What’s Cooking Wednesday: Refreshing Summer Pasta Salad

As it turns out, not a whole lot is actually cooking in this week’s What’s Cooking Wednesday, but what I’m offering is still delicious.

Yesterday I was molto fortunata to have some special guests in my medieval village when a lovely American couple, Rich and Melissa, came to visit. And Cherrye and Peppe came from Catanzaro too! It was a bit of an invasion of Americans — the likes of which, we joked, haven’t been seen round these parts since World War II.

I had planned a small walking tour through the village, which if you aren’t aware, is extremely hilly. I live at the top, so going anywhere requires walking down–not bad at all. And then we must return, which can be a challenge. And the sun was beating down on us to boot.

Having experienced such a walk many times, I knew that we’d be looking for a refreshing, light lunch upon our return, so I decided on a pasta salad and a plate of meats, cheeses, pickled eggplant, home-jarred peperoncini in oil, fresh bread, and, of course, P’s father’s wine.

Refreshing Summer Pasta Salad
(serves 6)

  • 1 box (500 g) pasta (farfalle and fusilli are my favorites for this)
  • 5 medium-sized tomatoes, cut into chunks
  • 3 cucumbers, sliced
  • 2 green/red/yellow peppers (your choice), sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • olive oil, salt, oregano and/or fresh, torn basil leaves to taste

1. Boil pasta in salted water, drain, and set aside. Mix in some olive oil so the pasta doesn’t stick together, and be sure it’s cooled off before you start adding the vegetables. If I’m in a bit of a rush, I add ice cubes and put it in the fridge for a bit.

2. Cut up all the vegetables that you’ll be adding in the sizes you wish and put them all in a big mixing bowl that will hold all the pasta salad. Add some olive oil, salt, and oregano/basil to let the flavors start to mingle.

3. Add the pasta to the veggies, and then toss with more olive oil, oregano/basil, and salt to taste. Be generous with the oil because you don’t want it to be dry. Also, it’s better if you prepare this at least an hour or two before you’ll serve it to give the flavors time to mingle; be sure to taste test again for any missing condiments before you serve.

So as you can see, today’s recipe for pasta salad is extremely easy and versatile; you can put in whatever you like including different vegetables, meats and cheeses, basil or other seasonings. What I’ve offered here is my staple, and the way I almost always make it.

Another note: if you’re going to have it leftover, I don’t recommend putting meat and cheese in the whole thing (especially mozzarella!) because they can get kind of funny sitting in there for my taste, but perhaps that’s just me. I like to add such things at the table to individual proportions — also better if someone doesn’t like one thing or another in the salad. Grated cheese on the top works well, though, so you can add that the whole thing if you like.

And please, please, please resist the temptation to use Italian dressing, which is how I always had this in America. All you need is some good olive oil, oregano/basil, and salt, and you’re good to go. And I promise it’s even tastier.

Buon appetito!

36 Beans of Wisdom to “What’s Cooking Wednesday: Refreshing Summer Pasta Salad”
  1. jennifer


  2. Judith in Umbria

    But what IS Italian dressing? In the US it is a sort of vinaigrette. In Italy it is “Boh! Che dici?”

  3. alexmom

    Meeting blog acquaintances *face to face* sounds like so much fun. But, where did everyone sit for lunch??? ;>)

  4. Johnaesthetica

    I’ve pretty much abandonded all salad dressings (save for an occasional ceaser salad), and I just use olive oil and salt and pepper, as well as oregano, as you mentioned.

    It’s so much simpler and doesn’t overwhelm the salad at all. And, healthier, to boot!

    (Oh yeah, I changed the blog address from johnaesthetica., to sixminutestolive., just so you know!)

  5. Johnaesthetica

    And, of course by ceaser, I meant ceasar.

  6. Lisa Milton

    I ditto the yum. We’ll have to give it a try.

  7. nyc/caribbean ragazza

    Yum is right.

