Why do the words pasta salad strike fear in the hearts of eaters everywhere? I know why. Pasta salad is hard to get right. It can be too watery, or too dry, or too chewy, or too bland. I'll bet everyone has experienced at least one of these less-than-wonderful pasta salads, especially the versions that sit for far too long on buffet tables. Don't worry: you can make much better pasta salad at home.
There are a couple of secrets to good pasta salad. One, make sure the pasta is fully cooked; there's nothing trendy about biting into an al dente piece of cold pasta. Two, make sure the pasta is minimally dressed. If you end up with too much dressing at the bottom of the mixing bowl, dump it out. Once the pasta is cooled, it will not absorb that excess dressing. Three, don't forget to season. More salt, more pepper, more lemon, a few red pepper flakes here and there: they will all help bring the pasta to life. Even if the recipe doesn't specify, taste, and season right before you serve. This shrimp and artichoke pasta salad is easy enough to pack for a picnic, and flavor-packed enough to serve at a dinner party.
Shrimp and artichoke pasta with lemon poppy seed dressing
From the pantry you'll need: dried pasta, frozen shrimp, artichoke hearts, black olives, feta cheese, parsley, cider vinegar, mayonnaise, lemon, kosher salt, fresh black pepper, olive oil, granulated sugar or sweetener.
1/2 lb curly pasta (cellentani, rotini)
1/2 lb large shrimp, defrosted if frozen, peeled and deveined
8 oz artichoke hearts, chopped
2 small Roma tomatoes, diced (or any other tomato)
1/2 cup small pitted black olives
1 oz fat-free feta cheese, diced
2-3 Tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
For the dressing:
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp granulated sugar or sweetener of your choice
1/4 tsp poppy seeds
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp fresh black pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
Add four quarts of water to a large pot, and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. In the final 2 minutes of cooking, toss the shrimp into the pot and let it cook as the pasta finishes.
Drain, rinse under cool water, and drain again. Transfer the pasta and shrimp to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the artichoke hearts, tomato, olives, feta and parsley. Mix gently to combine.
In a small jar with a tight-fitting lid (or in a blender), add all of the ingredients for the dressing. Shake vigorously to bring the dressing together, and pour over the pasta salad. Stir to coat all of the ingredients with the dressing. Taste right before serving, and adjust seasoning as needed with salt and pepper, or additional lemon juice or zest.
Serve at room temperature, or refrigerate and serve chilled.
More pasta salads:
Greek pasta salad with sun-dried tomato vinaigrette, from The Perfect Pantry
Curried chicken pasta salad with apricots and cashews, from The Perfect Pantry
Pasta salad with Italian sausage, zucchini, red pepper, and olives, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Broccoli tahini pasta salad, from Love & Lemons
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