Summer's not complete without a picnic-worthy pasta salad. Am I right?
There are endless variations of pasta salads out there. In my version, I'm tossing some of summer's freshest veggies together with a fun shape of short-cut pasta, my go-to vinaigrette recipe, and a few favorite toppers, including toasted pine nuts, fresh herbs, and feta. It's a winning combo and feeds a crowd, perfect to compliment a larger summer meal or picnic. I particularly like pairing this pasta with roasted salmon and a squeeze of lemon all around. If you're not needing to feed a crowd, check out the recipe headnotes for suggestions on scaling back.
The grilled corn can be cooked on an outdoor BBQ -- especially convenient if you already have it going for other food. Otherwise, if you're like me and don't use an outdoor grill, my secret trick for getting that smoky flavor in the kitchen is twofold: charring husked corn in a hot cast-iron skillet with ghee, rotating to brown all sides, and adding smoked paprika to the vinaigrette to echo the smokiness from the corn.
If you don't have smoked paprika, I hope you'll consider getting some! It's a total game changer for elevating everyday flavors. If you've been following for a while, you know I love it. You can find plenty of inspiration on the blog. In the meantime, for today's recipe you could simply leave it out or sub in a dash of ground cumin or chili powder instead.
Depending on where you're reading from, summer may be winding down due to weather or the start of fall work or school routine. In the southern hemisphere you have summer to look forward to in a few months (yaay!). Whatever the case, I hope you'll find a good excuse to make this pasta salad soon! Let me know in the comments below if you make it or have a favorite go-to pasta salad of your own. I love hearing your ideas!
Grilled Corn and Cherry Tomato Pasta Salad
Notes: This serves a crowd. For a smaller quantity, use only 200 grams of pasta, a small head of broccoli, and as much vinaigrette as desired. To make this gluten-free use your favorite gluten-free pasta.
- 2 husked cobs of corn
- 300 gr. (4 cups) short-cut pasta of choice
- 1 medium head of broccoli
- 1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 250 gr. cherry tomatoes, halved
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Everyday vinaigrette (recipe below)
- 1/2-3/4 tsp. salt + black pepper to taste
- 60 gr. (1/3 cup) pine nuts, toasted
- 50-75 gr. feta (~ a few handfuls, crumbled)
- Handful of basil, chopped
- Dry-toast pine nuts in a skillet. If grilling corn indoors, toast nuts in a medium cast-iron skillet (or other heavy-bottomed skillet) that can then be used to cook corn.
- Grill corn on an outdoor grill or cook in a hot cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat with a pat of ghee. Rotate corn after 3-5 minutes until all sides are charred. Set aside to cool, then slice corn off cob.
- Boil pasta water. While water is coming to a boil, chop broccoli into florets, thinly slice tender broccoli stems, slice onion and halve tomatoes. Make vinaigrette.
- Cook pasta 2 minutes shy of package directions for al dente. Three minutes before draining pasta, add broccoli florets to pasta. Drain pasta and broccoli.
- In a large bowl immediately toss warm pasta and broccoli with half the vinaigrette. Let cool slightly, then add corn, sliced onion and tomatoes, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and toasted pine nuts. Toss to combine, then gently fold in feta and basil. Add more vinaigrette as needed (I use it all!), taste and adjust for seasoning.
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) red wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove, crushed
- 2 heaped tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp. honey (or maple syrup or agave)
- 1/8 tsp. smoked paprika (or more to taste)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- Add all ingredients to a glass jar, fitted with a screw-on lid. Secure lid and shake well to emulsify the dressing.
- Pour over pasta salad, as instructed in recipe above. Store any leftovers for a week in the fridge.