This Sicilian Pasta Salad is bursting with fresh ingredients and a symphony of colors, creating a delightful fusion of Mediterranean essence. Versatile and delicious, this amazing Sicilian Pasta Salad is the perfect addition to any occasion. Whether you’re planning a relaxed family gathering, a delightful picnic in the park, or seeking a quick and wholesome weeknight dinner, this salad has you covered. Its combination of zesty tomatoes, salty olives, crisp cucumber, and peppery radicchio harmonizes beautifully with a tangy dressing, making it a medley of flavors that tastes amazing. This is a recipe you’ll want to savor, share, and repeat again and again. Let’s get started!
What Makes This Recipe Special
You will absolutely love this Sicilian pasta salad recipe, and here are a few key factors that make it special:
- Mediterranean Flavors: The recipe incorporates a variety of ingredients commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine, such as cherry tomatoes, black olives, capers, ricotta, extra-virgin olive oil, and others. These ingredients bring a burst of fresh and vibrant flavors reminiscent of Sicilian dishes.
- Balance of Textures: The combination of different textures from the pasta, crunchy vegetables, and crumbled ricotta salata creates a delightful combination, making each bite interesting and satisfying.
- Super Simple and Easy to Make: The recipe’s straightforward instructions and easy-to-find ingredients make it accessible to both novice and experienced cooks. Its simplicity ensures a quick preparation without compromising on taste.
- Versatility: The recipe’s flexibility allows you to get creative and tailor the salad to suit your preferences. You can adjust ingredient proportions, add extra veggies, or even incorporate grilled proteins to personalize the dish and make it truly your own.
- Vegetarian Recipe with Gluten-Free and Vegan Options: By choosing gluten-free penne pasta and using a plant-based alternative for ricotta salata, you can easily make this vegetarian salad gluten-free and vegan-friendly, ensuring everyone can enjoy its deliciousness.
- Well-Balanced and Healthy: Beyond its great taste, this salad is also a well-balanced and nourishing option. The combination of vegetables, pasta, and dressing provides a wholesome mix of carbohydrates, healthy fats, and plant-based proteins, making it a nutritious and complete meal.
- Perfect for Gatherings: This Sicilian pasta salad is an ideal choice for picnics or family gatherings. It presents a visually appealing dish that tastes as good as it looks, making it a crowd-pleaser.
These ingredients work harmoniously to create the delightful fusion of Mediterranean flavors that make the Sicilian Pasta Salad a true culinary delight.
- Penne Pasta: The hearty base for the salad. Feel free to choose other types of pasta, such as fusilli or elbow pasta, etc.
- Cherry Tomatoes: Tomatoes give a burst of sweetness and juiciness, and also add vibrant color and fresh taste.
- Black Olives: Offer a satisfying chewy texture that complements the crisp vegetables and pasta.
- Radicchio: Provides a peppery and slightly bitter taste that combines well with other ingredients. Also, the vibrant purple color of radicchio looks beautiful in the bright colors combo.
- Cucumber: Diced cucumber adds a cool and refreshing element and crisp texture for a pleasant crunch.
- Capers: Capers give a zesty and tangy kick.
- Fresh Basil: Provides aromatic and herbaceous notes, that brighten and tie the flavors together.
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: Serves as the foundation of the dressing, imparting its rich and fruity essence to enhance the salad’s Mediterranean character.
- Red Wine Vinegar: Brings tangy acidity with a Mediterranean flair that balances the olive oil in the dressing.
- Garlic: Minced garlic adds a subtle savory note and enhances the overall taste.
- Salt and Pepper: Seasonings bring out the best in each ingredient.
- Ricotta Salata: Creamy and slightly salty element for a delightful finish.
How to Make Sicilian Pasta Salad
Follow these easy steps to make this simple but really impressive salad:
- Cook the Penne Pasta: In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the penne pasta until al dente according to the package instructions. Once cooked, drain the pasta and rinse it under cold water. Set it aside to cool.
- Prepare the Dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, salt, and pepper to create the tangy dressing. Allow the dressing to sit for a few minutes, allowing the flavors to meld and intensify.
- Combine the Ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooled penne pasta, halved cherry tomatoes, halved black olives, chopped radicchio, diced cucumber, capers, and chopped fresh basil.
- Dress the Salad: Pour the prepared dressing over the pasta and vegetable mixture. Toss well, ensuring all ingredients are evenly coated with the dressing.
- Add the Finishing Touch: Sprinkle the salad with crumbled ricotta salata to add a creamy and slightly salty element, bringing the salad to a delightful finish. Garnish with fresh basil.
Ideas for Add-ins
The recipe is highly versatile, and here are some ideas to get creative:
- Add Some Proteins to the Salad:
- Grilled Salmon or Shrimp: To make this salad heartier and add a savory twist, consider grilling or sautéing some salmon or shrimp. The grilled proteins complement the Mediterranean flavors and make the salad a complete meal.
