A popular and refreshing spring and summer dish, pasta salad colorfully mixes common salad ingredients with cold pasta and seals the deal with an oil and vinegar vinaigrette. However, pasta salads get a bad rap because they taste sour and metallic after sitting in the serving bowl for too long. The culprit responsible for pasta salad’s rapid and unappetizing demise is vinegar.
While vinegar and oil are a classic duo for vegetable-based dressings, pasta isn’t as absorbent or complementary as lettuce. So it’s best to remove vinegar from the equation completely in order to get a delicious and balanced pasta salad without an unpleasant aftertaste. Of course, acidity remains a crucial factor in pasta salad, but you can bring it to the recipe by using pickled vegetables instead.
Typically, pickling juices are a mixture of vinegar, water, sugar and salt used simultaneously to infuse and preserve vegetables. This way, marinated vegetables are packed with just the right amount of acidity that your pasta salad needs, not to mention the benefits of their inherent vegetable flavors. They also have soft yet crunchy textures that pair perfectly with tender doughs. Additionally, many pickled vegetables come with additional seasonings and herbs like mustard seeds, garlic, dill, bay leaves, cilantro, allspice, and red pepper flakes . By adding spicy, pickled vegetables to pasta salad, you also add depth of flavor and sophistication.
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Sauces for pasta salads and marinated vegetable combinations
Now that you’ve replaced vinegar with pickled vegetables in your pasta salad, you may be wondering what to do with olive oil. There are countless olive oil-based pasta sauces you can take inspiration from. The simplest sauce idea would be a spicy herb aglio e olio, a mixture of olive oil, garlic, salt and red pepper flakes. An aglio e olio pasta salad would be delicious with the acidity and umami flavors of kalamata and Castelvetrano olives, blanched asparagus, freshly chopped parsley and cherry tomatoes. If you’re ready to make an elaborate oil-based sauce, pesto is the ultimate flavor bomb for pasta salads. The savory and savory blend of basil, pine nuts and parmesan is as delicious cold as it is in hot pasta dishes. Try a pesto pasta salad with cherry tomato halves, capers and black olives.
You can kill two birds with one stone by using sun-dried tomatoes in oil in a pasta salad. Tomato flavored oil would only need a pinch of salt and pepper to turn it into the most delicious salad dressing. You can complement the rich umami of sun-dried tomatoes with sweet and tangy banana peppers, toasted pine nuts and blanched broccoli. A Mediterranean-style pasta salad gives you even more opportunities to use pickled vegetables. You can use olive oil, oregano, and garlic vinaigrette to toss with marinated artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, pepperoncini, cucumber slices, and crumbled feta cheese.