Picnic Perfect Pasta Salad
This picnic perfect pasta salad has juicy tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, salty feta and a bright dressing that’ll keep you going back for more!
I can’t even tell you how many times I have made this salad. At one point It felt like I damn near made this for every function one year. Not only is every bite of this pasta salad delicious but it can also be served cold or room temp. Andddd it can be made ahead! I did say this recipe was perfect, didn’t I 😉
Mise En Place
Let’s gather all the equipment and ingredients needed for this picnic perfect pasta salad.
- Big pot to cook the pasta in
- 2 Big bowls
- Cutting board
- Chef knife
- Farfalle Pasta – They look like bow ties, I picked them cuz their cute but feel free to sub your fave pasta shape.
- Red Onions – Mild in flavor and a little sweet, plus they’re so pretty when pickled.
- Plum tomatoes – typically good for cooking and canning but I love the meaty texture in this salad. plus they have a low water content, it won’t make the salad too wet. When buying plum tomatoes look for brightly colored skin and they should feel plump.
- Seedless Cucumbers – also known as English cucumbers aren’t really seedless, but they do have fewer seeds than the regular ones. I find them to be crisper too. When shopping for cucs, make sure to look for firm cucumbers without blemishes or soft spots.
- Feta Cheese – feta is a greek cheese typically made from sheep or goat milk. Its soft, tangy and salty. When buying, buy it whole and crumble it yourself. you get more for your money this way. Great sub for feta is goat cheese or even queso fresco.
- Oregano – I use Dominican oregano but oregano In general has an earthy, warm taste with just a hint of citrus. Its absolutely delicious with the flavors in this salad
- Lemon/Red Wine Vin./Distilled White Vin. – These are all acids but they have different flavor profiles. Lemon is used for brightness, red wine vinegar pairs well with the feta and oregano and lastly the white vinegar is gives this salad its addictive pucker. A little goes a long way.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Use the good stuff and make sure its not rancid. Rancid oil tastes bitter and will ruin the entire thing.
- Fresh Parsley – Fresh herbs add freshness and parsley tastes a little like lemon.
- Crushed Red Pepper – adds heat, completely optional
- Kosher Salt and Black Pepper
Lets make Picnic Perfect Pasta Salad!
This salad is super easy to make, measurements aren’t really needed. Just taste as you go and you’ll be fine. Your knife skills will be put to the test though, so make sure to secure your cutting board to the counter properly. A damp paper towel under the board should do the trick. Cook the pasta and as it cooks, you can start in on the rest of the ingredients.
I always pickle my onions in the bowl I make the salad in. If there’s one thing I hate is a raw red onion in my food. So I slice the onions first, add them to the bowl reserved for making the salad, then pickle them in the acids I’m using for the salad. This way the onion pickles slightly while I make the rest of the picnic perfect pasta salad. You can actually skip this step if you already have pickled onions. I have a great recipe for that right here.
On top of the onion goes the rest of the chopped veggies, followed by a big dash of salt. Veggies love salt so don’t miss this step. Now we add the pasta and the rest of the ingredients except for the cheese and mix. If we add the cheese in now then we would end up with most of it shmeared all over the place. Lightly toss it in at the end instead. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if need be, or more acid and/or oil. Its perfect when it tastes good to you 😉
Not making it today, Prep it.
This entire salad can be prepped ahead.
- The pasta could be made up to 2 days ahead, drizzled with a little olive oil to prevent it from sticking and stored in the fridge.
- All the veggies should be washed and thoroughly dried the day they come home from the market. Three parts water and 1 part white vinegar. You can slice and dice it all, the day before you plan to make it… 2 days the most. Store them in the fridge, use one container for all of the veggies.
- Extra brownie points for juicing the lemon and storing the acids together in the fridge. An 8oz container works.
Picnic Perfect Pasta Salad
- 1 Lb Farfalle Pasta
- 1.5 Lbs plum tomatoes
- 1 Seedless cucumber
- 1 Medium red onion
- 1 Lemon
- 2 tsp distilled white vinegar
- 1 block feta cheese
- Handful of fresh parsley
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1/4 -1/2 tsp crushed red pepper, optional
- 1/4 cup Red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup Extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- Cook pasta according to the package instructions. Rinse with cold water and set aside.
- Cut the red onion in half and Slice the halves thinly, transfer to a bowl and add the juice of the lemon, red wine vinegar and distilled white vinegar.
- dice the tomatoes and slice the cucumbers into half moons. Add it to the bowl with the onions and season with a big dash of salt.
- Add the pasta to the bowl with the veggies and stir.
- Chop the parsely and add it to the bowl along with the oregano, crushed red pepper, if using and oil. Toss the salad and crumble the feta on top and season with a big dash of salt and pepper.
- Lightly toss to incorparate the feta while leaving visible crumbles running through the pasta salad.
- Adjust seasoning if needed with salt and pepper.