Pasta salads are infinitely flexible, delicious, and ready be dressed up. When I get a crush on a cheese or a vegetable, the pasta salad plays impresario, showing off its charms. But I can get easily carried away; if goat cheese, why not Parmesan too? A handful of dried fruit, toasted pecans, three cruciferous vegetables, and a gilding of bacon, and pretty soon we're in the third ring of a salad circus.
While elaborate salads are delightful, there are times, like right now in picnic season, when it is better to strip it down to the basics and keep it simple. This reader favorite has a mere handful of ingredients, but they're winners — feta, olives, snap-tender broccoli, and colorful pasta. This is the easy pasta salad party you need this week.
This salad comes from my mother, who whipped it up for a Sunday lunch with family. It scales nicely (lunch at our house usually involves at least 14 people) and the simple ingredients go a long way in flavor.
This makes a fabulous lunch, too; add a few strips of grilled chicken, if you like. It's good cold, warm, or hot — the mark of a most excellent pasta salad, in my opinion. I prefer it just a little warm, with the broccoli still snappy.
This is a simple pasta salad that's easy to love. Broccoli adds wholesome crunch, olives lend a briny bite, and crumbled feta contributes plenty of salty goodness. Once you've made this, you'll hardly need to refer to the recipe again when making it a second time — and I guarantee there definitely will be a second time. While the recipe calls for tri-color pasta, if all you happen to have on hand is regular, you can of course use that to no harm except a slightly less colorful bowl.
- Sheela, May 2018
Broccoli and Feta Pasta Salad
Serves 4 to 6 as a main course; 8 to 10 as a side
dried rotini or short pasta, tri-color preferred
extra-virgin olive oil, divided
medium head broccoli, cut into 1/2-inch florets
red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Meanwhile, place 3 tablespoons of the oil, vinegar, and a few grinds of pepper in a small bowl and whisk to combine; set aside.
Drain the pasta and run briefly under cool water to cool it down. Drain well again. Place in a large bowl and set aside.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large, deep sauté pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the broccoli and cook until crisp-tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the pasta.
Crumble the feta cheese into the pasta, add the olives, and gently stir to combine. Add the dressing and toss to combine; Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Refrigerate until serving or overnight.
Make ahead: The pasta salad can be made a day ahead and refrigerated overnight.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.