If I’m being honest, I have not been a “pasta salad person” until I created this recipe. My earliest memory of pasta salad is one of undercooked pasta tossed in a store-bought, overly-acidic Italian dressing served at a potluck picnic. These record high temps coupled with a craving for pasta called for a re-introduction to classic pasta salad. This time, we’re adding Stracciatella cheese for creaminess and making a beautifully balanced dressing from scratch. Creamy, herbaceous from the fresh mint and basil, and bursting with juicy tomatoes and crisp cucumber, I’ll happily be getting seconds of this pasta salad at any picnic.
Simple, Quality Ingredients Are The Foundation of This Pasta Salad
I firmly believe that any promising pasta salad can quickly be destroyed by using a store-bought dressing. This is pasta salad, after all, not salad salad. I also am just a stickler for making my own salad dressing, period. Homemade vinaigrettes are just better, but I digress.
Using a quality dijon, extra virgin olive oil, a beautiful blend of herbs, and the right amount of vinegar will make all the difference. Good ingredients are the foundation of any recipe!
Beyond the dressing, you also want to get the best quality produce to toss in. Crisp, juicy tomatoes and cucumbers add the perfect crunch. Fresh mint, parsley, and basil keep things bright and light. And of course – the crown jewel – a quality Stracciatella is the perfect cheese to add creaminess to your pasta salad without weighing things down.
Any Wine Served Chilled Is Pasta Salad’s Best Friend
Summer eating, especially when temps are hitting their peak, is all about easy, no-stress cooking and drinking. The same can be said for wine pairings. If you’re anything like me, all you want right now is a glass of something chilled, whether it’s a rose or a white or even a light bodied red. Any of these options is also a great pairning for this pasta.
I’m of the opinion that a crisp glass of rosé is the best move for this dish, specifically a Txakoli from the Basque region of Spain. Txakoli rosé is a quintessential summer wine that is low abv so you can keep enjoying it all day long. However, if you’re keen on a white, grab a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc to complement the herbaceous notes. If you’re a red or bust kind of person, you can always chill a bottle of Beaujolais. Any of these wines will be a great pairing for this creamy Stracciatella pasta salad.
Want to go the extra mile? Batch prep some peach puree for these Peach Bellinis to really showcase all the best produce summer has to offer!Print
Creamy pasta salad chockfull of crisp tomatoes, cucumber, and chickpeas with Stracciatella cheese, fresh herbs, and homemade Dijon vinaigrette.
- 4 cups uncooked fusilli pasta
- 1 bag or container or Stracciatella cheese
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1 cup cucumber, sliced and halved
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
- 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (and extra for drizzling)
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon of herbes de Provence
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste
- Combine all ingredients for the dressing in a blender and blend just until all ingredients are incorporated and mixed together well. You could also use a whisk and do this part by hand.
- Set the dressing aside as you prepare the base of the pasta salad.
- Cook the 4 cups of fusilli pasta according to package instructions. Drain, toss in some olive oil to prevent sticking, and set aside.
- Add the sliced cherry tomatoes, cucumber, herbs, and toasted pine nuts to the cooked pasta. If starting with untoasted pine nuts, toast over medium in a pan. Keep the pine nuts in a single layer and watch like a hawk – they’ll burn quickly! Remove from heat once they start to turn a soft golden brown.
- Add the dressing to the pasta salad base and toss to coat evenly.
- Open the Stracciatella and drain the liquid from the cheese. Set aside and reserve the liquid for later.
- Spoon liberal dollops of Stracciatella cheese into the pasta salad and toss.
- Add in a few spoonfuls (3-4 tablespoons) of the reserved liquid from the Stracciatella and toss to coat.
- To serve, top off with a liberal amount of freshly cracked black pepper and perhaps another dollop of Stracciatella cheese on top (no such thing as too much Stracciatella!)
Keep any excess Stracciatella liquid on hand and use it to add creaminess to other pasta sauces. I add it to a classic red tomato sauce or even a pesto to make the sauce creamy. It’s delightful!
Keywords: pasta salad, stracciatella, creamy pasta salad, vegetarian, mediterranean, picnic