Pasta salad is a great way to use up small bits of vegetables that you have in the fridge, threatening to go bad. It’s also a great dish for warm weather – it doesn’t heat up the kitchen, it packs well for picnics, and it is a welcome change of pace from greens-based salads. It’s also a good way to use up leftovers.
This is a really flexible recipe. You can use different beans (I’d suggest kidney beans or white beans), or leave them out. You can use different cheese, or leave it out (I recommend feta, though, since it melts a little when the pasta is still warm and makes the whole dish really creamy). You can substitute your favorite dressing for the vinaigrette that I use here – it really doesn’t matter. Just remember these things:
- if possible, mix the salad while the pasta is still warm, so it absorbs the flavors around it as it cools
- remember to taste the salad after it’s been cooled, since cold foods need more acid and/or salt
When I made it tonight, I used a combination of broccoli, mushrooms, snow peas, and zucchini (had to clean out that crisper drawer!). And while I can’t wholeheartedly endorse the use of snow peas in this salad, it was a good reminder of how adaptable this recipe is.
Pasta Salad with Broccoli and Feta
- 8 ounces cut pasta (penne, fusili, bowties, or any other shape)
- 1.5 pounds broccoli
- 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus more as needed
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (or use 2 tablespoons lemon juice)
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more as needed
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed (optional)
- 1/2 cup feta, crumbled
Bring a large pot of water to boil and salt it well. Cook the pasta until very tender, about 10 minutes (I like to cook pasta salad pasta a little longer than I do pasta for eatin’ fresh, since it seems to firm up more when it’s cold). Meanwhile, prepare the broccoli. Cut the florets into small chunks and peel the stems well and cut them into 1/4 inch coins. Boil them in salted water for about 3 minutes (if you’re confident in your pasta cookery, just toss them in when the pasta is about 3 minutes from being done). Drain both the pasta and the broccoli and set aside.
Make your vinaigrette. Whisk the lemon juice, vinegar, and mustard with a large pinch of salt in a small bowl. Add the oil in and whisk until combined. Add the crushed garlic clove and set aside.
In a large, wide bowl, combine the pasta, broccoli, chickpeas, feta, and most of the vinaigrette (including that garlic clove). Toss well, then taste. If it needs more dressing, add the rest of the vinaigrette. Adjust the salt and acid – you will probably need to add a bit more of each. Refrigerate about 30 minutes, check seasonings again, and serve.