Our favorite pasta salad was love at first bite. Since we tried this a few years ago, there’s been no reason to even consider trying another version.
Hello, sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan, black olives and more tomatoes, combined with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and fresh basil. Yum!
For the record, I’ve never been a fan of mayo-based pasta salad, and Mom won’t touch any cold pasta, period. So, I never thought pasta salad had wow-factor potential.
But this sun-dried tomato vinaigrette version brings it, folks. My household and every guest I’ve served this to goes nuts for it. I thought it was time I shared it with you.
Plus, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m using this blog as my online cookbook, one that I can prop on my counter as I view it from my iPad and refer to as I make meals for my family. I really like having all of my favorite recipes in one place.
I found this pasta salad on Pioneer Woman’s site, and she adapted it from Ina Garten, so you know it’s outstanding. My only changes were to use black olives instead of kalamata (too salty for me), and regular olive oil instead of extra virgin (too bitter for me). I’ve also provided salt and pepper measurements.
In case this is helpful to anyone, although my family has switched to eating brown rice pasta for health reasons, I had to use regular pasta in this recipe. Brown rice pasta hardens when chilled, and whole wheat pasta is too mushy for our taste.
The white pasta is just right in this dish. I assure you, no one here is complaining.
Our Favorite Pasta Salad
- 1 7-ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes (preferably plain; drained)
- 4 cloves garlic (peeled)
- 3 tablespoons vinegar (I use white balsamic)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes (sliced in half)
- 3 2.25-ounce cans sliced black olives (drained, rinsed and patted dry)
- 1 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 10-15 basil leaves
- 1 pound rotini pasta
- If you need to grate your Parmesan, do that first, using your food processor or blender, if desired. Measure out 1 1/2 cups and set it aside.
- Fill a large pasta pot just over halfway with water, add about a teaspoon of salt, and put it on the stove over high heat, covered.
- In a food processor or blender, add your drained sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pulse a bit to break up the tomatoes. Drizzle in the olive oil as you pulse to combine everything. It's best to wait to adjust the seasonings until after the dressing is stirred into the pasta salad, since the cheese and olives will be salty.
- When your water boils, add your pasta to the pot and give it a stir. Cook uncovered, until al dente, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. (Check it for doneness three minutes before the al dente time listed on the package.)
- While the pasta is cooking, rinse your tomatoes, pat them dry, and slice them in half. Drain, rinse, and pat dry your olives. Rinse your basil leaves, roll them up, and slice them into ribbons.
- When the pasta is cooked, drain it in a colander in the sink. Add the pasta back to your pot and stir in the sun-dried tomato dressing. Add the Parmesan, tomato halves, olives, and basil and stir to combine. Transfer the pasta salad to a large serving bowl and refrigerate it, covered, until serving time.
- The pasta salad is best at room temperature after it has had time to marinate for a few hours. Stir it again before serving. Store leftover pasta salad in the refrigerator for up to four days.