An outdoor cookout or potluck is not complete without some sort of a pasta salad. It's the go-to salad that goes a long way. And it's the type of salad where just about anything goes. Use leftover chopped vegetables, lean cooked and cubed meats and combine with a creamy dressing or vinaigrette.
When you make a pasta salad to be served cold, it's best to cook the pasta al dente, rinse and drain it. Spread the cooked pasta it on a jelly-roll pan to cool completely to room temperature and dry. This helps the pasta retain some of the starchiness so the vinaigrette will coat the pasta, but not completely soak in.
Today's Greek Pasta Salad uses cavatappi pasta. It's a short S-shaped pasta tube that resembles a corkscrew. Most all of the timing in this recipe is in prepping the vegetables. And the dressing benefits from some feta cheese whipped in. You can use the dressing on a mixed greens salad, too.
Greek Pasta Salad
Makes: 48 (½-cup servings). Preparation time: 30 minutes. Total time: 45 minutes.
Adjust the salt as needed. The olives and feta cheese will contribute to the saltiness. Cavatappi is a short S-shaped pasta tube that resembles a corkscrew. From and tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
FOR THE SALAD:
2 packages (16 ounces each) cavatappi pasta or elbow macaroni
2 pints grape tomatoes, washed, halved
1 jar (7 ounces) kalamata olive pieces in brine, drained
10 ounces feta cheese (use half regular and half reduced-fat or fat-free), crumbled
1 large red onion, peeled, diced
1 hot house cucumber, seeded, diced
1 large bunch radishes, washed, ends removed, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
FOR THE DRESSING:
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, peeled
4 ounces fat-free, reduced fat or regular feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon all-purpose seasoning
1¼ cup olive oil
To make salad: Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Spread the pasta out on a baking sheet to dry for 30 to 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare all the remaining salad ingredients and place them in a large serving bowl. Add the pasta and toss together.
To make dressing: In a blender or food processor place the red wine vinegar, garlic, feta cheese, oregano, sugar, salt, pepper and seasoning blend. Pulse to chop up the garlic and cheese. With the machine running, slowly and in a steady stream add the olive oil and process until emulsified. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. The dressing should be salty enough from the feta cheese; try not to over-salt.
Pour the dressing over the salad. Toss to thoroughly combine and serve. Or you can make both the salad and the dressing a day in advance and combine just before serving.
157 calories (45 percent from fat), 8 grams fat (2 grams sat. fat), 17 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 230 mg sodium, 7 mg cholesterol, 1 gram fiber.