I’ve received a few emails recently that were along the lines of… “Hey Nick. I refuse to turn on my oven until September. Please give me food to eat that’s oven-free.”
So to answer the call this week I’m doing a few different pasta salads and summer salads that are very quick to throw together and good hot, cold, or room temperature. You can take these on a picnic or eat them hunched over your computer while you study for the Bar Exam (says Betsy).
The great thing about pasta salad is that you can really go crazy with the add-ins. I completely winged this white bean salad and it turned out really nice. Betsy and I ate it for dinner one night and then I had leftovers for lunch throughout the week. If you didn’t know, it’s almost impossible to make a small amount of pasta salad.
1) If using dried beans, soak for 6-8 hours in cold water. Then simmer in 3 Cups water per Cup of beans until they are tender. Probably about 30-40 minutes.
2) Cook pasta according to package instructions until it's al dente. Be sure to not overcook it.
3) Chop all additional ingredients.
4) Toss everything together in a big bowl and add olive oil. Taste for salt and pepper.
5) Serve hot or cold.
Cooking the beans
I decided to use dried beans for this recipe and when I make dried beans I make a lot and then use the leftovers for various things throughout the week. I think dried beans have a slightly better flavor and texture than canned beans, but it’s not a huge difference, especially for a dish like this that has a lot of other strong flavors in it.
So if you want to speed this recipe up even more, use canned beans.
If you’re using dried though, get them soaking in cold water for about 6-8 hours, overnight is good.
As they soak, remove anything that floats from the beans.
Then add them to a medium pot with 3 Cups of water per Cup of beans and bring them to a boil. Let them simmer for about 35-40 minutes until they are tender. Then drain them and set them aside.
I say to use 4 Cups of these guys for this pasta salad but I probably used closer to 6 Cups because I had them. Also, these beans keep great for a week or so in the fridge or you can even freeze them for months. Just make sure they are completely cooled before you freeze them.
I decided to use this fun ear pasta that I found in the store for this version. It was fine, but if you can’t find it, don’t fret. Feel free to use any non-spaghetti pasta for this. Fusilli or bowtie pasta would work great also.
Regardless of what pasta you pick, just cook it according to the package and make sure not to overcook it! You definitely want it to be al dente.
The Other Stuff
There’s some really flavorful things that I put into this pasta.
Not pictured below is the basil which is also a strong flavor.
All of these ingredients are pretty easy to prepare. Half your tomatoes, chop your cheese into cubes, dice your onion, and mince your basil. The only thing that might cause you some issues is the olives. If you can find pitted kalamata olives, use them.
I accidentally bought olives that had the pits, which is totally the pits.
If you’ve never pitted olives before though it isn’t too hard. Just get a large knife and chop down the center of the olive. You’ll hit the pit obviously. Then, applying a tiny amount of pressure, roll the knife forward on the olive. The pressure should dislodge the pit and you’ll be left with two halves. It might take you a try or two to get the hang of it, but it should work about 95% of the time. Sometimes you get a stubborn one though.
Just eat the stubborn ones!
Mix everything together in a big bowl!
Drizzle in your olive oil and add a good pinch of salt and pepper. Keep in mind that the olives are pretty salty so don’t over-do it on the salt.
I thought this was even better on day two and three after the flavors melded a bit, but it was just fine on day one also!
I encourage you to add more or less of any of the ingredients based on your tastes. If you’re in a hurry, feel free to used canned beans and use whatever pasta you can find.
The flavors are classic and it’s pretty hard to go wrong.