Feta and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad

06aPastaSaladbfLOWe were planning to picnic at a Ravinia concert for July Fourth, and I was looking for foods that I wouldn’t have to worry too much about; like cantaloupe salsa and this non-mayonnaise based pasta salad. We had coolers and cold packs, but a little prudence seemed the way to go for a sunny, perfectly warm July afternoon and evening.

I based this recipe on one I found online by the barefoot contessa; adjusting ingredients and vinaigrette(s) to my own needs and preferences.

•12 oz pasta – spirals or radiatore
•Sliced peperoncini
•Sun dried tomato julienne strips
•4 oz feta cheese
•Black olives, sliced

02bVinaigrette1bfLOVinaigrette Number 1:
•6 tbsp orange muscat champagne vinegar
•2 tsp dried shallot
•1/2 tsp thyme
•1 tbsp Dijon mustard
•1 tsp honey
•1 tsp black pepper
•1/2 tsp sea salt
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
•4 garlic cloves, (1 tbsp)minced
•1/2 cup olive oil

02dVinaigrette1bfLOVinaigrette Number 2:
•2/3 cup cider vinegar
•3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
•3/4 cup veggie oil
•2 tsp salt
•1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
•2 tsp honey
•1/2 tsp dried oregano
•1/2 tsp dried basil
•1/2 tsp dried thyme
•1/2 tsp dried parsley

03bPastaVinaigrettebfLONote: the contessa used oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes while I prefer dry pack. She also made one vinaigrette to my two, but follow along and you’ll see the sense in what I’m doing here.

Make the first vinaigrette by combining all the ingredients in a beaker or blender jar and whisking, blending, or shaking until well combined – I used my immersion blender.

04aVinaigrette2bfLOCook and drain the past according to package directions, then toss with vinaigrette number one to coat, cover, and stash in the fridge for a couple of hours or (always more better) overnight. This will allow the pasta time to absorb the vinaigrette and all its good flavors.

Note: this trick works a treat with mayonnaise based pasta salad as well; simply make double the amount of dressing, toss the freshly cooked pasta with half, and stash it away overnight before completing the salad. You’ll be pleased, trust me.

04bAddOilbfLOOnce the pasta has soaked up all that vinaigrette-y goodness, it’s time to finish the salad. I could’ve just doubled up on the first vinaigrette; but I needed this second one for a roasted artichoke salad, so I just make extra of vinaigrette number two. Both vinaigrettes are tasty and dead simple to toss together, so it was really no trouble.

Add the cider vinegar, honey, salt, peppers and seasonings to a blender jar and give ’em a couple of good pulses to blend.

05aPastaSaladbfLOCombine the olive and veggie oils in a beaker and, with the blender running, pour slowly into the blender container until all of the oil has been absorbed and the dressing is nicely emulsified.

Place the pasta in a large bowl and top with the feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, peperonci, and black olives.

Drizzle with about half of vinaigrette number two and toss to combine.

05cPastaSaladbfLOServe immediately, or cover and stash in the fridge until needed.

Very nice pasta salad! I used veggie pasta from Trader Joe’s, flavored with spinach, beet, and red bell pepper; but most any pasta will work – you just want to choose one with nooks and/or crannies to grab on to and hold the dressing.

“But wait!” you ask. “What about the rest of vinaigrette number two?!?”

Well, I used that for yet another (mostly) picnic-safe salad, this one made with roasted artichoke hearts and garlic, but that’s a tale for tomorrow, I think…

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