- Cannellini Beans or Chickpeas: For a vegetarian option, add protein-rich canned cannellini beans or chickpeas. They not only provide a satisfying texture but also enhance the salad’s nutritional value.
- Veggie Add-in Ideas:
- Artichoke Hearts: Introduce marinated or grilled artichoke hearts to infuse the salad with a delightful tanginess and enhance its Mediterranean character.
- Roasted Red Peppers: Include roasted red peppers for a sweet and smoky note, adding depth to the salad’s flavor profile.
- Sun-Dried Tomatoes: Toss in chopped sun-dried tomatoes. They bring a concentrated tomato flavor that pairs perfectly with the other ingredients.
- Arugula or Baby Spinach: Incorporate some arugula or baby spinach to add an extra layer of leafy greens and a peppery kick.
- Mint Leaves: Infuse the salad with a refreshing twist by incorporating fresh mint leaves. Their aromatic and cooling essence complements the Mediterranean ingredients perfectly.
- Crunchy Nuts and Seeds:
- Toasted Pine Nuts: Sprinkle some toasted pine nuts over the salad for a delightful crunch and nutty taste that complements the Mediterranean theme.
- Sliced Almonds: Add sliced almonds to introduce a gentle nutty flavor and extra texture to each mouthful.
- Cheese Variations:
- Feta Cheese: Swap or combine ricotta salata with crumbled feta cheese. Feta’s salty and tangy flavor enhances the salad’s taste and provides a creamy contrast to the vegetables.
- Fresh Mozzarella: For a creamier texture, include fresh mozzarella pearls or cubes. This adds a luscious element that pairs wonderfully with the salad’s Mediterranean flair.
- Pasta Varieties: While penne pasta is traditionally used in the Sicilian pasta salad, feel free to experiment with other pasta shapes such as fusilli, farfalle, or elbow macaroni. Choose gluten-free pasta for a gluten-free option if desired.
- Tomatoes: If cherry tomatoes are not available, you can use grape tomatoes or diced Roma tomatoes as a substitute. To add a burst of color and flavor, consider using a mix of different tomato varieties.
- Olives: Swap black olives with green olives or a combination of both to vary the briny flavors in the salad. If preferred, use Kalamata olives for a more distinctive Mediterranean touch.
- Radicchio: If radicchio is hard to find, red cabbage or baby spinach can be excellent alternatives. They bring their unique textures and colors to the salad.
- Cucumber: For a refreshing crunch, English cucumber or Persian cucumber can be used instead of the standard cucumber. If desired, peel the cucumber for a smoother texture.
- Capers: If capers are not to your taste, you can omit them or replace them with chopped pitted green olives for a similar tangy kick.
- Cheese Substitutions: If ricotta salata is hard to find, you can replace it with crumbled feta cheese or grated Parmesan cheese for a delightful cheesy element.
- Dressing Variations: Use balsamic glaze instead of red wine vinegar, and drizzle balsamic glaze for a sweeter and slightly syrupy dressing that adds a touch of sophistication. Or make the lemon honey dressing from our Greek Chickpea Salad recipe. It pairs perfectly with salad too.
After preparing the Sicilian pasta salad, store it in an airtight container or cover the bowl with plastic wrap before placing it in the refrigerator. The salad will remain fresh for up to 3-4 days, though for optimal taste and texture, it’s advisable to enjoy it within 1-2 days. Before serving, give the salad a good stir to ensure the flavors are well-distributed. For those planning to make the salad ahead of time, it’s best to prepare all the ingredients and store them separately from the dressing in the fridge. This approach helps maintain the salad’s freshness and prevents it from becoming soggy before serving.
More Healthy Dinner Ideas for You:
The Sicilian Pasta Salad is like a total flavor explosion from the Mediterranean. You can totally have it for lunch or dinner, or whenever you want a taste adventure. Go ahead and give it a try, and enjoy this healthy and delicious option that transports you to the sunny shores of Sicily with every bite!
- 8 oz (227 g) penne pasta, uncooked
- 1 cup (150 g) cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ cup (75 g) black olives, pitted and halved
- 1 cup (45 g) radicchio, chopped
- 1 cucumber, diced
- 1 tbsp capers, drained
- 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
- 3 tbsp (45 g) extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp (30 g) red wine vinegar
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup (50 g) cup ricotta salata, crumbled
- Cook penne pasta until al dente according to package instructions, then rinse with cold water to cool it down.
- In a large bowl, combine the cooled pasta, halved cherry tomatoes, halved black olives, chopped radicchio, diced cucumber, drained capers, and chopped fresh basil.
- In a small bowl, whisk together extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, minced cloves of garlic, salt, and pepper to make the dressing.
- Pour the dressing over the pasta and vegetables, and toss gently to coat everything.
- Crumble ricotta salata over the top. Garnish with fresh basil, serve and enjoy!