This pasta salad is your perfect picnic dish. Whether it’s just the two of you out for a hike in the woods, or it’s a family reunion, this salad will be a crowd pleaser. Zach and I took this on our trip back East. It travels easily, and because it’s meant to be cold, there’s no need to heat it up! Simplicity at it’s best! Not only is it full of hearty delicious and nutritious goodness, it’s vegetarian as well; and if you are vegan, then this is an instant vegan dish when you eliminate the cheese. Veggies can be a delicious thing, and this pasta shows it!
You could always add some pepperoni to this pasta salad. I mean you do often find it in the pasta salad at your annual 4th of July picnic, but I think it’s just fine without the meat. I honestly think it’s better. A lot of the meat you tend to put in these salads tends to be salty salty salty and takes away from the other flavors of the dish. I say leave out the meat in this one. You won’t be disappointed. I think it’s become pretty obvious that Zach and I love cheese. We often eat it by itself, and it’s a favorite for our Sunday afternoon football games. I think mozzarella is the best choice if you are going to use cheese. I know that cheddar cubes are another fan favorite in your traditional pasta salad dish, but creamy soft mozzarella makes a huge difference in flavor. Add a smoked mozzarella if you are feeling brave!
The only thing I would have done differently with this salad was add kalamata olives. Zach isn’t a fan. I know! He ruins everything! Ha just kidding, he’s the best =), but it’s true that he just doesn’t like olives. Which doesn’t really make any sense, since he is Greek and was brought up eating all things Greek. Weird right? Well whatever. If you like olives, skip the black olives and buy some pitted kalamata olives. They are 100x better, and they will make a huge difference!
Another ingredient we used that was so necessary were the grape tomatoes. You HAVE to have tomatoes! Whole Foods sometimes has the little yellow/orange grape tomatoes. When they do, I snatch them up. They taste like little balls of sunshine. Totally serious. They are so pretty and so flavorful. If you can get your hands on these use them, if not, the baby red tomatoes will do the trick!
Another thing I did differently with this pasta salad, was make my own balsamic vinegar dressing. It is an unbelievable change in taste. You could of course use store bought balsamic vinegarette, but I suggest making your own. You wouldn’t believe how easy it is, and you can store it and use it on your everyday salad. It should keep for about 2 weeks, and you could save a couple bucks!
- 1 lb pasta spirals
- 1-2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half (I like the yellow ones purely for their color)
- 1 medium sized cucumber, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, seeds and stem removed and diced
- salt and pepper
- 1 medium sized red onion, diced
- 8 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Start by cooking your pasta by following the manufacturing instructions on the back of the box. Drain your pasta in a colander, and set aside to cool. Put in the refrigerator if you would like.
- In a small bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sugar, salt, pepper and garlic. Whisk together until combined and smooth. You can also do this in a food processor or blender if you would like. Just combine all of the ingredients besides the olive oil into your device. While the concoction if pureeing, gently drizzle in the olive oil until smooth.
- In a VERY large bowl, combine the pasta, cucumber, tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, mozzarella cheese cubes, and salt and pepper to taste. Gently fold the ingredients together, then add the dressing. Also, gently fold the ingredients with the dressing until just combined. At this point you can add a little bit more sugar, salt or pepper if you would like more sugar and spice.