Recipe: Picnic Perfect Pasta Salad

Anyone up for a summer picnic?

All mothers are working mothers.

~ Author Unknown

Greetings bloggers and friends!

I hope everyone enjoyed the treat that was the weekend potluck – I know I discovered a few fine bloggers and enjoyed working my way through everyone’s delicious posts! In case you missed it, you can still catch the action here to see what it was all about!

Today I am grateful for sunshine and still reveling in what was a gorgeous weekend spent with loved ones.

Our Mother’s Day dinner yesterday consisted of a wonderful picnic dinner set against the backdrop of the beach and the mountains here in Vancouver.

It was superb!

Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs…since the payment is pure love.

~ Mildred B. Vermont

Our meal consisted of a simple array of foods: soft buns, cheese & cold cuts for the men (my hubby’s father is visiting us from Europe), chips and homemade dip, as well as potato salad, deviled eggs, watermelon, and today’s recipe for a yummy fresh pasta salad.

Of course, let’s not forget the chilled white wine, a couple of gin and tonics for us moms (the shared favorite summer cocktail between me and the mother-in-law), and we were all set.

Here is a simple, light recipe for what was a super tasty outdoor salad – perfect for any picnic or summer dinner!

The Less:

Less white pasta in your diet means more room for alternate grains. Less mayo-drenched pasta means less calories, fat, and oil. Less packaged store-bought picnic food means less cost for more goodness, and less high calorie pasta dishes means less worrying about eating them.

The More:

More ways to dress salads means more ways out of the mundane. More alternate grain pastas means more depth of flavour and nutrition. More ways to head outside means more time in the sunshine, so you can get picnicking more often πŸ™‚

Picnic Perfect Pasta Salad:

  • (4) cups dry pasta (spelt, kamut, or regular, I used a curly variety)
  • (6) tbsp lemon juice
  • (1/4) cup olive oil
  • (1/4) cup capers
  • (1) cup cubed feta cheese (optional)
  • (1.5-2) cups cooked chickpeas (a 398 ml can will provide the right amount)
  • (3-4) cups chopped broccoli florets, lightly steamed (save the stalks for steaming or grating)
  • (2) tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • (3) cloves fresh garlic, minced finely or pressed
  • a pinch or two of salt & fresh black pepper if desired

Start by putting up your pasta to boil in lots of water. Follow package instructions for your pasta and cook to al dente. Do your very best to avoid overcooking it! It is especially important to not overcook alternative grain pastas as they tend to turn to mush rather quickly if cooked longer than recommended.

Sometimes this is just unavoidable, but hey, we try!

While the pasta cooks combine the olive oil, lemon juice, & capers and add to the bottom of a large mixing bowl.

Chop the broccoli florets into 1-2 inch pieces and put up to steam in a separate pot. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until just turning bright green. It is important not to overcook the broccoli here as if it gets too mushy the lemon juice will turn it yellow and it will be come even more mushy. Once the broccoli is steamed, transfer to a bowl and mix with water and ice to shock it for a couple of minutes (this stops the cooking process). Drain.

Chop and prepare the feta, thyme, and garlic. Drain and rinse the chickpeas (if using canned).

Once the pasta is cooked, drain, and do not rinse. Let the cooked pasta sit for a minute or two in the colander and then add it to the mixing bowl with the lemon and oil while still warm. Mix well to incorporate with a large spoon. The pasta will soak up all the yummy goodness.

Add the chickpeas, broccoli florets, cubed feta, garlic, & thyme to the bowl and mix all well.

Season to taste with a little dusting of salt (the capers and feta are quite salty but it is nice to dress the pasta with just an additional smidge) and lots of fresh black pepper if desired.

Serve right away or chill and eat later on your picnic!

The ladies in our house are pretty massive fans of capers – the husband not so much – we say it’s his loss!

The garlic in this recipe adds a wonderful flavor to the simple lemon dressing.

It’s light, bright, and delicious!

A mom’s hug lasts long after she lets go.

~ Author Unknown

This was a perfect cold lunch for my high school daughter today.

