Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Pasta salad nicoise

Pasta salad nicoise: a modern take on the classic composed salad, portable and perfect for hot summer nights and busy weeknight meals.

pasta salad nicoise - a modern riff on the classic composed salad

Even though National Salad Month is behind us, I just can't stop eating salads!

I blame the hot weather we've been having. Jeez louise, it feels more like August than June out there on most days. Which doesn't really inspire me to fire up the oven.

Not to mention that salads are a such a fast way to pull together a healthy and easy weeknight dinner, especially when you add some healthy protein like the tuna in this pasta salad nicoise, a riff on the classic composed salad.

Are you a fan of salad nicoise? When I was a kid, every once in a while my mom would make a large, composed salad nicoise -- I loved how incredibly fancy it seemed, with all the ingredients in individual groupings instead of tossed together, which was my only notion of "salad" at the time.

But even now, as then, I'm not a composed salad kind of gal, so I've tossed my salad nicoise all together to let the flavors really mingle in the lemony vinaigrette and added some pasta in place of the more traditional potato because ... well, because it's pasta and I love it heaps more than potatoes.

One of my favorite time-saving tricks is blanching or flash-cooking veggies for pasta by adding them into the pasta pot for the last few moments of cook time. This works especially well for recipes that call for frozen veg like peas or edamame. Here, you can keep dinner prep moving quickly by adding the green beans to the pasta water and then draining and rinsing the pasta and the beans simultaneously.

Huzzah for shortcuts!

pasta salad nicoise - a modern riff on the classic composed salad

I'm also a huge fan of the tuna packed in oil that's a big part of this pasta salad nicoise. It's not as dry as tuna packed in water can often be, and it falls apart nicely (but not too much) when stirred into the salad.

Added bonus? Because this is a cold salad (that also gets more flavorful the longer its ingredients mingle), it's perfectly transportable for BBQs, potlucks, picnics, concerts ... or even just brown-bag lunch leftovers.

If the heat is leaving you feeling uncomposed, check the notion of a fancy composed salad at the door and instead enjoy this decidedly more simplistic pasta salad nicoise.

Fan of salad nicoise: yay or nay? Leave a comment: The Ninj wants to know.

pasta salad nicoise - a modern riff on the classic composed salad

Pasta Salad Nicoise

(adapted from Cooking Light)

8 ounces penne, rigatoni or other short pasta
8 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives (whole or halved)
1 romaine lettuce heart, thinly sliced into ribbons
1 5-ounce can tuna packed in oil, drained

Cook pasta according to package directions, adding the green beans to the pasta water for the last 2 minutes of cook time. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool slightly.

While the pasta cooks, whisk the oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper into a dressing in a large salad bowl. Toss in the tomatoes, oregano and olives and let the mixture stand while the pasta finishes cooking. Add the rinsed pasta, lettuce and tuna to the bowl and toss everything gently to coat.

-- print recipe --


  1. Yes! This is such a great, classic flavor combination. I'd make a big batch of this on the weekend and eat it for quick lunches all week.

  2. Looks delish! Although, I'll have to find a substitute for the "cat food" aka canned tuna. :-)

    1. HA HA! You could omit it or use canned chicken, I suppose, Jeff.