Italian Pasta Salad
16 oz. fusili pasta, cooked according to package instructions
8 oz. mozzarella balls, halved
4 oz. salami, quartered
2 c. baby spinach
1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 c. artichoke hearts, chopped
1/2 c. pitted black olives, sliced
1/3 c. olive oil
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tbsp. freshly chopped parsley
Pinch red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
In a large bowl, toss together pasta, mozzarella, salami, spinach, tomatoes, artichokes, and olives.
To make the dressing, add olive oil, vinegar, garlic, Italian seasoning, parsley, and red pepper flakes to a jar and secure with a lid then shake to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Dress pasta with dressing and serve.
Get The Mix-Ins Right
Variety is the spice of pasta salad mix-ins. That’s how that phrase goes, right? But seriously, it’s all about variety. Variety in texture, flavor, and color. Hey, we eat with our eyes first! All that variety brings balance to your salad, so make sure you have several contrasting elements. For example:
Creamy/Fatty Mix-Ins These are the things you want in every bite: quartered mozzarella balls, crumbled bacon, shaved gouda, chunks of avocado, crumbled feta, prosciutto, or chopped salami are all solid options. Without them, your pasta salad might be a little too virtuous.
Crunchy/Fresh Mix-Ins We’re talking veggies! Arugula, chopped bell peppers, celery, spinach, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, slices of raw red onion, the list goes on. Pick and choose your favorites! Without these, your pasta salad may feel a bit too heavy. It is Summer, after all! Take advantage of all that glorious produce.
Hearty Mix-Ins These elements can make your pasta salad feel like a meal. Chickpeas, chopped hard-boiled eggs, toasted nuts, shredded chicken, broiled or grilled shrimp, or even white beans make delicious and satisfying additions.
Salty Mix-Ins We LOVE a burst of salty flavor in our salads. Capers, sliced olives, pickled onions (or really anything pickled), sliced pepperoncini, or chopped anchovies for the adventurous folks.
Brightly Flavored Mix-Ins When we think of bright flavors, we think of herbs and citrus: things that will give your salad an extra boost of freshness and flavor. From dill to basil, in our opinion there’s no such thing as too many herbs. Feel free to combine 3 or 4 types of herbs, the more the merrier! When it comes to citrus, we like adding zest or juice to our final dish (especially those with creamy dressings) to add a little zing.
Get The Dressing Right
The dressing really ties everything together. Just like the mix-ins, you’re looking for balance. Your dressing should be bright but not astringent, full-bodied but not oily, flavorful but not overpowering, and perfectly seasoned. Okay, I know this sounds particular, but the good news is, all you really need are your taste buds! Dressing is one of the easiest things to taste an adjust while you’re making it, so as soon as you find your balance, you’re good to go. Here’s what ya need:
- Oil: use your favorite olive oil if you want that delicious rich flavor, or a neutral oil like vegetable oil or grape seed oil if you don’t.
- Vinegar: there’s SO many delicious vinegars, but some of our favorites are red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and rice wine vinegar. Try to match your vinegar with your mix-ins. (For example: sliced cabbage, red peppers, chopped peanuts = rice wine vinegar. Basil, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella = balsamic or red wine vinegar.)
- Flavorings: minced garlic or shallots, fresh or dried herbs, spices or a scoop of dijon mustard all would be delicious add-ins. These flavorings are what gives your dressing personality.
- Sweeteners: although not totally necessary, we find that sometimes our dressings are a bit too acidic. (AKA that feeling when you taste it and it burns in the back of your throught.) A teaspoon or two of honey, maple syrup, agave, or even just plain sugar can help round out the acidity.
- Creaminess:also not entirely necessary, but if you’re craving a more bodacious dressing, try adding a scoop of mayo! This brings your pasta salad into a more traditional place, and we aren’t mad at that. If you don’t do dairy, pureeing your dressing with ripe avocado is a great substitute!