Pasta salad has to be among the most adaptable and forgiving side dishes of all time. You can pretty much throw anything into it and when you toss it with a simple vinaigrette, magic happens. Sunday afternoon when The Complete Package grilled chicken breasts for sandwiches, I threw together this simple but flavorful side in under 12 minutes. Here’s how I did it, in three easy steps.
Step 1: The Pasta
4 cups water
a good pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup pearl couscous or orzo pasta
In a saucepan, bring water & salt to a boil. Add the couscous and cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. When done, pour into a strainer and run under cold water to chill the pasta. Drain thoroughly and pour it into a bowl.
Step 2: The Add-Ins
1 small clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of Italian parsley, minced
2-3 fresh basil leaves, minced
1 scallion, minced
1 small Roma tomato, seeded & chopped
1/4 cup Italian Olive Salad, chopped
While the pasta is cooking, chop up all the add ins and set them aside.
Step 3: The Dressing
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice and seasonings. Pour over the pasta and toss to coat. Taste just before serving and tweak the salt & pepper, as needed. Makes 2 large or 4 small servings.
Substitutions or Additions:
1. No olive salad? Chop some kalamata & green olives.
2. Feel free to toss in some shaved or grated parmesan.
3. Feeling frisky? Toss in some chopped salami.
4. I hate bell peppers but if you don’t, add some.
5. Red onion, chopped finely, instead of scallions.
6. Grated lemon peel – it makes everything better.
7. If you hate olives AND bell peppers, try cucumber instead.
8. If you add feta cheese instead of parmesan, I’ll kiss you. On the mouth.
Adaptable. Versatile. Delicious. Now it’s your turn. What is your favorite pasta salad? Feel free to shout it out in the comments. If you’re a blogger, attach a link so we can all see it. With temperatures already climbing into the 90’s in Houston, I need all the light but tasty pasta salad suggestions I can get.
Ready… set… salad!