Memorial Day Pasta Salad

Israeli Couscous Salad - My new favorite side dish for a party! This delicious salad is packed with grilled veggies, mozzarella, basil and a light dressing.


Memorial Day Pasta Salad

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A few weeks ago I had a small BBQ with some friends. I didn’t make anything fancy. I grilled a few beer can chickens and, almost on a whim, tossed together this Israeli Couscous Salad.

I didn’t think much of it and didn’t even photograph it to post.

During dinner, people went stark raving mad for this salad so I figured I better put it down on the Internets. One of my friends thought he could eat the entire bowl all by himself.

I almost asked him to try, but then everyone else would’ve had to go without the salad!

Anyway, it’s really the perfect side dish for a BBQ meal and perfect for Memorial Day weekend!

Grilled Veggie Couscous Salad

Serves 6-8
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My new favorite side dish for a party! This delicious salad is packed with grilled veggies, mozzarella, basil and a light dressing.


1 pound Israeli couscous
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
1 red pepper
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, slivered
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
Salt and pepper
Extra olive oil for veggies

Helpful Equipment:

A grill!


1) Cook couscous according to package. When it’s tender, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.

2) Cut zucchini and squash into 1/4-inch thick slices longwise. Thicker is better than thinner. Cut the red pepper into quarters. Toss vegetables with a drizzle of olive oil and a big pinch of salt and pepper.

3) For dressing, whisk together 1/3 cup of olive oil with 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of honey.

4) Preheat grill to high heat. Once hot, grill veggies for 3-4 minutes per side until they have nice grill marks.

5) Remove vegetables from grill and chop them into large chunks.

6) Toss cooked couscous with a few spoonfuls of dressing. Then fold in grilled vegetables followed by cubed mozzarella and slivered basil. Drizzle over remaining dressing and taste the salad. Season it as needed with salt and pepper.

You can easily make this salad in advance and store it in the fridge until needed. It only gets better after chilling for a few hours.

Israeli Couscous Salad

Grilled Veg

You could use a wide range of veggies for this salad, but I recommend finding at least one good pepper (red, yellow, or orange) and then an assortment of fresh squash and zucchini.

Slice all the vegetables in thick pieces so they grill nicely and toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Keep it simple.
Keep it simple.

Get your grill blazing hot and grill the vegetables for just a few minutes per side. You want nice char on them, but you also don’t want to over-cook them or they will just turn into a soggy mess.

Hot grill!
Hot grill!

When they come off the grill, they should have a tiny bite to them still, but nice grill marks always look good.

It’s kind of a subtle balance, but if you start with a super-hot grill, you’ll be fine.

grilled vegetables for Israeli Couscous Salad
Nice marks.

Finishing the Salad

There’s not much else to this Israeli Couscous Salad which is why it’s so amazing. Your work-to-flavor ratio is pretty great.

I recommend making a quick dressing with some olive oil, balsamic, honey, salt, and pepper. You don’t need a ton of it. It should be a light coating on the salad.

Quick dressing for Israeli Couscous Salad
Quick dressing.

When it comes to the pasta for the salad, Israeli couscous is the best.

I wouldn’t use normal couscous (too fine), but you could use any other small pasta.

This stuff really is the best though for salads like this. It’s quick to make and difficult to over-cook. When it’s done boiling, drain it and rinse it with cold water so it stops cooking.

I love this stuff.
I love this stuff.

Then just pile in your grilled veg. Be sure to chop them really roughly. You want large chunks of veggies in the salad.

Nice big chunks of grilled veggies - Israeli Couscous Salad
Nice big chunks.

Then drizzle on your dressing (start with half of it) and add in the cubed fresh mozzarella and slivered basil.

The cheese and basil give the Israeli Couscous Salad a serious Mediterranean feel which is awesome.

Good flavors! - Israeli Couscous Salad
Good flavors!

