Long, long ago, in a
galaxy state far, far away, we lived near a lovely deli and in this lovely deli they sold an incredible Greek Pasta Salad at a price that was too high to buy it often, but low enough that I would occasionally indulge in a half-pint container. Determined to re-create it at home, I wrote down all the obvious ingredients, and bothered the deli clerks about the dressing, to no avail because they used a ready-made dressing and were clueless as to what it contained. So, I improvised and tweaked and came up with my own version, which, while it isn’t exactly the same, it is Close Enough For Me and also Quite Tasty In Its Own Right.
As with any pasta and vegetable salad, you can change the proportions and the veggies up a bit to suit your own taste and accommodate what you have or can get at a good price. Seeded cucumbers would be nice in this, as would some grape tomatoes, which I would suggest leaving whole. I used black olives here, but I’ve also prepared the salad with kalamata or green olives, or a mixture. Pepperoncini or other jarred, pickled peppers can be used instead of the mild banana peppers. For the pasta, I chose penne rigate, which is ridged rather than smooth, and holds onto the dressing better. Also, penne is a sturdier shape than say, rotini or farfalle, so it doesn’t fall apart as easily when tossed with the veggies and dressing in a salad. The tri-color pasta was the same price as the plain, and makes a more visually-appealing salad.
Recipe: Greek Salad Dressing
- 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (or use half olive oil, half sunflower or peanut oil)
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon basil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon instant minced garlic or garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon instant minced onion or onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
Combine in a jar with tight-fitting lid, and shake well. Set aside while prepping salad ingredients. Makes enough for one recipe of Greek Pasta Salad, about 1 cup. I tend to make a double recipe to have it on hand, as it keeps well for a few weeks in the refrigerator and it’s also great on lettuce-based salads.
Recipe: Greek Pasta Salad
- 6 ounces tri-colored penne rigate pasta
- 4 ounces firm feta cheese (not crumbles)
- 1 cup pitted olives
- 1/2 large red onion
- 1/2 cup mild banana pepper rings or pepperoncini, sliced
- 1 medium green bell pepper (or red bell, or half of each)
- 1 cup Greek Salad Dressing (above)
Cook the pasta to al dente, according to package directions. Drain, then rinse well in cold water until pasta is completely cold, then drain well.
While the pasta is cooking, prepare the veggies and cheese, adding each item to a large mixing bowl as you go.
Cut the feta cheese into half-inch sized cubes. If you chose a firm cheese, they will hold their shape when tossed in the salad. This makes a much more pleasant-looking dish than results when using crumbled feta.
Slice olives in half lengthwise. As you do this, look for any fragments of olive pits which may have been left behind by the mechanical olive pitting equipment. Usually, you won’t find any, but this time I found two!
Slice the red onion into strips from root end to the top, rather than cutting into rings. This gives nice sturdy pieces that work well in this chunky salad.
If you’re using banana pepper rings, no prep is needed. For pepperoncini or other pickled peppers, cut into rings or strips if they are whole and large. Small, whole peppers may be used as is.
Clean and dice the bell pepper into approximately bite-sized pieces. If you don’t know how to do that, Heather did a demo for us a while back.
Once the cooked & cooled pasta and all the veggies & cheese are in the bowl, shake up the dressing and pour it over everything. Using a large spoon, stir the salad gently, so you don’t break up the pasta or the feta, until all the pieces are coated evenly. Serve immediately or cover and chill until serving time. I love this as a light lunch all by itself, but it’s great as a side for cookouts, too.
Bobbie Laughman is a part-time caregiver and freelance writer, who lives by the belief that life is too short to drink bad coffee or eat lousy food.