In the summertime, supper goals include quick and easy meals that don’t involve turning on the oven. Pasta salad is one of my favorite options – not only does it allow you to take advantage of seasonal vegetables that are becoming available at local markets and create new flavor combinations, but it’s also delicious and always a crowd pleaser!
When making a pasta salad, one of the most crucial decisions is the type of pasta – so many choices! Fusilli and gemelli have a twisted shape that holds onto flavorful dressings, while tiny orzo pasta lets the veggies become the stars of the dish. Or, does your usual crowd require traditional favorites like bow tie or spaghetti? Whatever pasta shape you use, the flavors you add are what change it up and make it unique.
Early summer gardens offer fun additions like green (immature) garlic or garlic scapes (flowers), or you can add something crunchy and colorful like heirloom radishes, peas or kohlrabi.
Shaved Brussels sprouts, red cabbage, grated zucchini or summer squash can meld flavors and also make a dish more nutritious. Pasta salad is a great way to use vitamin-packed greens like kale, spinach and arugula, with tomatoes and cucumbers added just before serving. Also consider pickled ingredients like olives, asparagus, carrots and okra for a bright burst of flavor.
Homemade dressing for your pasta salad creation is easily customized to your taste. Here are a few tips:
- Use an oil-to-vinegar ratio of 3 to 1.
- For the acidic element, you can substitute balsamic, red wine, apple cider or sherry vinegar, or use lemon, lime or orange juice.
- Feel free to toss in chopped herbs, minced garlic or shallot, fancy flavored salts … have fun!
- To make pasta salad a heartier meal, you can also serve a raw or grilled vegetable tray and cut-up fruit for an easy, light and healthy dessert.
Enjoy the summer flavors!