Greek Pasta Salad
I guess we’re all guilty of it at times… we wander over to the Deli Department and spend a lot of money on pre-made food. It seems easy to justify the splurge - saving time from making the dishes ourselves - but then you realize you’ve spent $8.00 on a pound of pasta salad. Whew!
I really love the taste of the Greek Pasta Salad at Stop & Shop. It’s a combination of chewy, crunchy, tart and salty flavors that are perfect for a warm weather side dish. But when you look at the ingredients: pasta, bell peppers, red onion, oil, vinegar and feta cheese, you realize how easy it is to make your own.
The other day I cooked up a pound (16 oz.) of penne pasta, but we only ended up using about half for supper. Homemade Greek Pasta Salad was the ideal solution for using up the rest of the cooked pasta! To give you an idea of how cost effective it is to make your own pasta salad, this resulted in two large tubs (4 pounds) of deli style Greek Pasta Salad.
Although deli pasta salad is made with raw peppers and onions, I sauté them just a little to lessen their bite. If you want to add a lot of color without having to buy whole peppers, just pick up some slices of multi-colored peppers at the salad bar. I also add extra vegetables and herbs depending on what I have on hand. Cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, chopped spinach, chives and parsley all make great additions. Even toss in some Kalamata olives or chopped salami!
To give the pasta salad its “Greek” style – add feta cheese and a vinaigrette made with oil, red wine vinegar, a little fresh lemon juice and oregano. Although you can use pre-crumbled feta cheese, the best flavor comes from a block of feta that has been stored in brine. For a crumblier cheese use Greek-style feta, for a creamier version, use Bulgarian feta.
Any short pasta cooked al dente will work well in a pasta salad - penne, ziti, rotini, shells, gemelli, cavatappi, orecchiette, elbows or farfalle - have fun trying a new shape or choose your family’s favorite. Keep in mind that cooked product yields for pasta vary from shape-to-shape. For example, 5 cups uncooked penne pasta yields almost 10 cups of cooked pasta. On the other hand, 4 cups of uncooked elbow pasta yields 9 cups of cooked pasta. So depending on the pasta you use, you might have to add a bit more vinaigrette.
GREEK PASTA SALAD
8 ounces of uncooked penne pasta
Extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2/3 cup diced bell peppers (lightly sautéed to soften if preferred)
2/3 cup diced red onion (lightly sautéed to soften if preferred)
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
½ English cucumber, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
Cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the package. Drain the pasta and place in a large bowl. Toss with a little olive oil so the pasta doesn’t stick while you set it aside to cool.
While the pasta is cooking, put the vinaigrette ingredients into a small lidded jar and shake well to combine.
Toss the pasta with the vinaigrette then add in the vegetables, parsley and feta. Stir gently to combine. A little fresh ground pepper tastes great in this salad but the saltiness of the feta means you probably won’t have to add any additional salt for seasoning.
Place the pasta in the refrigerator until well chilled and serve as a side dish or as a light vegetarian meal.