Pasta Salad with Tomato Dressing

January 18th, 2024

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Hello, 2024! I hope the year is off to a positive start for you all. I am a bit slow out of the blocks myself with home renovations in full swing – I am currently typing this with paint-splotched fingers. Anyone who has renovated or worked on a major building project will understand how all-consuming it can be. But life goes on, and I am officially back to work this week with a line-up of recipes to write and photograph for Stuff and NZ Gardener magazine.

I am looking forward to getting my creative hat back on in the kitchen (it has been a summer of simple meals). Do let me know if you have any requests, and I will do my best to include them in my recipe planning. Also, if you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe to my recipe newsletter (link on the sidebar or below) to keep up to date with the latest recipes and upcoming events. I am currently planning dates for my next cooking workshops around Aotearoa and always share these in my newsletter first.

On that note, I realised recently that I have been sharing recipes online plus sending out my email newsletter for 20 years (what?!).  A lot has changed over that time (hello social media and video content), but I am still here and looking forward to another year of sharing recipes with you all. Thank you for coming along for the ride, and I wish you many delicious and joyful meals for 2024.

Now to the recipe…

Barbecue potlucks are a popular summer activity. A common request is to bring a salad and something for the BBQ. I like this way of sharing kai (food). It keeps things simple and is a chance to get creative with different salads. Include some vegetables on the grill and it can become a vegetable-focused meal.

I have been enjoying making this pasta salad recently. A somewhat retro-style salad, this one focuses on freshness over the heavy and sweet dressings that often dominated salads a few decades ago. It is adaptable to use what you have and can easily be jigged to suit different dietary requirements, such as using gluten-free pasta. Read on for more. 

More Salad and Pasta Recipes on Homegrown Kitchen

Pasta Salad with Tomato Dressing

Pasta salad has been making a comeback in recent years. I recall preparing it for a salad bar at one of my first chef jobs some 20 years ago. Sun-dried tomatoes, black olives and feta were the key ingredients. I have focused on similar additions in this salad including fresh tomatoes - being the season after all. The simple and flavoursome dressing uses a whole grated tomato combined with olive oil and lemon juice to perfectly complement the other ingredients. Feel free to spruce up the salad with other additions such as sun-dried tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes, grilled zucchini slices, swap the feta for grilled halloumi cubes, or scatter with some toasted seeds for extra crunch. 
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes

Ingredients

  • 200 g (about 1 ½ cups) penne or fusilli (spiral) pasta (can use gluten-free)
  • 1 tsp salt + extra for seasoning
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium tomato, about 150g
  • ¼ red onion, thinly sliced
  • squeeze of lemon, to taste
  • cracked pepper
  • ½ red capsicum, thinly sliced
  • about 200g cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 150 g feta, crumbled
  • ½ cup pitted olives - kalamata or green, halved
  • handful basil leaves, roughly chopped

Instructions

  • First, cook the pasta. In a saucepan bring 2-3 litres of water to a rolling boil. Add 1 tsp salt to the boiling water followed by the pasta.
  • Cook at a rapid boil - this will prevent the pasta from sticking together - until the pasta is al-dente. About 8 minutes for wheat pasta, or 15 minutes for gluten-free pasta.
  • Drain in a colander and immediately rinse under cold water. Drizzle with a little olive oil, tossing to combine. Set aside to cool completely.
  • Grate the medium-sized tomato directly into a large salad bowl. You may need to nick the skin with the tip of a knife to get it to catch on the grater holes to begin the grating. The aim here is that as you grate the skin peels back on the outside of the grater (into your hand) and the flesh grates into a pulp in the bowl. Compost the skin.
  • To the tomato pulp add the remaining olive oil, along with lemon juice and seasoning to taste. The amount of lemon juice required will depend on the sharpness of the tomato used so go with your judgement to bring a flavour balance to the tomato dressing.
  • Add the red onion to the dressing to soften while preparing the remaining ingredients, adding to the salad bowl as you go.
  • Finally, add the cooled pasta and toss to combine. The salad can be prepared ahead of time, covered and chilled until ready to serve. Also great the next day for school or work lunches.

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