Anyone want to bet whether I’ll see that container again? πŸ˜‰

Sing out loud in the car even, or especially, if it embarrasses your children.

~ Marilyn Penland

This dip has also become a bit of a hit.

I’ll share this with you all soon!

It’s rather a goodie πŸ™‚

This is a warm up for the upcoming summer trip to France. I anticipate many afternoons lounging in the grass over a few bites of bread and cheese, with views of picturesque scenery, and of course, the family.

Love begins by taking care of the closest ones – the ones at home.

~ Mother Teresa

God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers.

~Jewish Proverb

Kick off the shoes, spread out the blanket, and remember these times don’t last forever.

Soak it in. Breathe. Be.

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend, whether you are a mother, or whether you know a mother or two that deserved a little love or recognition.

I so enjoyed your comments and feedback on the last post – turns out I am not the only one who loves bread!

I’ll be posting again this week and am pretty thrilled to be getting a new computer this week (it’s sooo time!) – we are getting away this upcoming weekend for a few days by the pool with great old friends.

I am looking forward to setting up beside the pool…maybe if it gets hots enough I’ll go in too!

  • How did you spend Mother’s Day?
  • Do you have a favorite picnic food?

We’d love to know!

Yours in Less,


Filed under Cooking, Family, Photography, Recipes, Rich & Simple, Salads, Savory, Vegetables, Vegetarian

79 responses to “Recipe: Picnic Perfect Pasta Salad

  1. Somer

    I told someone today that I don’t really miss cheese since going vegan. I thought I was telling the truth, then your photos before my eyes, oh that feta! And the brie! Ah well. At least I can still make your delicious pasta salad without πŸ˜‰
    p.s. if anyone tells you that daiya tastes like the real deal, they are lying through their teeth. It tastes like vegan velveeta!

    • Oh Somer, I do love you, and I just met you! I couldn’t agree more – in my early days of strict veganism I realized one day I couldn’t feel good about feeding my children the over-processed rubber that is soy cheese (I did try for a few years earnestly) – I am now a ‘less is more’ cheese eater …(have been for years now)…and I could never go back. Of course I coooooould, but if I did I wouldn’t do the imitation. I’d rather go without! xo!! This salad would be amazing w/o the feta too so you are good!

      • Somer

        Ditto! XOXO! Thanks Shira! I think for the most part I honestly haven’t looked back. The change in my quality of life totally trumps cheese all day long. I’m going to do a post soon about curing my auto-immune diseases through my diet. But if I weren’t sick, I think I would totally still be eating that cheese! Oh well, c’est la vie πŸ˜‰ My kids and husband have gone vedge with me as preparing separate meals was just too much for me to handle. Thankfully they are all super supportive and even my 3 year old has starting cleaning everything off his plate (something he never did before we went plant based).

      • I hear you girl! I am super light on the dairy (here and there really) and am thankful my body allows it (and feels stronger with a little)….you are a lucky woman to have a supportive husband and family too! My brood is quite the mix and my cyclist hubby simply couldn’t do the full veggie lifestyle (he tried, and now he still eats meat albeit not a lot and I have never cooked it for him – lol)…amazing! I really admire you! xo!

  2. Feta was my absolute favorite and “go-to” cheese and it’s perfect in pasta salad. Gorgeous spread, my dear! And the sunshine! Looking forward to the upcoming recipes… Enjoy your new computer and especially the time away.

    • Thanks! The spread is totally vegan and 100% yum! I am beyond excited about the new computer – all the better for faster and more enjoyable blogging! XO!!

  3. This sounds like a winner, especially with a simple dressing of lemon juice & vinegar. I’ve nothing against mayo but this is so much better with feta.

    • Thanks John! I’m with you on the mayo but a lightened up classic is always fun! Happy you like it – thanks for stopping by! πŸ™‚

  4. Looks delicious, as always. I’ve got to do a picnic soon!

    • Thanks! It’s a lot of work getting ready and loaded up…but on a nice day it simply MUST be done and is so worth it once you are there! Hope your kids treated you yesterday to something special πŸ™‚ xo!