    The first time I rented an apartment in Rome, I was surprised when I couldn’t find dressing at the supermercato. Now I never buy it and just make my own.

    My dad used to make it with some olive oil, vinegar and basil or oregano. Much better than that weird bottled stuff like Thousand Island or “French” dressing. Funny when I was in France I never saw dressing that looked like that.

  8. Louise

    Sounds like you had a great time with your friends!!

    LOVE LOVE LOVE pasta salad!! That one looks so yummy, I’ll have to try it!

    Thanks for all your fabulous recipes!

    Have a great day!

  9. The (Mis)Adventures of a Single City Chick

    Once again, I’m going to have to print this recipe out and try it on my own. Simple, yet so fresh. Yum!


  10. JennDZ

    mmm..pasta salad sounds refreshing!
    Hope you had a nice visit! Sounds like it was fun!

  11. Erin

    I just made pasta salad this weekend, but I think this one might be better. I’ll have to try it next time.

  12. Bongga Mom

    I have this often without the pasta, but I agree, it’s delicious, light and refreshing either way! (BTW thanks for your sweet birthday greeting!)

  13. goodthomas

    z,Never been a big pasta salad fan, but this does look good. Have people praised your photography enough? Goodness.

  14. Shameless

    wow, yummy, only trouble is it needs preparing! oh laziness, my aching back! ! πŸ™‚

  15. Karen Beth

    This post makes me want to run downstairs and make (non-Italian dressing) pasta salad RIGHT NOW! Mmmmmm…. looks so good!

    I’m also very intrigued by the pickled eggplant. I’ve never had that but I do love all things pickled (well… er… MOST things pickled!) Sounds neat!

    Hope you have a lovely day!


    Karen Beth πŸ™‚

  16. it's me, Val

    This looks AMAZING and so simple!! Thank you!

  17. sognatrice

    Jennifer, agreed πŸ™‚

    Judith, you’re very right about “Italian dressing” in Italy; in fact, I had a hard time explaining the concept of dressing to my students here.

    Alexmom, there were only 5 of us (P was working), so we huddled around my kitchen table πŸ˜‰

    John, mmm…caesar! I’m not going to lie, I do like an occasional French or Thousand Island, but I’ve *never* liked the packaged Italian in the States, creamy or otherwise.

    Lisa, Erin, do it! It’s so easy!

    NYC, it’s funny that being in Italy changes our attitudes and habits for the better even without trying. So no French dressing in France? Huh.

    Louise, JennDZ, it was so much fun! I’m always a little nervous whenever someone comes to visit, but these guests were fabulous πŸ™‚

    Christina, this is great leftover, too–the longer it sits, the more flavorful. I made this a lot when I lived by myself for that very reason.

    Bongga mom, excellent point! Without pasta, I do this with just cucumbers, tomatoes, and red onions (minus the green peppers). This becomes our “insalata” for most of the summer, actually, instead of boring old (but lovable) lettuce πŸ™‚

    gt, my OH didn’t think he was a pasta salad fan either–he had never seen it before. Now he requests it πŸ™‚

    Shameless, yes some prep is required, but if you make enough, you can eat it for several days…or until you get sick of it and never want to make it again (which of course you will in about 2 weeks). So that’s a plus, right?

    Karen Beth, I have to admit that the pickled eggplant was jarred, although they tell me it isn’t too difficult to make anyway. These kinds of pickled vegetables are big here for appetizers year-round, but I especially see them come out in the summer in full force.

    Val, you’re welcome.

    And for everyone, if you try it, let me know what you thought!

  18. sognatrice

    Just wanted to add that everyone should go check out Cherrye’s post about the get together as it’s proof that a real Italian loved this pasta salad too πŸ˜‰

  19. Cherrye

    Yes, I am late commenting, but I (me NOT being the real Italian) loved the pasta, as did Peppe (that’s the ONE!)

    We actually talked about it on the way home. If I can elbow the boys out of the kitchen, I’m gonna make it. I could eat it again already!

