Swap Italian Dressing for Balsamic Vinegar for a Richer Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is a quintessential lunch favorite and potluck mainstay because of its versatile recipes. Similar to coleslaw and potato salads, pasta dressings are either oil and vinegar based or mayonnaise based. With the exception of macaroni salad, many classic pasta salad recipes call for an Italian dressing made with a base of white or red vinegar and olive oil. While white vinegar and olive oil provide a balance of tangy and flavorful, balsamic vinegar is the dressing swap you need for a richer pasta salad.

A prized product from Italy, balsamic vinegar is arguably the most complex type of vinegar available. It is made from crushed grape juice and aged in wooden barrels, which gives it its incomparable dark color and full-bodied taste. Like all vinegar, balsamic is tangy, but barrel aging concentrates the fruity sweetness of the grape and infuses woody, earthy notes. Italians use balsamic vinegar as a flavor enhancer to drizzle over risotto, bread and pasta and, of course, as a condiment to accompany cheeses and the famous Caprese salad. Therefore, using balsamic vinegar in a pasta salad is a no-brainer as it will add a tangy and sweet richness to liven up tried-and-true savory pasta salad ingredients like cheese, tomatoes, basil and olive oil which also overlap with the aforementioned Italian dishes. .

Read more: Vinegar Cooking Hacks You Wish You Knew Sooner

How to Incorporate Balsamic Vinegar into Pasta Salad

glass bottles of olive oil and vinegar – Fcafotodigital/Getty Images

Balsamic vinegar is milder and richer than white or red vinegar, but it is still acidic enough to require a combination of oils to temper its acidity. Just as olive oil and balsamic vinegar are served as a dip for bread, they also make the best pairing for a pasta salad. The ratio of balsamic vinegar to olive oil tends to be one part vinegar to three parts olive oil in a typical vinaigrette. If you want to enhance the pairing even further, you can add fresh or dried herbs like oregano and basil or a pinch of parmesan to the mix.

Instead of whisking a dressing separately, Tasting Table’s Balsamic Chicken Pasta recipe recommends measuring and pouring the oil and vinegar directly into your pasta salad along with the seasonings and basil, tossing together. If you want a stronger balsamic flavor, you can marinate any vegetables or proteins you plan to add in balsamic vinegar, oil, and garlic. Balsamic-marinated broccoli, carrots, onions, and green beans would all be delicious in a pasta salad.

You can take inspiration from a caprese salad by combining balsamic vinegar with pasta salad ingredients like chopped tomatoes, fresh basil, and cubes of mozzarella cheese. Olives, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, feta, and arugula would also be a great blend of umami, salty, and peppery flavors to receive a sweet and tangy complement from the balsamic vinegar.

Read the original article on the tasting table.

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