Posts Tagged ‘mediterannean pasta salad’

There’s a wonderful little bakery and cafe not too far away from my home that serves an interesting Mediterranean-type pasta salad that I order every time I’m there.  There’s a subtle sweet, spicy, and salty juxtaposition of flavors in the salad dressing that has had me playing detective trying to dissect its complexity.  I’ve been playing around with ingredients and I think I’ve got it pretty close to the original salad now –  but knowing me, I will continue to tweak this recipe long after this post is printed!

This recipe uses orecchiette, which is a kind of pasta typically made in Puglia, a region of Southern Italy. In Italian, “orecchio”, means ear, and the suffix “etto” means small. If the thought of “small ears” on your plate creates a bad visual for you, then think of this pasta as resembling “small hats” instead! These slightly domed ovals have centers that are thinner than their rims, creating dense and somewhat chewy pasta. Orecchiette is perfect for pasta salad, because it’s sturdy enough to be tossed around and it catches and holds the tantalizing dressing.

Here’s my basic recipe for Orecchiette Pasta Salad. It’s the type of recipe that is adaptable to many variations. Here are some of my ideas for variations:

*Add some citrus into the dressing
*Toss in some cubed or crumbled feta cheese
*Substitute sweet golden raisins for the currants
*Toss in some thinly sliced prosciutto

My Orecchiette Pasta Salad:
Note: The amounts listed for the ingredients can be easily reduced or added upon depending on taste.

Salad Ingredients:

1 pound of orecchietta
12 ounces sweet grape or cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
2/3 cup red onion, chopped
1-1/4 cup Kalamata olives, halved lengthwise
2/3 cup currants
2/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
Bunch of basil, chiffonade leaves

Dressing Ingredients:

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp ground cumin
3/4 – 1 tsp curry powder
1/4 -1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp season salt
¼ tsp paprika


  1. Following the package directions, cook the orecchiette until al dente. While cooking make sure you stir the orecchiette frequently to prevent the pieces from “nesting” into each other and forming doughy globs. Drain in colander.
  2. Make salad dressing by whisking all salad dressing ingredients into a small bowl. Set aside for flavors to meld.
  3. Slice olives and tomatoes and set aside.
  4. Chop red onion and set aside.
  5. Lightly toast the pine nuts in a heavy frying pan, making sure to keep an eye on them constantly – the oil in them can burn quickly. Let cool.
  6. Rinse the basil leaves and blot them dry. Chiffonade the basil leaves by stacking the leaves, rolling them lengthwise (like a cigar) and then cutting them crosswise into long, thin strips. Set aside.
  7. Put the cooked orecchiette in a large bowl. Add the rest of the salad ingredients except for the basil.
  8. Whisk the dressing again and then pour it into the salad ingredients. Toss all together. Sprinkle the basil on top and gently toss again.

This salad will taste better the next day after the flavors have a chance to blend and soak in. It is best served at room temperature.

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