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Monday, July 26, 2010

Sun-dried Tomato and Feta Pasta Salad

It is my firm belief that every picnic should have a nice, cold pasta salad. It is the perfect side dish to every conceivable bbq entrée. My first instinct was a tuna macaroni salad, but I decided to save that for another time. Instead, I decided to keep the pasta salad strictly vegetarian, and so I adapted this recipe from Ina Garten.
I wish I had better pics, but you get the gist.


  • 1 pound small pasta. Ina calls for spirals (fusilli), but I went with mini bowties (piccolini farfalle) from Barilla. Any small pasta, including macaroni, will work fine.
  • Kosher salt
  • Good olive oil
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes. I used grape tomatoes, and added them whole.
  • 1 cup good black olives, such as kalamata, pitted and chopped or diced. Kalamata are very salty and strong. I happen to love them, but if that is a bit much for you, just use regular sliced black olives
  • ~1 pound good feta cheese, crumbled. Athenos makes pre-crumbed feta, which is what I used.  I added by sight, and I didn’t add in the full lb, so add it in batches until you get an amount you like. Feta is a strong flavor.
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped fine
  • 1 onion, chopped

Dressing (1X)

  • 10 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ¾ C good olive oil (can scale this down to ½ C if you desire)
  • 2 garlic clove, diced
  • 1 teaspoon capers, drained (can omit if you don’t like capers)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1- 1 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, depending on taste
  • 1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley, chopped (optional)


  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water with a splash of oil to keep it from sticking together. Boil for 12 minutes, or according to the directions on the package. Drain well and allow to cool. This is accomplished quickly by running the pasta-filled colander under cold water, and then re-draining, shaking to dry. Put the pasta in a bowl large enough to accommodate all the other ingredients and allow for mixing.
  2. For the dressing, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, salt and pepper in a food processor until almost smooth. The texture will be slightly thick.
  3. Pour over the pasta. (Everything including this step can be done the night before, and the pasta/dressing can be stored in the fridge, covered.)
  4. The morning it is going to be served, add the tomatoes, olives, onion, cheese (feta and parm), parsley, and the chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Toss well. If you made the pasta the night before, you might want to make another recipe or half-recipe of the dressing to take with you, or you can choose to just make a double recipe of dressing the night before to have on hand.**  Store in the fridge until a little before serving.

**The next day, your pasta salad is going to look as though it dried out, and if you made any extra dressing that sat overnight (or even for a few hours), it will look as though it dried and thickened up into a paste. Although the pasta will absorb some dressing, the “drying” you see is mostly because the olive oil solidifies in the fridge. If you let the pasta salad and/or extra dressing get closer to room temperature, the dressing will re-liquify. Be sure to let it do this before you determine whether or not you actually need to add more dressing, otherwise you might end up with a pasta salad dripping with dressing. You can make this determination right before you serve it, just let it sit out for a bit before you intend to serve, and then have a looksie at the moisture level.

This is definitely an adult pasta salad. And I got nothing but complements when I brought it to a majority adult picnic. The flavors are complex and absolutely delicious together, but between the feta, kalamata, red wine vinegar and capers, it is a little salty, slightly briny and tangy, and most children will probably turn up their noses at it, so keep that in mind if you are intending to feed a lot of little ones.

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