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Italian Pasta Salad
Credit: Jonathan Bardzik

Close your eyes. Imagine a perfect summer afternoon. The sun is shining as July’s pink lilies and phlox give way to the bright yellows of August sunflowers and Black-eyed Susans. Zac Brown Band is playing as you tip back an ice-cold beer, surrounded by family and the best of friends. The smell of rich smoke from hardwood charcoal wafts off the grill where you will soon be charring juicy burgers to top with thick slices of the freshest summer tomatoes you can find. Life doesn’t get any better than this.

*Record scratch*

Then you look at the salads. It’s a bland wasteland of pasta, potatoes and cabbage hidden beneath a thick coating of mayonnaise obscuring all color except of the odd smidgen of carrot struggling to surface. Concerns about mayonnaise baking in the sun aside, with the wonderful, rich, smoky taste of grilled meats and vegetables, the last thing I want at a summer cookout is a gloopy salad.

Italian Pasta Salad
Credit: Jonathan Bardzik

Enter the vinaigrette. This tart rich blend of oil and vinegar with sharp garlic or smooth shallot, fresh herbs and maybe a hint of Dijon mustard keeps summer vegetables well, fresh and magical. A crisp champagne vinaigrette tossed with warm fingerling potatoes and halved cherry tomatoes is the perfect accompaniment to a juicy, thick burger. Farfalle pasta tossed with fresh basil and oregano and a complex, garlicky red wine vinaigrette is exactly what your Italian dressing marinated grilled chicken has been waiting for. And your pulled pork with never go back once it’s paired with a shredded cabbage slaw tossed with cilantro and a honey cider vinaigrette.

So happy grilling. Problem solved. Let’s get back to life not getting any better than this.

Strawberry
Credit: Martha FitzSimon

Jonathan Bardzik’s new cookbook, Fresh and Magical Vinaigrettes is available now with 23 recipes and over 100 suggestions on how to enjoy them! Get your copy from amazon.com or purchase a signed copy from JonathanBardzik.com/the-books.

Italian Pasta Salad

Serves 6-8

Smaller is Better: When tossing chunks of tomato and zucchini with pasta you’ll quickly discover those additions work their way to the bottom of the bowl. Using smaller pastas like bow tie-shaped Farfalle keep those small ingredients suspended in your pasta making it easier to serve and a prettier presentation on the table.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound fresh Fusili
  • 2 ripe heirloom tomatoes cut in 1” dice
  • 1/2 red onion, halves and thinly sliced
  • 2-3 tbs capers

Dressing:

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbs chopped organo
  • 2 tbs chopped basil
  • 1/2 cup olive oil – the good stuff!

Directions:

  • Boil pasta for in salted water until al dente. Drain and rinse briefly under cold water.
  • Combine pasta, tomatoes, onion and capers in a large bowl.
  • Make dressing: sprinkle garlic with coarse salt and mash together into a smooth paste using the flat side of your knife. Whisk together with vinegar and herbs and season with pepper.
  • Whisk oil into dressing in a thin stream to form a creamy emulsion. Season to taste with additional vinegar, oil, salt and pepper as needed.
  • Dress pasta mixture starting with about 2/3 of the dressing and adding more as needed.