Thursday, July 02, 2009

A Pasta Salad I Actually Like

In theory, I love pasta salads. Colorful vegetables and sturdy pasta in a tasty dressing, to be served cold or at room temperature. A dish that can be made ahead of time and scaled up to feed a crowd. All of these sound like very desirable traits.

But a good pasta salad is hard to find. I've had more than my share of pasta salads where you can taste nothing but the mayo, where the pasta is gummy and mushy or pasta salads that are simply too bland and blah.

Well, I tried a new recipe last week that I suspect will be my go-to pasta salad for this summer. The inspiring recipe came from Kalyn's Kitchen. I loved this recipe at first glance- it contains roasted vegetables, a sure way to amplify the flavor, and a flavorful dressing of pesto and balsamic vinegar. How can you go wrong?

Slow-roasted tomatoes play a starring role in this recipe. And this is how I had my oven on for 11 hours last Friday, one of the hottest days we have had all year. To be sure, the oven was at very low heat, only 200 degrees F, which is only slightly warmer than the ambient temperature that day. I used Kalyn's recipe for the roasted tomatoes, flavoring them with dried basil, dried oregano, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper (no salt, mind you). Here are the tomatoes before they went into the oven:

Eleven hours later, the earth had turned half a rotation, my home smelled like what I imagine a nonna's kitchen smells like (what with the aroma of Italian herbs and tomatoes) and the tomatoes looked like this:

We could easily have stopped here and polished off the tomatoes right then and there. Peeled, with a sprinkling of coarse salt, the roasted tomatoes are a delightful summer treat. However, I exercised some self-discipline and saved them to make the pasta salad the following day.

I believe dishes like salads are like fingerprints- no two are the same. I am just noting down how I made it that day; all proportions are to taste. Ingredients can be omitted or substituted with abandon.

Pesto Pasta Salad


Inspired by Kalyn's recipe for Pasta Salad with Roasted Tomatoes, Grilled Zucchini, and Basil, makes 6-8 servings

3-4 cups dry short pasta (I used tricolor fusilli)
10-12 slow-roasted tomatoes, chopped into strips
3 yellow squashes, roasted
¼ cup chopped olives (I used mixed Greek olives)
3 tablespoons pesto (I used prepared pesto from Trader Joe's)
½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar
¼ cup parmesan cheese (I used Stravecchio Parmesan)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil water and cook the pasta until just tender, then drain and rinse in cool water.
2. In a large bowl, mix the pesto, balsamic vinegar and parmesan together.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients, including the cooked pasta.
4. Toss together and season well with salt and pepper. Cover and chill for a few hours before serving.

The flavors of the pasta salad develop over several hours, and it tasted great even the next day when we ate leftovers for lunch (and I stood over the sink and licked the bowl clean). I altogether loved the contrasting taste of the briny olives, sweet-tart tomatoes and the sweet smoky squash.

It is only fitting that Pesto Pasta Salad should be dispatched to Ruth's Presto Pasta Night, hosted this week at Daily Unadventures in Cooking.

I'll see you in two days with a recipe that has us hopelessly addicted to green beans!


  1. I love roasted veggies -- never thought to put them in a pasta salad! The whole dish sounds like a real keeper -- looks beautiful too!

  2. wow thats cool Nupur!!
    I am also big fan of pasta salads and was in search of recipes from so many days!!
    Thanks for sharing!!

  3. Well Nupur..You know what Iam gonna say..all ur recipes are a keeper..Anyway I stopped here to say that I tried your palak channa and it turned out great!!Please check ouut my website to see how I have modified your recipe...Ok Chao!!!!

  4. oh and i thought i was the only one who didn't like pasta salads much..

  5. ooh, I like the idea of the roasted tomatoes and the balsamic. Sounds excellent!

  6. I love roasted veggies and am making roasted salads almost every week now that its summer and too hot to eat whole meals! :)

    The roasted tomatoes look divine!!


  7. This is definately a keeper, i can imagine the wonderful aroma of roasted tomatoes!! thanks for sharing!

  8. I tend to agree, I love pasta but I have met a lot of pasta salads I don't like. This looks delicious. It is all about the fresh ingredients.
    Thanks for joining in Presto Pasta/

  9. Looking sooo colorful and inviting...I love pasta....thanks for sharing..

  10. Those slow roasted tomatos look delicious! So does the finished salad. I can never seem to make a nice pasta salad, i may have to try some of the ingredients youve used for this recipe.
    Thanks for sharing :)


  11. Dang! Now I've got to go BACK to the store, cause I'm having this tomorrow. Thanks!

  12. I agree, there are far too many pasta salads that are not quite memorable! So glad you tried this; your version looks great. Aren't the slow roasted tomatoes just a life-changing experience. I will have to buy tomatoes so I can make them this year because I didn't plant any romas, but can't wait to make some again!

  13. nice pasta salad.
    Nupur, Can you tell me how you take such wonderful pictures ? I am trying to take some for my blog too.
    How did you add the copyright on them ? Please let me know .
    Thanks so much !

  14. this is something that is right up my alley!!

  15. Gorgeous!! Colorful and refreshing!

  16. Using pesto to make a salad dressing - why didn't I think of that? I made a cilantro pesto a couple of weeks ago and was scratching my head for ways to use it - this would have been perfect! (I ended up using it with black beans, corn and tomatoes, rolled up in tortillas). Your salad sounds scrumptious!

