Food Friday: Best Pasta Salad Ever


It’s a rainy (of course) Friday. I have two sleeping boys upstairs—exhausted from the dearest nursery school closing ceremony you can POSSIBLY imagine, complete with songs sung so sweetly it made your teeth ache, individual odes to each child and butterflies emerging from their cocoons. Downstairs we have a teary mommy, who just rubbed salt in the wound by reading through her son’s entire teacher/parent journal from the whole glorious first year of nursery school after reviewing photos from today’s events.

I know, I know, it is just NURSERY school, and YES, he is returning for a second year in the fall. Don’t begrudge me my emotional moment, dear readers. It’s why they make sniffle packs of tissues. Beginnings and endings of any kind pack a powerful punch for me, and I know myself well enough to know that a sniffle pack probably wasn’t going to be enough.

(As it turns out it was enough for me, but I wiped Will’s is-it-a-summer-cold-or-is-it-allergies nose about forty times, so extra tissues? Thanks for being with us today.)

However. This is all a long way of saying now that nursery school is over for the summer, it must mean that summer is really here. And with steamy high temperatures forecast for most of the country this weekend, the timing is just right for a big bowl of Picnic Pasta, the best pasta salad ever. (Thank you Raquel, who passed this recipe on to me years ago for a cookbook I edited. It is still one of my favorites in the whole book.)

I know the title above is a bold statement, but I assure you, the best part is that you adapt it to make it what you love, and what could be better than that? Without further ado…

Picnic Pasta

1 pound rotini pasta (I feel virtuous when I use whole wheat or Barilla’s plus), cooked al dente

4 Tablespoons fruity green olive oil

1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 Tablespoons dried basil or appx. 1 Tablespoon fresh, minced

1-2 cloves garlic, minced finely

1/2 cup Greek or Silician olives, sliced

1/2 cup carrots, sliced thinly

1/2 cup green onions, minced (I often substitute red onion)

1 cup red bell pepper, thinly sliced

While the pasta is still hot from cooking, drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar. Add black pepper, basil and garlic, mix well. Mix in remaining ingredients and chill before serving.

Here’s where the fun starts. Don’t like any of the ingredients above? Like them all but want more? Your kids like only three things in addition to noodles?

Then try some of these add-ins. I think of an antipasto tray as my inspiration here. How about thin slices of smoked mozzarella cheese, cubed fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed ham or salami, sliced grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced sundried tomatoes, small marinated mushrooms, blanched broccoli florets, chopped roasted red pepper in lieu of fresh peppers, crisp steamed asparagus in one-inch pieces or chopped artichoke hearts. Got any other twists on this recipe? I’d love to hear them.

Hope you have a chance to try Picnic Pasta this weekend. Mine might be extra salty from the emotional outburst, but it will be yummy all the same.

And looking for a good cheap wine to go with it? Got one to add? Click here for Hank and Willie’s Guide to Wine.


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9 Responses to “Food Friday: Best Pasta Salad Ever”

  1. applecyder Says:

    Here’s hoping we get to see some of those cocoons/butterflies! Sounds like an amazing tribute to a great year of nursery school.

  2. B. Says:


  3. Stephanie Says:

    Where were you two weeks ago when I needed a superb pasta salad recipe for a Memorial Day picnic?! Hehe, it sounds delicious and I can’t wait to try it this summer.

  4. Christina Says:

    Yummy! Sounds very similar to the way I’ve made pasta salad, except I’ve never put the dressing on warm. I’ll have to try that.

    A preschool graduate? Awwww!

  5. Sheila Says:

    Oh man. There were many, many tears shed over here after reading the notebook as well. I, of course, drowned my nostalgia in chocolate cupcakes and chocolate chips cookies. Now I want some past salad….

  6. katy Says:

    what kind of dried basil do you have? i have never had one that was more than kitty litter-scented confetti. is this from penzey’s?

  7. Mike Says:

    So when are you bringing in the pasta for us to try? Oh, and hi. I’m back.

  8. JenBun Says:

    Mmm… yummy… hungry… 😛

  9. Samantha Mathews Says:

    YUM!!! Just made these and took my first bite. Nice! Had my two kiddos help me make them. YUM YUM YUM! I have a cooking recipe site as well and Id like to exchange links with you. Let me know if this is possible. Thanks.

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