  5. I’m loving your healthy take on pasta salad!!!

  6. Looks good πŸ™‚ I love cold pasta salads..bringin’ in summer! πŸ™‚

  7. Sara

    Looks great – the relaxation oozes from your post!

  8. So, not only do I love bread, but I love capers and feta (and anchovies and olives) as well… This looks superb. Truly.

    It has suddenly got very cold in Sydney. Well, cold by our standards, anyway. The idea of a picnic sounds so divine… I’m quite jealous, but happy you had a super Mother’s Day, Shira.

    Off to put on some warmer socks… πŸ™‚

    • I guess it is that time of year in your lovely part of the world isn’t it J? Just as we are finally wearing shorts…
      Hot or cold, nothing beats a warm pair of socks though!! I am SO with you…anything pickled and salty or in brine…giddyup! πŸ™‚

  9. Love picnics and picnic food – lay out a blanket and dig in:)

  10. Yum!!! How fun. I am totally craving a picnic now!

  11. My favorite ingredient in pasta salad is pepperoncini juice. I also love feta and sun-dried tomatoes. Our picnic season is not until September/October: our summer fog has already moved in. We ate posole yesterday to stay warm and Mom and I walked to the library’s used book sale.

    • I love the idea of pepperoncini liquid, yum! Shira, this salad looks so great. I wish you a happy summer full of picnics!

    • I love a good used book sale – sounds like fun! I also share your love for sundried tomatoes Sharyn – and I do love the idea of that juice!! That sounds super tasty..I might just try that! πŸ™‚

  12. tactlessgracewriting

    My mom and I spent mother’s day planting herbs and flowers for my new pot garden, then made some grilled lobster tails, asparagus and roast potatoes. She’s always been an avid gardener and cook, and teaches me everything she knows. It was a perfect way to spend the day together. P.S. I ate an asparagus and rhubarb salad with shaved goat cheese and frisee at a great restaurant- amazing pairing. And I had a dish with slow-roasted cauliflower and beluga lentils which I had never known about- I love them! Have you done any dishes with these lentils named after a whale?

    • Your mother sounds amazing Grace πŸ™‚ Lucky girl you are! Your rhubarb/asparagus salad sounds divine – I would have loved to try that! I have used Puy lentils (aka french) and they are very similar to the Beluga lentils, though perhaps slightly smaller, their texture and color is very similar! Aren’t they yummy?! That sounds goooood! XO!

  13. Sarah

    I’m always a fan of a simple chick pea salad on a picnic. Travels easily and anything goes! But I also like rice krispie squares…are they illegal here??

    • Chickpea salad is always welcome anywhere right? I’d love your fave version Sarah!! Nothing illegal about rice krispie squares….that would be a real shame (rather illegal in itself) now wouldn’t it? But you HAVE given me an idea now….Xo! πŸ™‚

  14. Yum, yum, yum! And she does it again. (:

  15. Hello! I suppose I should join in on one of these potlucks – I shall endeavour to learn more about them. This salad looks wonderful. I’m afraid I’m not a mother, nor do I know any good ones, but I’ll wish all the good ones a happy mother’s day, but only in America… it’s not been Mother’s Day here. It’s ll very complicated.

  16. Alexiasana

    this looks delicious! I used to make spelt pasta salads with crumbled feta, pear, rocket and walnuts. so delicious! but your salad just looks divine and reminds me that I havent eaten pasta in i dont even remember how long. I have tried to stay off to test my gluten sensitivity because even spelt has gluten but now slowly incorporating it again. less is more. same with cheese for me πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Alexia! I love the sounds of your combo – the rocket and the walnuts – YUM! Glad to see there are others like me! πŸ™‚

  17. myallegro31

    Oh man, this is getting my mouth watering. Looks like some fantastic ideas for dinner or a big snack! Nice tips and lovely photos!

  18. So beautiful and colorful! And I agree with what you said earlier about those processed cheeses. Instead, I usually use tofu to make something that texturally resembles feta and tastes fairly similar!

    • Thanks!! πŸ™‚ Totally agree! Tofu ‘feta’ is quite delightful – awesome suggestion!! That would also work quite well here! Genius!

