Pour a citrusy, high acid white wine like Oregon Chardonnay to balance the dressing at the heart of this pasta salad
This bright, lively, colorful, easy-to-assemble pasta salad belongs with the summer-y barbeque buffet tables. It can lead as the star attraction or works beautifully as part of a double bill with a protein (I’m looking at you, grilled sliced chicken breast or sliced grilled tofu!).
One thing that I’ve learned after throwing dozens of wine tastings and parties is that some dishes get consumed by the end, and others don’t, and this recipe is often the first to disappear. Meaning, I think I’m on to something. This recipe originated from a “clean out the fridge” approach one afternoon when I was reluctant to make another trip to the grocer for our nightly dinner. I combined the ingredients we had lying around. So, if you’re in charge of feeding a room full of hungry winos, but you don’t have everything on this list, you can improvise. Don’t have sun-dried tomatoes? Sub with cherry tomatoes! Don’t have rotini pasta? Sub with penne! Have you sliced green olives instead of kalamata? Go for it! I’ve included “spiralized” carrots in the instructions, but matchstick sliced or grated works just as well, as would a lovely summer squash. Get creative, and figure out what flies and what doesn’t.
The one thing that I wouldn’t mess with too much is the dressing, which is the heart of this dish. The name of the game here is BALANCE, just like a good wine. Too much acid, it’ll be too tart, too much sugar, it’ll be too flabby, so keep adjusting as needed. The optional nutritional yeast to the dressing is a personal touch I like for the slightly cheesy, umami kick it lends, but it’s just as great without it.
You can also experiment with the garnish; some chopped parsley or thinly sliced green onion will work just as well as the chives. Warning about the rich goat cheese or feta crumbles: DO NOT mix the cheese into the body of the salad! Instead, include the cheese as a garnish just before serving, or it’ll melt into the dressing, and you’ll get a milky mess that does not improve its presentation or status as a left-over. However, this salad usually gets gobbled up before making it to a Tupperware after-life.
For wine pairing, I like a new-world, unoaked Chardonnay or other dry, acidic, citrusy white wine, including a bracing Sauvignon Blanc (but not the tropical, New Zealand kind) and a Vermentino will also do nicely. However, we all know someone’s going to lug some rosé to the barbeque, and as it often does with so many foods, it’ll pair with this pasta salad like a champ.