OK, I realize that there are probably a million recipes for pasta salad floating around out in cyberspace, but I like to think that this particular version is a little bit special. Well, it's special in our house, anyway. :~)
I've made "traditional" pasta salads for everything from backyard barbecues to simple summer suppers. You know the one I'm talking about... Italian dressing, lots of crisp fresh veggies, pepperoni or salami and a healthy dose of shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese. Over all, it's pretty much a mandatory side dish, any time that my daughter has had a say in the menu.
A couple of years ago, she discovered (tossed green) Greek salads and was immediately obsessed. (Admittedly, I'm a little bit in love myself) I figured that since she already loved pasta salad and had recently become a bona fide Greek salad addict, it just made sense that she'd be a happy little camper if I combined the two and made a Greek pasta salad. Soooo...Since the more traditional version is often called "Pizza Salad", I decided that I had to find an appropriate (albeit, corny) name for this one.
*Opa is a Greek word that has multiple meanings. It's often used by the Greek people at times of celebration and joy and is basically a very "happy" word. And since this salad makes my family happy, it just seemed to fit. So... that, my friends, is how I came up with the name... Opa!-pa-sta Salad! (Seriously folks, I really do know that I'm a whak-a-doodle)
- 1Lb Pasta, cooked and drained (I used Farfalle/Bowties)
- 1 Lg Green or Red Bell Pepper, chopped
- 1 Sm Red Onion, chopped
- 1 Med Cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 1 Cup Kalamata Olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
- 2 Cups Feta Cheese, crumbled
- Double Recipe Greek Vinaigrette (recipe here)
- Kosher Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper
Cook the pasta in 6-8 quarts of liberally salted, boiling water, until it's al dente. Drain and set aside. For cold salads, I rinse my pasta BUT, I add a pinch of salt to the drained pasta and give it a little toss. Why would I do that?? Well, rinsing cooked pasta not only removes starchy residue and cools it down; it also tends to diminish the slight saltiness that was infused into the pasta during cooking. You don't have to do this step, but trust me... Even the best pasta can end up tasting a bit like cardboard without the addition of salt and using a decent amount of it during the cooking, makes a big difference. (See, I told ya... whack-a-doodle)
Pour about 1/2 of the prepared vinaigrette into the pasta and toss well. Cover and refrigerate, while prepping the rest of the ingredients.
Chop all of your vegetables and olives and crumble the Feta and set them aside. I like to leave a few strips of the skin on the cucumber when I peel it, but that's purely for aesthetics. You really do need to scoop the seeds out before chopping it though, because if they're left in, they'll water down the finished salad and can add a bitter taste. (It's also better for folks who might have a problem digesting seeds)
Take your pasta out of the fridge and add in all of the veggies, olives, cheese and the remaining vinaigrette. Season with a bit more salt and pepper and toss it well. You can serve this salad right away or you can cover it and pop it back into the fridge until you're ready for it. I like to make it a few hours (or up to a day) ahead of time, because the longer it sits, the more the flavors have a chance to develop. I usually make a double batch (at least) of the dressing and will sometimes add a bit more to the salad just before serving. I like to have plenty of this vinaigrette on hand for use in other salads and for marinating meats.
You can also add grilled chicken or seafood to make this an easy and delicious stand alone lunch or supper too.
For my Garlicky Greek Vinaigrette recipe, just click HERE
*OPA is a Greek Word that may be used as an ‘Exclamation’, or ‘Utterance’, or ‘Declaration’, or ‘Affirmation’ or a lovingly gentle way of telling you to ‘Stop’ ... depending on the situational context.
It is a word or pronouncement of celebration; the celebration of life itself.
It is another way of expressing joy and gratitude to God, Life, and others, for bringing us into the state of ultimate wisdom; that all that really matters is health, family, and friends.
It is a humorous affirmation that you’re the best; that you’re where you’re supposed to be; and that you need to stop and celebrate. …
It is the Greeks’ way of stating they have come to a level of serene exuberance able to enjoy life as children. … In a state where having been fed, and having quenched our thirst, and having enjoyed the pleasure of uniting with others, we have filled with hope and confidence that life abounds with all that we need, … and that food will always be there, … and so, we break the plates, … because tomorrow there will be more. … And we light a fire and dance around it as a symbol of the warmth that surrounds us. … and …
We break the plates as a way of saying thank you to those that helped us reach a state of celebrating our life, … as a way of saying thank you to the music that brought peace to the world, … and we break them to honor the one that’s dancing, as we kneel in front of them and look up to them exclaiming : Oooopa !!! …
And we throw the napkins in the air as a reminder that we are as free as the birds; ‘sky is the limit’ … so ‘Let go, Be Greek, Fear nothing and join in the celebration’.
It is a way of saying “don’t worry” … no matter what has happened you are still alive, … “don’t be harsh on yourself,” there’s another minute and another day ahead of you to right what’s wrong, … and we are here together to make sure of this. … So, as an example when someone accidentally drops and breaks something, no matter how valuable, we yell: Oooooopa !!! … kind of “It’s ok,” … everything can be mended if your mind is healthy and still open to music, dance, mezedes, and wine !!
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Oh My! My White Queso and other Cinco De Mayo favorites have been featured at the Show and Tell Showcase, hosted by the very lovely Sharon at Mrs Hines Blog!