Bookish Matters

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Potluck Pasta Salad

I invented this dish last year when looking for a vegan alternative to the pasta salad I was craving. I've brought it to two potlucks and it's gone over well. The only problem is that after the potluck I have no left-over pasta salad to eat.

Potluck Pasta Salad
Prep: 30 minutes     Chill: 2 to 24 hours
Makes: 16 side-dish servings


3 cups whole-wheat rotini or other pasta (8 ounces)
1 red bell pepper, cut into short strips
16 kalamata olives, halved
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoons snipped fresh oregano or basil, or 2 teaspoons crushed dried oregano or basil (or combination)
1 recipe vinaigrette (about 3/4 cup, see below)
1 cup avocado, cubed (about 1 large avocado, do not cut until step 4)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions (boil about 8 minutes). Drain, rinse in cold water, drain.
2. In a large bowl combine all ingredients except vinaigrette and avocado. Then add vinaigrette, tossing gently to coat.
3. Chill 2 to 24 hours.
4. A half hour before serving, remove from refrigerator and add avocado. Toss gently.

Basic Vinaigrette
Prep time: 10 minutes or less
Makes: About 3/4 cup


1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon agave nectar
1 tablespoon snipped fresh herbs, or 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried herbs (basil, oregano, or thyme)
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard or 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1. Add all ingredients to a screw-top jar.
2. Shake, shake, shake!

I like to cut all the vegetables after the pasta has cooked and been rinsed, while letting the pasta cool. Olive oil will thicken when refrigerated, thus we take the pasta salad out 30 minutes before serving. We add avocados last minutes so they won't turn brown or mushy.

I like to use half oregano and half basil for both the vinaigrette and the pasta. This is a good basic vinaigrette recipe to play around with, trying different herbs or mustards; use on salads or dip bread in it. If you use fresh herbs, the vinaigrette can be stored in the fridge for three days. If using dried herbs, one week.

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