Oh, pasta salad. How I love you so.
I’m going to start a Meatless Monday segment, and what better way to kick it off than with some carbs? 😉
Whenever I need to bring anything to a BBQ, pasta salad is my go-to. I’ll always switch up what I put in it, depending on what’s in season and what’s available. Pasta salad is one of the most versatile (and delicious) things ever.
You could use whole wheat pasta, brown rice pasta, quinoa pasta, fresh vegetables, roasted veggies, pickled veggies, feta cheese, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese. (Catches breath.) You get the idea.
For this variation, I used fennel, feta, and cherry tomatoes as my star ingredients.
You could totally use the fennel raw, which would also be delicious, but I decided to roast it to bring out its caramelized, sweet flavor. Roasting fennel also helps mellow out the licorice flavor, so it’s a good choice for those who aren’t so fond of that taste.
Once roasty and delicious, the fennel gets paired with salty feta and bright cherry tomatoes, which are a match made in heaven. To make it even better, marinated artichokes, olives, roasted red peppers, and fresh basil and parsley join in. A simple lemon vinaigrette is the perfect dressing to this Mediterranean-inspired salad.
Reserve the lacy, leafy fennel fronds and add them in along with the herbs for even more fennel-y flavor. Underrated fennel is a nice touch for elevating your pasta salad game.
I use fennel salt in this salad, too. But honestly, I use fennel salt in everything. I am so addicted to the stuff. My best friend buys it for me every year for Christmas, and I try to space it out all year, but that doesn’t always work. I love this brand. It’s made with organic fennel pollen and it’s so. darn. delicious. If you can’t find fennel salt or don’t want to buy it, you can totally make your own by combining some ground fennel seeds with sea salt. Or you can completely omit it all together. I won’t be mad, promise.
You can make this salad the night before to let the flavors develop and it’s delicious served either chilled or at room temperature.
Enjoy! And happy start of BBQ Season. 😉
- 1 pound fusilli pasta
- 2 fennel bulbs, fronds reserved
- ½ cup diced roasted peppers
- ½ cup diced black olives
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered or halved
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- ½ cup diced marinated artichokes
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 6 ounces crumbled feta cheese
- sea salt + pepper
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 lemon, juiced
- ½ teaspoon fennel salt (or sea salt)*
- heavy pinch black pepper
- 3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare the fennel. Cut the stalks off of the bulb and reserve the leafy fronds. Discard stalks, or save for stock at a later time.
- Cut bulbs in half lengthwise, remove the core, and brush both sides with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Place bulbs cut-side down and roast until tender and the edges are caramelized, turning once, about 30-40 minutes. Let cool, and then slice fennel into thin strips.
- In the meantime, cook fusilli pasta in salted, boiling water until al dente, according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
- Make the dressing. Place all ingredients in a mason jar and shake, shake, shake, until combined and thickened. Alternatively, you can whisk Dijon, lemon, and vinegar together, and then slowly whisk in olive oil.
- Make the salad. Toss pasta with sliced roasted fennel, peppers, cherry tomatoes, olives, shallot, artichokes, feta, and herbs. Roughly chop the fennel fronds and add to salad. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly with the dressing and refrigerate overnight. Serve salad chilled or at room temperature.