Pasta salad is often the ugly stepsister at a summer cookout. Too greasy, too bland, too mushy, too limp. We spent years passing swiftly by the pasta salads at our family's cookout buffets. But Sara Dickerman at Slate wants to change all that. Pasta salad, she says, can be the star. She has 12 steps for a better pasta salad - a pasta salad your friends will love. We agree with all of them, and we admit that we've become pasta salad lovers too! Pasta and grain salads are among our favorite spring and summer dishes. They're easy one-dish meals that often take advantage of our favorite cheeses and the freshest vegetables.
Here are a few of our favorite tips from her article, along with some of our own favorite pasta and grain salads.
• Skip the vinegar and go heavier on the oil. We agree with this. We prefer just a little lemon juice for acidity, along with really good olive oil.
• Use soft, fresh cheeses. When warmed slightly and smeared through the salad, soft cheeses become part of the dressing. We like using really fresh ricotta and goat cheese in our pasta salads.
• Cook the vegetables. We love salads with a mix of textures and flavors. Just like regular salads, pasta salads should have something warm, something cold, something savory, something salty, and something sweet or spicy. We grill our vegetables or sauté the mushrooms then stir them in. One of our favorite pasta salads has
• Look to Asian salads for inspiration. There are plenty of cold noodle dishes in the East, especially in Japan. Try putting your own twist on cold soba dishes or glass noodles with chicken and vegetables.
Some of our favorite pasta salad recipes
• Cold Peanut Sesame Noodles
• Broccoli and Feta Pasta Salad
• Roasted Garlic, Olive and Tomato Pasta Salad
• Meyer Lemon Grain Salad with Asparagus, Almonds and Goat Cheese
• Cold Soba, Sesame and Carrot Salad
For the rest of Dickerman's great tips, check out the full article. We really recommend this one!
• The Pasta Salad Manifesto: Twelve Steps to a Better Dish
(Images: Illustration by Nina Frenkel for Slate; photos by Faith Hopler)