Mediterranean Pasta Salad with Asparagus

Our backyard was a busy place last weekend, with family and friends dropping by and staying to visit. It’s exactly how I love summer life to unfold, with spontaneous spritz on the patio and campfire s’mores just for kicks.

A vegetable-packed pasta salad is one of the ways I like to feed a crowd without too much effort, especially when it is sweltering outside. You can make it in advance or whip it up at the last minute; serve it on its own or with a side of grilled sausages.

It’s fast to prep, is easily customizable and enjoyed by all. Simply put, pasta salad is just smart, simple summer cooking – which is why I can’t believe I’ve never shared a recipe for it until today. Today’s recipe for Mediterranean Pasta Salad is our go-to salad during the hot months. I give my version, but also suggest plenty of ingredient variations for you to make it your own.

This vibrant salad is delicious as a main dish as well as a side. It travels well, which is ideal for those beach outings, and can be made in advance on busy weekends.

For the base, I toss a lemon and oil dressing over orzo pasta; orzo is a shape I’ve always preferred over macaroni for my pasta salads. I also include a mountain of fresh herbs, because I grown them in abundance from May to October.

Ideally, a summer salad must be tangy and acidic, creamy and crunchy, and have the freshest seasonal vegetables available. So sometimes the veggie add-ins are snap peas, radishes or baby cucumbers (all very acceptable) but this month is it all about asparagus.

I may substitute shaved Parmesan in place of the feta cheese, or swap cherry tomatoes for the artichokes, but no matter the variation, this Mediterranean Pasta Salad is always gobbled up.

The rest of the salad ingredients come from my well-stocked pantry; yes, the pantry is just as essential in summertime as in winter! I keep dried orzo pasta on hand, as well as jars of Kalamata olives and artichoke hearts packed in oil. Pine nuts are in an airtight jar in the freezer, where the heat and humidity won’t turn them rancid.

You could add sun dried tomatoes if you like (they are one ingredient I can happily do without) or toss in local cherry tomatoes, once they are sweet and plentiful. Better yet, my slow-roasted cherry tomatoes are flavor-packed little morsels that add a dynamic bite and a pop of colour to the salad. Make them the day ahead of serving to help ensure a fast assembly when you are bringing the dish together.

With these pantry staples on hand, fresh herbs and garden vegetables from our homestead, this vibrant summer pasta salad is an easy option for weekday lunch or a spontaneous picnic. I hope it makes it to your table one day soon.


Mediterranean Pasta Picnic Salad
Print
Recipe type: Salad
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves/Yield: Serves 6
I'm convinced this salad is better after an overnight in the refrigerator, so consider making it in advance of your picnic or barbecue.
Ingredients
  • 1 bundle asparagus, washed
  • 1 cup dried orzo pasta
  • 1 large lemon, scrubbed
  • 1/4 cup fresh herbs leaves such as basil, oregano and chives
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ tsp fresh black pepper
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 4-5 canned artichoke hearts
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, trim the ends off the asparagus and peel the bottom thirds. Slice asparagus into 1-inch lengths.
  2. Add the orzo pasta to the boiling water. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 7 ½ minutes. Add the asparagus to the pot now and cook for an additional minute and a half (or until tender). Strain the orzo and the asparagus into a colander. Drain well, then transfer to a baking sheet and spread out to cool completely.
  3. Meanwhile, zest lemon into a medium bowl; juice it into the bowl, discarding the seeds. Finely chop the herbs and add them to the bowl. Grate the garlic in using a microplane or crush it in a garlic press. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix the dressing well until smooth and a little creamy.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the cooled pasta and asparagus with the lemon-basil vinaigrette. Toss in the feta cheese, olives, artichokes and pine nuts. Mix well to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

 

 

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

Subscribe For Free!

Like reading this post?
Get more delivered to your email inbox.

Speak Your Mind

*

Rate this recipe: