Pasta salad nostalgia

Feel-good food for warmer days ahead.


I love summer food. It really is its own category, isn’t it? Barbecue, fresh fruit, veggies on the grill … I could go on forever. After enjoying a handful of sunny May afternoons, I’ve been in the mood for some warm-weather staples. What better way to welcome the season than with pasta salad?

When I think of pasta salad, my mind immediately goes to childhood family cookouts. My mom’s signature recipe included a creamy mayonnaise dressing and sliced pepperoni, which I would secretly pick out of the bowl to eat on its own. I don’t eat meat anymore, and generally avoid dairy, so when I came across this vegan recipe from the website Cook Report, I knew I had to give it a try. For old times’ sake.

This pasta salad recipe uses tahini, which I absolutely love, and use in everything. Tahini is a paste made of ground sesame seeds, sort of comparable to a less flavorful peanut butter. It can be a bit pricey, at $10 to $15 a jar. If you’re hesitant to pick one up, I think this recipe would work just as well by substituting tahini with your favorite hummus. Hummus is usually made with tahini, and the added flavors of chickpea and garlic would only add to this dish.

While I used the Cook Report’s recipe as an outline for this pasta salad, I did make some adjustments of my own. Apple cider vinegar, instead of the suggested white wine vinegar, adds a slightly fruity flavor to the dressing. I also opted for a garlic-infused olive oil, and omitted the whole clove that the Cook Report calls for. Infused oils are a great alternative to cooking with the real thing, but if you’re a garlic fan, you can easily adjust this recipe by using plain olive oil and adding a clove of chopped garlic. Here’s my full recipe:

Vegan Pasta Salad
Serves 4

8 oz. pasta of choice (I used a box of Ancient Harvest’s Gluten-Free Garden Pagodas)1 head of broccoli, chopped into florets
8 to 10 cherry tomatoes, sliced into quarters
2 cups spinach, chopped
5 to 7 Kalamata olives, chopped
One small bunch of basil, chopped
3 Tbsp. pine nuts

3 Tbsp. garlic-infused olive oil (can substitute regular olive oil, and add a clove of chopped garlic)
3 Tbsp. tahini
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. maple syrup
Water as needed

Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Add water if needed: You want the mixture to reach a pourable consistency.

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, in slightly salted water. For the final three minutes of cooking, add in the broccoli florets. Drain and rinse under cold water.

Toss the pasta and broccoli with the tomatoes, spinach, olives, basil, and pine nuts in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle the dressing on top, and toss again to combine.