Is there anything more classic than pasta salad at a BBQ? Ok, maybe potato salad, but honestly it’s a tie in my book. They’re both classic staples of American summers, and today we’re talking all about my Summer Pasta Salad.
Pasta salad doesn’t have to be boxed into the cookout/bbq world exclusively, either! We’ve been enjoying this pasta salad as a quick weeknight dinner recently with grilled chicken. Mostly importantly, it’s picky-husband approved!
How do you make pasta salad?
I didn’t exactly research the history or pasta salad or anything, but the basic concept is pasta + veggies + cheese + dressing = pasta salad. Pasta is basically a blank canvas for whatever flavors make you happy. If you like Greek flavors, you can use oregano, lemon, feta, or make a BLT style with some tomatoes and bacon. It can be as simple or as complex as you make it, and always pleases a crowd.
Pasta salad is also budget friendly – you can use whatever ingredients work in your budget and lifestyle – want to save money and make your own dressing? easy peasy. Or you can save time and buy some pre-shredded carrots and your favorite brand of salad dressing.
This particular pasta salad is an Italian style, with parmesan cheese, basil, and a fresh homemade Italian dressing. The beauty of this recipe (and any recipe IMO) is that you can easily change up the flavor profile to suit your needs and taste. Don’t like carrots? skip em! Add whatever veggies you like (bell peppers and olives would be delish!) and skip the ones you don’t.
The one main difference in my recipe than typical Italian style pasta salads is the type of cheese. Most recipes call for mozzarella cheese, and there’s nothing wrong with a good mozz, but it just doesn’t appeal to me in pasta salads. Instead, I use grated parmesan to add a salty, nutty, cheesy flavor that perfectly compliments the fresh veggies and brightness from the dressing.
So the moral of the story here, is that pasta salad is an amazing vehicle for delicious flavors, and I hope you give my rendition a try!
Summer Pasta Salad
- 8 oz your favorite pasta
- 1 tbl extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut lengthwise into quarters
- 1 english cucumber, cut lengthwise into quarters and sliced (approx. 1 1/2 cups)
- 3 medium sized carrots, shredded (approx. 1 1/2 cups)
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese plus more for garnish
- 1/4 cup basil, thinly sliced
For the Dressing
- 1/2 small shallot, minced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tbl Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tbl lemon juice, approx. 1 lemon
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain. In a large bowl, drizzle 1 tbl of olive oil over the pasta and stir so they are even coated. Refridgerate the pasta for at least 1 hour to chill.
- To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a small mason jar with a tight sealing lid, and shake to thoroughly combine. (OR whisk vigorously to combine in a small bowl)
- Add the tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, cheese, and dressing to the pasta, and stir so that all ingredients are evenly distributed.
- Top with more cheese and basil right before serving.
- Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.
- Basil will brown over time, so if you plan on having leftovers want it to stay pretty, I recommend adding the basil to individual servings as needed.
- Olive oil will solidify in the fridge; pull the salad out 5-10 minutes before serving to give the oil time to warm up, and give it a good stir to redistribute the dressing.