Once everything is stirred together, taste it and adjust the seasonings. Feel free to drizzle on more dressing or add an extra sprinkle of salt or pepper.

It’s a good spoonful of food though.

Israeli Couscous Salad - Macheesmo
I can eat a lot of this.

The best thing about this Israeli Couscous Salad is that it’s great right off the grill or if you make it in advance, it keeps totally fine for a few days in the fridge.

It’s a super-flexible salad, but definitely a crowd pleaser.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend everybody!

(I’m taking the weekend off from posting, but will be back with some new stuff on Tuesday!)

16 Responses to “Memorial Day Pasta Salad” Leave a comment

  1. I love Israeli Couscous. I’ve used it to make pasta salad before and it always works out great. Now I want to try with grilled veggies!

    1. Hey laura,
      Whole Foods would definitely have it but even my normal grocery store has it occasionally. It’s sometimes near the rice/grains which doesn’t make any sense because it’s a pasta…

  2. Nick- can’t wait to try this salad! Great idea! I need a favor, tho- I love beer can chicken, but have been wondering about the cooking process. Do you cook the chicken on the can covered by the grill lid? If so, I have trouble with the height. It won’t fit in our charcoal smoker/grill or our gas grill. Can you give me a suggestion?
    Thanks much!

    1. Hey Susan,
      It can definitely be tricky with some grills, but yes… If i’m using my gas grill I pour out (drink) half of the beer in the can and then stuff it up the chicken. Then I carefully sit the chicken on the grates upright. You want it to cook over medium heat for about 80-90 minutes. You can buy a little beer can chicken holder thing that can help keep it steady.
      But yes, you definitely want to cook it covered so if it won’t fit than you might need to find a higher lid. For my grill, I have to take out the top layer of grates in my gas grill before it will fit… Good luck!

      1. Nick- thanks for the chicken advice. I could also try two smaller, “shorter” chickens! I made the salad last night with orzo and feta as substitutions because it’s what I had on hand. The honey gives it a fullness that is wonderful. I also used white balsamic b/c I had it. Sooo goood! My DH loved it and wants it again. I can see it’ s going to be a keeper. But, I do want to try it with the Israeli Cous Cous, too. Thanks so much for great recipes and a great blog!

  3. Nick, this looks really amazing. I’m making it this week!

    I’ve been meaning to post a note for some time now — congratulations for all the amazing accomplishments you’ve had. Your site just gets better and better every day. It’s one of my favorite reads and I can imagine how much time goes into this. Thank you!

    1. Oh thanks man! It’s great to hear that people like it. :) PS. I’ve no joke made this recipe three more times since I first photoed this dish. It’s my favorite of the summer so far. Definitely try it.

  4. Nick this is a real good one! Made it last night and turned it into a dinner for two by reducing the pasta to a two serving size (1/2 cup dry) – used orzo since I only have a very fine quick cooking couscous on hand. Used a small zucchini and small yellow squash and only half a red pepper. Also reduced the cheese, the whole 8 oz would have been too much of a good thing. Reduced the oil and vinegar somewhat but kept the amount of basil the same, I have about 6 plants and I need to keep them in check already! Added a small chopped tomato at serving cause it was there on the counter and topped the whole off with some grilled shrimp. Grilling the veggies just makes this Yum! Thanks

  5. I don’t have a grill….but was thinking of trying this tonight by using a grill plan to cook the veggies. What you think?

    1. A grill pan would work just fine! You could even just roast the veggies if you wanted or saute them quickly. Lots of ways to get it done.

  6. The Israeli Couscous from Traders Joes recommended toasting in a little oil for a few minutes before adding water. The result is a light toasted color & a nutty flavor.

  7. Delicious! I cut the couscous in half the second time I made it, but left everything else the same. I love the flavors and am looking forward to making it again…just gotta finish the current batch!

  8. Apparently I’ve never commented but I’ve made this many times. Perfect as is

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