Pasta salad is great to bring to a BBQ or other ‘bring your own food’ event, since you can load it with veggies, it’s easy to keep (even outside of the fridge for a bit) and most people like it. I’m calling this ‘Greek’ since I’m not claiming this is in any way authentically Greek, but it has been inspired by using typical Greek ingredients such as oregano, olives, bell peppers and feta cheese. I brought this to a BBQ the other day and it vanished within a few minutes. With the general instructions for pasta salad given below, you can easily devise your own by changing ingredients. You could for instance add a raw red onion, finely chopped. Or substitute feta with canned tuna. The possibilities are endless.
500 grams (1.1 lbs) short pasta such as penne
1 red bell pepper (capsicum)
1 yellow bell pepper (capsicum)
1 green bell pepper (capsicum)
1 zucchini (courgette)
1 eggplant (aubergine)
250 grams (0.55 lbs) feta cheese
2 Tbsp pitted olives (I prefer black olives, but you could also use green)
extra virgin olive oil
red wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Wash and dry or peel the eggplant and cut into 1 cm / 1/2″ cubes. Put on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Leave for an hour to draw out the juices.
Meanwhile, wash and dry the zucchini. Cut off both ends and cut into strips (about the size of the pasta).
Wash and clean the bell peppers and cut into strips, again about the size of the pasta.
Cook the pasta in ample boiling salted water (use a large pot!) for a minute or so longer than the time indicated on the package for al dente. Since you will be eating the pasta cold, it will seem more chewy than when it’s warm.
When it’s cooked, drain the pasta and rinse with cold water. Pasta salad is the only recipe (besides parboiling lasagna sheets) where you rinse away the starch. Never ever do this with pasta that is to be served warm!
Put the pasta in a large bowl (with room left for the other ingredients and for tossing without spilling; use two bowls if you need!) and toss with extra virgin olive oil as soon as possible to prevent the pasta from sticking together. If you end up with pasta that sticks together after all, make sure to use more oil the next time you make this. Let the pasta cool, stirring it now and then.
Preheat the oven to 225C/450F. Pat the eggplant dry with paper towels. Toss the eggplant and zucchini with olive oil. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roast the zucchini and eggplant on the parchment paper in the oven for 25 minutes.
Turn over and roast until golden, another 20 minutes or so. Let the eggplant and zucchini cool to room temperature.
Cut the feta cheese into 1 cm / 1/2″ cubes. Add cheese, veggies and olives (whole or chopped) to the pasta. Add extra virgin olive oil, a bit of red wine vinegar, salt, freshly ground black pepper, and dried oregano. Toss to mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and/or oregano as needed.
Serve straight away or refrigerate and take out of the fridge about half an hour before serving.