I’m picky about pasta salads. I don’t care for creamy sauces or large pasta shapes in cold or room temperature dishes. But there are good reasons to have a few pasta salads in your repertoire. They can be made ahead of time for entertaining and as a matter of fact, most of them taste better after they have had time to marinate a bit. Also, they are easy to transport to picnics and pot lucks. So, as you will see, my favorite pasta salads will use the smaller pasta shapes and will have light, flavorful vinaigrettes.
Orzo Salad with Corn, Tomatoes, Feta, and Chili-Lime Vinaigrette
This is a wonderful salad from one of my favorite cookbooks, At Blanchard’s Table, by Melinda and Robert Blanchard. Please note that in the photo above, I substituted Israeli couscous for the orzo (because I was out of orzo) and left out the feta cheese (because feta wasn’t going to work with the main dish I was serving that particular night). But I am going to give you the original recipe because I’ve made it many times as written and it is always a hit. Then you can make your own changes if you want. I did love the texture of the big Israeli couscous and will definitely use that again.
1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears of corn)
12 ounces orzo pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly grated lime peel
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
15 grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 ounces feta cheese, drained and crumbled
1 tablespoon mined fresh rosemary
freshly ground black pepper
Bring a medium sauce pan of water to boil, add the corn and cook for 1 minute. Drain and set aside.
Cook the orzo in a large pot of lightly salted water until it is al dente, 6-8 minutes. Drain and rinse thoroughly under cold water, Drain well again and transfer to a large bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, lime peel, lime juice, lemon juice, chili powder, salt and pepper. Toss the dressing with the orzo . Add the corn, tomatoes, feta, and rosemary, and toss gently to blend, Taste for salt and pepper, and serve a room temperature.
Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Mozzarella, and Fresh Basil Vinaigrette
Here is my go-to recipe for Basil Vinaigrette. In this dish, I’ve tossed cooked orzo, cherry tomatoes, and bits of fresh mozzarella with the vinaigrette and served it at room temperature seasoned with a pinch of salt and lots of coarse ground black pepper.
1 bunch fresh basil
1 clove garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
In a blender or food processor, chop basil and garlic. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend to make a smooth vinaigrette. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Sesame Noodles with Cilantro and Scallions
I’m crazy for this particular recipe for sesame noodles and I actually found it on another cooking and recipe blog. This won’t happen often because 99% of my recipe collection comes from books, magazines, and newspapers, as well as inspiration from my local market or from restaurant menus. But since I have been making these noodles a lot this summer, I really would like to share the recipe. So here are my photos, and if you would like to try this recipe, feel free to visit Joanne Choi’s blog at:
I do add the optional red pepper flakes to her recipe and then add slivered carrots, cucumber and red bell pepper.
She has a search feature so you can enter the name of the recipe and it is easy to find.
This is the one pasta salad that I actually prefer to serve cold from the refrigerator instead of at room temperature. It’s the perfect summer side.