Juicy tomatoes, briny olives and nutty pine nuts are the perfect compliment to whole wheat pasta in this bright and fresh pasta salad.
My beautiful mother is the queen of pasta salads. Every summer she makes them for family gatherings or lazy days at the cottage on Lake Michigan. The ingredients vary based on what veggies and herbs she has on hand or found at the farmer’s market that week but the simple vinaigrette remains the same. She taught me at an early age the importance of a well stocked pantry full of high quality olive oils and vinegars. (There’s a reason I visit Zingerman’s every time I visit or drive through Ann Arbor!)
Speaking of high quality olive oil, this is the time to use it. Personally, I love grassy, fruity olive oils with a strong after taste. Good olive oil can be pricey so keep a bottle of cheap stuff on hand for sauteing or baking where a strong flavor can be over powering. Another tip? If you are cooking with good quality olive oil, drizzle it on the finished dish before serving vs. wasting hundreds of calories when you’re sauteing veg or browning meat. The flavor will get lost but I can promise you the calories will find their way to your hips.
This pasta salad is perfect for entertaining and can be made up to two days in advance but hold off on dressing the salad and adding the pine nuts until right before serving. The pasta will absorb much of the vinaigrette and you’ll end up having to add more olive oil and vinegar at the event. If you’re worried about pasta drying out, you can drizzle a bit of olive oil before storing in the refrigerator but the olives and veggies should keep everything moist. Adding the pine nuts at the last minute will also keep them nice and crunchy.
Your fork is waiting.
- 1 lb whole wheat pasta (such as rotini, penne, etc.)
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes sliced in half
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives pitted and minced
- 1/2 cup red onion minced
- 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes minced
- 1 cup fresh herbs (ie parsley, basil, dill, chives, etc) - minced
- 1/2 cup pine nuts toasted
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Cook pasta in salty water until al dente - usually about one minute less than the package suggests - and set aside.
In a large bowl, toss together cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, red onion, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh herbs and toasted pine nuts.
Add reserved pasta to the bowl and drizzle with olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper. Toss well, check for seasoning and adjust accordingly.
There's no need to reconstitute the sun-dried tomatoes because they will plump up when they absorb the vinaigrette. Oil-packed work too. To toast pine nuts, bake at 350 for 5 minutes on a baking sheet.