Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Grilled Zucchini & Olives

I might call this my favorite pasta salad.
In the summer, when the kitchen is hot, and outdoor eating is at it's peak, I love anything that can be made ahead of time. I have a few pasta salad favorites in my repertoire.
However, many times, I find I'm disappointed when trying a new recipe. Maybe it's too oily. Too tangy. Too soggy. But, this one is a must try.

Begin by making the dressing. Coarsely chop 1 1/2 pounds red, ripe tomatoes. Put them in a large mixing bowl. Add a 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion. Mince 2 cloves of garlic & add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt.

With the side of a chef's knife, mash into a paste. Add the paste to the bowl. Measure a 1/4 cup olive oil & 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar.

Add to the bowl & mix. Let the dressing sit while you prepare the rest of the salad.

Trim 1 1/2 pounds zucchini & slice them in half length-wise. Put them into another mixing bowl, drizzle with with olive oil & season generously with salt & pepper. Toss to coat them with the oil. Preheat a grill. Lay the zucchini halves, skin side down, on the grill {using a grill pan helps here}. Cook for about 3-4 minutes. Flip them & grill another 3-4 minutes, or until they are caramelized, but still firm. Remove from the grill & place back in the bowl, to cool.

Meanwhile, dice the ricotta salata.
Ricotta salata is a sheep's milk cheese from Italy. I love it! Look for it in the cheese department of specialty stores...or, if you're lucky enough, Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. If you can't find it, you could substitute feta cheese.

Next, coarsely chop, or tear 1 1/2 cups of fresh basil leaves. As well as, 2/3 cup of pitted Kalamata olives. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil & and cook 1 pound of whole wheat pasta, slightly less then the package instructions. It should be al dente.
Bionaturae makes the hands down, best whole wheat pasta around. If possible, use theirs.
You could also use regular pasta. Drain the pasta, then rinse with cold water & drain again.

Add it to the bowl with the dressing.

Then, add in the ricotta salata, olives & basil. Toss. Slice the zucchini in large chunks & add to the salad.

Toss again & serve.
The salad can made ahead of time & chilled. Bring it back up to room temperature before serving.

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Grilled Zucchini & Olives

Adapted from Gourmet magazine
Serves 8, as a side dish

1 1/2 lbs. red ripe tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced & mashed with 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 lb. whole wheat pasta (any shape)
1 1/2 lbs. zucchini
2/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted & coarsely chopped
6 oz. ricotta salata cheese, diced
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped, or torn

For the dressing: Stir the tomatoes, red onion, garlic paste, red wine vinegar & olive oil is a large mixing bowl. Let the mixture sit a bit while you prepare the other salad ingredients. This gives the dressing a chance to macerate.
For the salad: Trim the ends off the zucchini & slice them in half length-wise. Preheat a grill with a grill pan on top (this helps prevent the zucchini from falling in). Toss the zucchini halves in a large bowl with some olive oil & a generous sprinkle of kosher salt & pepper. Use enough oil so that it is evenly coated.
Grill skin side up for 3-4 minutes. Flip & grill an additional 3-4 minutes, or until the zucchini is caramelized on the surface, yet still firm. Remove from the grill & let them sit, to cool.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil & cook the pasta. It should be cooked al dente, as the pasta will soak up more liquid from the dressing later on. I cook mine about 1 minute less than directed.
Drain the pasta, run it under cold water & drain again.
Add the pasta to the mixing bowl, with the dressing. Then, add in the olives, ricotta salata, and basil leaves. Stir. Cut the zucchini into large chunks, add them to the salad & toss again.
This salad can be served right away, or chilled until ready to serve. Let it come up to room temperature before serving, if it has been refrigerated.
Click here for the printable recipe.


Zoe said...

You are right, this pasta salad looks like the best. i love the ricotta in there too.

Sarah @ Mum In Bloom said...

This sounds perfect for lunches! I imagine it would last a long time in the fridge too.. perfect for when I don't feel like cooking. Just found your blog today and am really enjoying it :) Loved the bagged smoothie fruits idea!

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