I have never really liked pasta salad. Not in the least. It has always been served to me smothered in mayonnaise or vinaigrette, usually with soggy noodles and one of my least favorite vegetables, celery. I have just never understood the appeal or why it is so popular for delis, parties, and picnics. The idea of it is innocent enough: cold pasta, some sauce, and some vegetables, but somehow it is all too frequently executed badly.
A few years ago, however, I came across a recipe that made me realize just how good pasta salad could be. The rather loose recipe was hidden inside the pages of one of my favorite zines, Invincible Summer by Nicole Georges, written sweetly in her swirly writing. I hungrily decided to make it one afternoon and fell completely in love with the combination of strong garlic, sundried tomatoes, and white beans. I like to eat it cooled just to room temperature with fresh parmesan and crushed red pepper sprinkled on top. Just perfect.
The Best Pasta Salad: adapted from Invincible Summer
1 bag pasta, your choice (I like penne or corkscrew)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, crushed or sliced
1 carton or about 1 cup of sliced mushrooms
1 jar sundried tomatoes with oils
a little bit of fresh or dried basil
a little bit of fresh or dried oregano
4 stewed tomatoes, sliced, or 2 fresh, diced
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
about a handful of sliced black olives
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Boil the pasta.
2, In the meantime, sautee the garlic in the olive oil for just a few minutes, until golden.
3. Add mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, basil, and oregano. Cook on medium for about five minutes.
4. Add the tomatoes, beans, and olives. Cook for five more minutes.
5. Drain pasta. Stir the finished mixture into pasta and add salt and pepper, to taste. Add more oil if necessary, but the juices from the other ingredients should suffice.
6. Serve hot, room temperature, or cold, depending on your own preference.