  19. madisoncary

    thing 1: yum! i love chilled pasta salads in the summer time. it truly is a picnic staple!
    thing 2: totally jealous about your upcoming trip to france! πŸ™‚
    thing 3: my favorite summer food is cucumbers marinated in a apple cider/oil/sugar/salt/pepper mixture! so refreshing!

    • Thanks Madison! We are really looking forward to our trip πŸ™‚ It’s coming up fast!
      I love this summer snack….I’ll have to try that as cukes are staples in this house….especially in the summer!! XO!

  20. Everything tastes better when eaten outdoors.. But this is perfect anywhere!

  21. What a WONDERFUL day!! This pasta salad looks fabulous. I love the sunshine on the blanket. This post makes me want to picnic asap.

    • Thanks Britt! Summer rules for picnics alone! Never mind the swimming, the biking, the beaching…gah! Isn’t it awesome?! So stoked for good weather! xo!

  22. Glad to hear you were spoiled with good company and food on Mother’s Day. You 100% deserve such special treatment!

    Your pasta salad looks lovely. I love capers as well and just can’t understand when people don’t!

    I love your little preparations for France πŸ™‚ You make sure you get loads more of this practice in before you go!


    • Oh thank you Gabby! I don’t expect too too much (I don’t think anyways πŸ˜‰ ) and it is so nice to take a little time to celebrate being together on days like Sunday – it was great! I can’t believe France will descend upon us in 10 weeks….man, it is going to be here before I know it!! Thanks girl!! xox πŸ™‚

  23. Richgail Enriquez

    Wow, I love how you broke everything down from the touching quotes to the health benefits of the recipe itself. This is a wonderful read. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you Richgail! I appreciate that πŸ™‚ and love that you stopped by! I hope you had a great start to the week! Cheers! πŸ˜‰

  24. There are gorgeous dishes here perfect to celebrate mothers day πŸ˜€
    Thanks for sharing!

    Choc Chip Uru

  25. yum!! πŸ™‚ hope you had a wonderful mother’s day! and…yay to a new computer! always fun!

  26. Summertime and the living is easy – I love summer picnics, actually I love picnics anytime πŸ™‚
    Looks wonderful Shira!!

    • Oh thank you Anne! I agree….and I love that song too – great saying about the living being easy πŸ™‚ I couldn’t agree more! Now let’s hope this sunny weather continues, hey? Thanks for stopping by!! πŸ™‚

  27. Glad you had a Happy Mother’s Day Shira! Looks like a lovely picnic, and a beautiful day for it. I LOVE bread, I love pasta, I love it all πŸ˜‰

    • Thanks Marina – it was great! Very relaxing and we had some really abnormally warm weather – we had to bust out the shorts! Not quite as warm or humid like Brooklyn sounds, but warm enough to hit the beach, it totally caught us off guard – in the best way!! xo! πŸ™‚

  28. This looks great… I always look for salads like this with a bit more substance to them, while still being healthy.

  29. That pasta salad looks delicious! I’m a vegetarian so I am always looking for new ways to spice up paste dishes and create something new πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Megan!! Thanks for popping in too! This dish was really good and kept well in the fridge too – great for having when the need for something yummy hits πŸ™‚

  30. What a beautiful picnic salad Shira. And I loved all the motherhood quotes sprinkled throughout! Now, bring on that dip, girl…it LOOKS like a goodie!! xo

    • Thanks Spree! I am so happy you enjoyed all those quotes…I just love throwing those in there πŸ™‚ one dip recipe coming up!! Stay tuned my friend! Xo!

  31. Ah, this post made me smile. Thank you, Shira.

  32. This pasta dish looks like a real crowd-pleaser and I love a good picnic. So happy that it’s getting to be that season!

    When are you going to France? What part? I’m so excited for you- I’m sure we’ll get to see a lot of lovely pictures!

    • Thanks Kristy! It is a yummy salad – we love picnics too!
      We hit France for 3 whole weeks in August…..Paris, Burgundy, and Provence! I’ll be blogging… So excited!! πŸ™‚ hope you are well! Xox!

  33. Pingback: eat this: picnic perfect pasta salad 2.0 :

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