Two posts in one week! Don’t worry, I don’t plan to make a habit of this. I just wanted to post this before the Bank Holiday weekend in case anyone is planning a barbecue. This would be a great salad to serve with it. Let’s face it, people expect more than burnt burgers and sausages these days.
This Mediterranean Pasta Salad is a great recipe for many reasons but mostly because it can be made ahead and it is totally flexible. Use this recipe as a base and adapt it to add whatever you like to it yourself. This would be lovely served with grilled chicken too. Leftovers make a great lunch the next day.
Useful tips & links:
- I prefer sundried tomatoes in salads like this as they have a more intense flavour and I’m not fond of the texture of fresh tomatoes that are left sitting around. That’s just me, I am weird so feel free to use fresh tomatoes if you prefer.
- I like to put some of the tomatoes into the dressing so that their flavour coats all of the pasta. You can just add them whole if you prefer.
- Don’t limit yourself to the veg you can add, cucumbers would work here as would marinated artichokes.
- When assembling a salad like this, think of all of the flavours that you are adding. For instance, the stock you use could be quite salty so don’t oversalt the pasta water. Again, the parmesan will add another salty flavour. The dressing may need extra sweetness but you will have added sweetness from the tomatoes and peppers in the salad. Worth bearing in mind and keep tasting as you go. It’s easier to add flavour afterwards than to take it away.
- To make this vegetarian leave out or substitute the parmesan with a suitable alternative. Make sure the feta and stock you use are veggie friendly.
- On that note, I try to advise how to make my recipes veggie friendly when possible but this week Melanie May wrote very interesting posts about the lack of vegetarian options in Irish restaurants and foods that are not vegetarian that people might not be aware of. Have a look at her blog here.
- For more barbecue friendly sides, have a look at this Beetroot Feta and Chickpea Salad, my Harissa Couscous or this Creamy Potato Salad with Chorizo.
Mediterranean Pasta Salad
Serves 4-6 as a side or light meal, more if part of a buffet.
- 200g of orzo pasta
- 1 Chicken or vegetable stock cube
- The juice of a small lemon
- ½ a small red onion, finely sliced
- 100g of sundried tomatoes
- 75ml of good quality olive oil
- 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons of honey
- 1 small clove of garlic
- A handful of spinach leaves
- 20g of freshly grated parmesan
- 2 roasted red peppers
- 30g of olives (optional)
- 1 tablespoon of chopped chives
- A large bunch of basil leaves
- 75g of feta cheese
- Pine nuts (optional)
- Prepare the onions first so that they have time to soften in the lemon juice. Finely slice the onions and put them into a bowl. Pour over half of the lemon juice and set them to one side to ‘cure’.
- Put a large pot of boiling water on to boil and add the stock cube or pot to dissolve in the water. Cooking the orzo in stock will give it a lot more flavour. When the water is boiling add the pasta and cook one minute less than the packet states. Taste the pasta at this time, you still want a little bite so that the pasta doesn’t turn to mush while it sits in the dressing.
- While the pasta is cooking, make the dressing. Put the rest of the lemon juice, 30g of the tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, honey and garlic into a mini processor and blitz until smooth. Taste the dressing and season with pepper and add more honey if you would like more sweetness. I don’t add much salt due to the stock and the parmesan.
- Chop the peppers and the chives. I leave the tomatoes whole and the olives so that if someone doesn’t like them they can pick them out. Warn your diners that there will be stones if you do this.
- When the pasta is cooked ‘al dente’ drain it and stir through the spinach and parmesan. The heat from the pasta will be enough to wilt the spinach.
- Pour the dressing in with the onions and again taste if for seasoning. Pour half of this onion dressing mix into the pasta and stir through. This will prevent the pasta from sticking together as it cools.
- When the pasta has cooled, add the peppers, tomatoes, olives and chives. Tear up the basil leaves and add these. It will keep in the fridge for several hours like this.
When ready to serve:
- Take the salad out of the fridge to allow it to come to room temperature. Stir through the remaining onions and dressing. Add a little more olive oil if needed. Crumble over the feta cheese and grate more parmesan on top if you like. Top with the pine nuts for crunch.