  20. sognatrice

    Cherrye, the pasta salad was discussed? Wow! I go on spurts with this pasta salad, btw. I can eat it for about three weeks straight, and then I don’t want it for another year or so…good things since tomatoes, cucumbers, and green peppers aren’t always available πŸ˜‰

  21. Shan

    That looks delicious.

  22. Daren

    I saw this while thinking about what to have for dinner so I made it. Oh. My. It was yummy! Thank you!

  23. jessica

    Hey, I was just looking online for a cold pasta salad, this one would totally hit the spot and I have to make it tonight. Good timing!

  24. sognatrice

    Shan, it tastes even better, I swear.

    Daren, glad you liked it! It’s great to take to summer picnics too, as it’s so freaking easy.

    Jessica, give it a whirl! It won’t disappoint (and if it does, you can always keep adding things you like to it until you’re happy) πŸ˜‰

  25. Heidi

    Sounds perfect, I’ll be giving this a try!!!

  26. sognatrice

    Hope you enjoy it, Heidi!

  27. american girl in italy

    Hi! thanks for the shout out! :OD I do have to say though, I love when the meats/cheeses are added ahead of time. I always think the salad is better the next day, after the flavors have melded, and soaked up all the flavor. Mozzarella can get a little watery, but it has never stopped me from eating it. haha

  28. Betty C.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. It sounds like we have quite a bit in common — being an expat, cooking, reading, writing. I just wish age was one of those common points!

  29. Heidi

    Yup!!! Terrific, my hubby has never liked pasta salad and he was raving about it!!!! Looks like the less ingredients the better sometimes!!!! Thanks!!!!

  30. sognatrice

    Sara, I’m happy to shout! My OH likes this one really simple (in fact, it was just requested again yesterday), but I absolutely agree with the flavors being best the next day. In fact, if possible, I suggest making it the night before if you’re having it for lunch the following day. Yum!

    Betty C, I saw the similarities as well; glad you stopped by πŸ™‚

    Heidi, woohoo, a success story! My P turned up his nose the first time I suggested adding cold pasta to his cucumbers and tomatoes, but once I did, we’ve never looked back. He’ll be eating what’s left of yesterday’s pasta salad shortly πŸ˜‰ Thanks for coming back to let me know how it turned out!

  31. Rich

    Okay, we’re back home in the states and sorting through the 1500 pictures we took in Italy. The pasta salad was fantastic, we both really enjoyed it. Badolato is amazing and we had the best tour guide πŸ™‚ I’m trying to figure out the laws of physics that cause the inclines in the streets of Badolato to actually be steeper when going up than on the way down the hills. I’ve got researchers looking into it right now. Thanks again for everything!

  32. 05.13.2011

    I agree with you .. all it needs is Oil, herbs and seasoning .. delicious . Yes I don’t put cheese or meats in mine either prefer to do your way πŸ™‚

    Something so great about keeping it *so* simple!

  33. 05.14.2011

    Great dish for the Hollywood Bowl this summer. I’m always looking for something easy and light. Thanks

    SUPER easy and everyone seems to love it (unless they don’t like tomatoes or something) πŸ˜‰

  34. Karin


    I made this delicious recipe the “summer pasta salad” and I just loved it! I will remember this one, and always appreciate some great recipes from Italy!!!!

    Hey, owner of this website Michelle is it? I would like to know HOW you support yourself over there in Italy?

    Please do tell.

    Hi Karin, glad to hear you liked it! Regarding supporting myself, I’m a full-time freelance writer, and you can see my portfolio at MichelleFabio.com πŸ™‚ Thanks for coming by!

  35. Karin

    Hi Elizabeth!

    Great idea for the Hollywood Bowl, which I love too!!!!!

    Thanks for mentioning it!

  1. [...] so our usual lunchtime pasta course often finds its place in the evenings (unless I’ve made a love... bleedingespresso.com/2007/06/whats-cooking-wednesday-pasta-with-fresh-tomatoes-basil.html



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