  17. I find pasta salad kind of boring too, but this looks good. lately I've been making a good pasta salad with: pasta, canned tuna in olive oil, home-made roasted red peppers, olives, capers, pickle relish, green beans, olive oil, a mixture of balsamic/red wine vinegars, salt, pepper. It's kind of the "kitchen sink" approach, but is actually pretty good as long as you don't overdo the vinegar.

  18. Looks absolute yum...loved the tomatoes...the other day I was watching some show and the chef used almost same method of tomato for all eager to try too but may b in pasta :)

  19. this sounds delicious. I love the idea of roasting the tomatoes.

  20. I bought 4lbs of tomatoes at the market today, and a pound is reserved for trying out this salad :) and oh, I have a pound of green beans waiting too :)

  21. I don't think I have had a memorable pasta salad yet and I have never made one either. This looks like it will prove both of the above facts false

  22. This looks wonderful Nupur...The tomatoes look so perfect...I dont think I would have waited for the salad !!

  23. Gorgeous salad! I make big batches of these tomatoes every summer (a sheet pan holds exactly 5 pounds of roma tomatoes), and I freeze them in small containers. Then, in mid winter, I have the taste of garden-fresh tomatoes -- a total luxury.

  24. Stunning photos, delicious recipe...what's not to love! Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights. Hope to see you back often.

  25. I don't really like salads but pasta salds are the exception. I have my own favourite version but I really like this one. Shall definitely try this one too.

  26. I love pasta salad, but was never good at making it! Thanks for your easy recipe! I never knew one could roast tomatoes like this, thanks again.

  27. I read a recipe which is similar in one magazine last week and was totally hooked to it. I think this tastes heavenly. Have to try it soon.

  28. I love roasted tomatoes, and even thought of tossing some into my pasta salad today... just didn't have time to wait for them. Definitely next time after reading about how tasty your pasta salad turned out!

  29. Linda- The roasted veggies add incredible flavor to the pasta salad, and yes, I loved how colorful this turned out.

    Chakhlere- This is a lovely recipe to start with.

    BDSN- I did see your modified version, and I like the idea of making it with black beans...very innovative!

    Nags- It is not that I don't like them; a well-made pasta salad is simply wonderful!

    Alisa- It tasted excellent too :)

    Miri- I agree- with roasted veggies you get great flavor even when they are eaten cold.

    Parita- Yes, the aroma was very appetizing.

    Katerina- Totally, the fresh ingredients make the dish. Thanks for the lovely round-up!

    Preeti Singh- Glad you liked it!

    Rose- Try this one, you may like it :) Now I'm more excited about trying other pasta salads.

  30. schmom- Let me know if you tried it and liked it :)

    Kalyn- I have so many of your recipes bookmarked! This one is a keeper :)
    V loves sun-dried tomatoes and was VERY excited to try these, and loved them.

    Suparna- Oh, my pictures are very mediocre compared to those on other food blogs! Anyway, search for "food photography tips" on the internet and you'll get a lot of tips (I'm assuming it is food you are trying to photograph). My only tip is "use natural light".
    To add the copyright (or any text), you can use a photo editor. I have a free account for this one:
    E-mail me if you have more questions about this.

    Aquadaze- :)

    Kalai- and nutritious ;)

    Cathy- The first thing I thought of when you mentioned cilantro pesto is chutney sandwiches, that is, using the pesto as a sandwich spread on buttered bread, with a filling of tomatoes and cucumbers...mmm :)

    Diane- I embrace the kitchen sink approach in all my cooking :) That salad has so many ingredients I love.

    Priti- This was in pasta, just a cold pasta dish.

    The Food Hunter- It is really a clever idea!

    Priya- Green beans post is up :) let me know if you like the salad, if you end up trying it.

    Bong Mom- This one is memorable, give it a try ;)

    Arch- I almost didn't wait for the salad, but am glad I did :)

    Lydia- Now that I have tried one batch and liked it, I'll be looking for lots of local tomatoes and making myself a stash for winter!

    Ruth- I like your event a lot, will remember to send in entries regularly :)

    Aparna- Oh, would love to see what your favorite version is...I'll going to look through your blog!

    Namita- I never had much success either, but this one was good! And the roasted tomatoes are very versatile, could be used in so many different ways.

    Shilpa- Let me know if you try it and like it :)

    Patsyk- Your patience will be rewarded :) they add so much taste to the salad.

  31. A good pasta salad is definitely hard to come by! I don't like mayo so that makes it extra tough. This one looks like something I would adore, though.

  32. the tomatoes have just come out of the oven and I really don't know how you managed to get them into the salad. I've been munching on them just as is, they are out of the world! Soo sweet and yes summery can be the only word to describe them. I want to turn them into a jam :D

  33. Joanne- I am not the biggest fan of mayo either, although I like it in some dishes. This one is delicious, though!

    Priya- YAY, you tried this already? Tomato jam sounds fantastic, and they would also be great in tomato rice and other Indian dishes.

  34. looks fantastic.... the pic of the roasted tomatoes is just so tantalising!!

  35. Nupur,

    It is great to see your blog alive again. And the dishes, all of them perfect for the summer. With all the CSA bounty I'm getting, I'll be trying out all your dishes now. Thanks.


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