summer?
when i was little, my babysitter jan used to make this for us a couple of times each summer and it’s meant “summer!” to me ever since. i don’t think a summer has gone by when i haven’t made it at least once, if not multiple times. quick and easy to put together + delicious = heavy rotation
besides being easy to put together from just a few ingredients, this recipe is also very adaptable – you can adjust the ratios or leave ingredients out altogether. or add other things! i used oil cured moroccan olives and cut them into little pieces because i like olive flavor but can’t handle biting into a mouthful of OLIVE! too much, too much! but if you loooove olives, by all means, use your favorite kind and leave ’em whole (or add more!). if you’re not down with raw red onion, dice it and sauté it or leave it out entirely. you also certainly don’t have to hunt down multicolored cherry tomatoes; they’re just what i had. i do recommend sticking with a short, fat pasta like gemelli so it doesn’t get limp and soggy.
if you want your salad to be pretty, your best bet is buying blocks of feta that you cut yourself, rather than buying it precrumbled. i used a block that i cut up for the plain but could only find the garlic and herb in crumbled form, so despite minimal, gentle stirring, i still ended up with a bit of “feta paste” coating the pasta. tasty nevertheless! if you can’t find garlic and herb feta at all, just add a little bit of dried oregano and dried basil to your olive oil before you mix it in.
if you want to add protein in the form of chick peas or shredded rotisserie chicken, go for it! a bit of fresh basil? sure, why not!
as i promised, the recipe is adaptable. the only thing you have to promise not to do is add mayo.
aaaand now i need to go steal a few more bites. writing about it is making me crave it! what crave-worthy foods scream “summer!” to you?
- 1 pound of gemelli or other short, thick pasta
- 16 oz. cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half (or thirds or quarters, if they’re really big)
- 1/2 of a small red onion (4 oz./1 cup), cut in small dice
- 8 oz. (2 cups) of plain feta, ideally from a block, cut in small (1/4″) dice
- 8 oz. (2 cups) of garlic and herb feta, ideally from a block, cut in small (1/4″) dice
- 8.5 oz. (1/2 cup) black olives (i used oil cured olives from morocco)
- 3 T olive oil (or more, to taste), divided
- cook the pasta according to the package directions. drain, rinse in cold water, and transfer to a large bowl. if you’re not ready to add all of the ingredients yet, add 1 T of the olive oil and stir to prevent the pasta from sticking.
- to the pasta bowl, add the remaining ingredients. gently toss to avoid mashing the feta into a paste.
- serve at room temperature or cold.