Picnic Pasta Salad
Let’s run through two scenarios.
My IDEAL picnic: Sitting on a bright green hillside with a slight breeze. It’s warm, but not hot. Maybe a few children play with a kite. My perfectly behaved dog fetches a tennis ball. Betsy and I share a mimosa and big bowls of this pasta salad.
My ACTUAL picnic: I sit on the couch, icing my knee. It’s raining. Every ten seconds Porter attempts to jump on my lap from a different angle causing mild pain each time. Meanwhile, my cat tries to swat at an imaginary bug dangerously close to my ear. I’m watching Reno 911 reruns. Betsy and I are eating this salad.
The only two things in common between those scenarios are Betsy existing and this salad. Go figure.
Spring Pasta Salad
Yield: Serves 6-8.
1 pound whole wheat pasta
1/2 pound green beans, blanched
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, minced
1 15 ounce can artichokes, chopped
1 15 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed
6-8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 lemon, juice only
Salt and pepper
Red pepper flakes (optional)
1) Chop ends off of green beans and cut in half.
2) Blanch green beans in salted boiling water for about 90 seconds until they are bright green, but still slightly crunchy.
3) Remove green beans from water with slotted spoon and add to ice water to stop the cooking.
4) Cook whole wheat pasta in same water according to package instructions. Drain and toss with a drizzle of olive oil.
5) Chop all other veggies. Be sure to drain artichokes and beans before chopping. Rinse the beans also with cold water.
6) Add veggies to pasta and drizzle with more olive oil and lemon juice. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
7) Chill until ready to serve.
Prepping the Veggies
There’s only one veggie that you need to cook for this recipe unless you want to use fresh artichokes (more on that later). You will need to cook the green beans though. I don’t recommend using canned green beans for this.
To prep the beans, get a large pot of salted water boiling. Break (or cut) off the ends of the green beans and then chop them in half.
Cook the beans in the boiling water for about 90 seconds. They should be bright green, but still slightly crispy. Then dunk them into some ice water to stop the cooking.
Keep the boiling water on the stove because you can cook your pasta in the same water!
There’s a few other veggies that you’ll need for the salad. Some red onion and tomatoes give a really light and fresh flavor to the salad.
I like little cherry tomatoes for pasta salad because they are easy to just slice in half.
On the artichoke situation, I was considering using fresh artichokes. I actually had about six of them in my cart.
Then I realized that I was being ridiculous. In my opinion, the only time it makes sense to use fresh artichokes is if you are steaming and eating them or stuffing them with something.
So, I wised up and just bought a can of the hearts which is all you need for this salad. Still delicious and about a tenth of the work.
You could use almost any non-spaghetti pasta for this guy. I went with a really sturdy and delicious whole wheat pasta.
Whole wheat pasta is more expensive, but it’s better for you and it fills me up faster also. A pound of this stuff in this salad will easily feed eight people.
Just cook the pasta according to the package instructions, drain it, and then drizzle on some olive oil. That will just keep the pasta from sticking together horribly.
This is one of my favorite pastas.
Finishing the Salad
There’s nothing rocket science about the rest of the salad. Toss in all the chopped veggies. Be sure to drain and rinse your white beans before adding them.
Crumble in the feta cheese and some fresh lemon juice along with another good drizzle of olive oil.
Toss this all together and season it really well with salt, pepper, and some red pepper flakes.
You can eat this right away (we did), but it’s much better if it has a few hours to chill in the fridge.
The salad has lots of delicious spring flavors and is just asking to be taken on a picnic. Hopefully, your picnic is an ideal one!