Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Opa!-pa-sta Salad

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)

Opa!-Pa-Sta Salad

  • 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!


And my Sunday Gravy was featured on Wednesday Whatsits, hosted by the super sweet Julie at White Lights On Wednesday!

White Lights on Wednesdays

My Queso Blanco and other Cinco De Mayo Faves have also been featured at the Creative Corner Hop, hosted by two lovely ladies, Sandy and Holly at Cherished Handmade Treasures and Holly's Stamping Addiction


  1. I like to make a greek pasta salad in the summer--it tastes great with grilled chicken or a steak. The kalamata olives and feta cheese make it outstanding!

    1. Thanks, Sue! We had this with grilled chicken last night and I practically ate myself sick. LOL I've never learned how to make a smaller version of things like salads or, well... anything, so with just the two of us here now, there are always tons of leftovers to pig out on. That's one of those good things, yet NOT good things, if you know what I mean. ;~)

  2. What amazing flavors!!! That looks so, so good ... may I place a take-out order for lunch??? ;)

    1. Why, certainly Mary! I just don't know if I'd be able to deliver it on time. LOL (although, I'd love nothing more than to be able to bring it to you myself)

  3. That looks marvelous Mary. My husband does all the cooking in our house and I will need to pass this on to him. I would eat pasta in its many forms every day if I could and then adding some kalamata olive and feta! Yummy! Glad I found your blog. Will be back!

  4. Thanks Shirley! Come on back any old time! I hope you'll pop in and let me know if your hubby makes this. I'm totally with you about pasta. Yup, definitely a bona-fide pastaholic! ;~)

  5. One of the things I love most about Spring and Summer and the wonderful salads. I could eat salad as my main course...just love all kinds of salads. Thanks for giving us the recipe at Show & Tell.

    Sharon @ mrs. hines class

    1. I'm with you Sharon! I've definitely been known to eat a big bowl of pasta or potato salad for lunch or dinner. LOL Thank YOU for providing all of us with such a fun platform to share what we love to do!

  6. Hi Mary!

    This sounds delicious and the photos make it look amazing! I always seem to associate pasta salad with bowtie pasta :)

    Thanks for explaining why it's important to salt the pasta. I never put salt on anything but we've had a few run-ins with super bland pasta and I'm sure this is why.

    Have a great day!


    1. Thanks so much, Claire! I tend to put a lot of emphasis on the use of salt in the recipes that I post, because we often underestimate the impact that it has on the foods we eat. I could go on and on about the bad rep that it's been given, but I'll spare you my rants. :~) Thanks for stopping by! I hope you come back to visit often! ( I promise that I don't always get up on a "food soapbox". LOL)

  7. looks delicious, I'd say OPA too! I'd love this salad.

    1. Thanks Carol! I hope that if you make it, you'll stop back and let me know how it turned out!

  8. Opa! I love all this back ground info! I have spent time being a potter, making many dishes and the such. When something breaks, I am like.. it's only mud. People feel so bad if they break something I make. I love this word. I will use now.
    And the Pasta Salad, looks very good. I will try this out, too! You have the yummiest prep pictures. How do you do that?

  9. Visiting from Michelle's Tasty Creations... we've been on a Greek splurge lately as well and this would be fantastic cold dish to go with a fresh & hot off the BBQ piece of chicken. Thanks for the recipe!

  10. Mary, Thank you so much for always leaving such sweet comments on my blog, they make me smile and lighten my day :) Graduation was a total success! Can't believe it's here and gone already. So much anticipation leading up to it :)

    This salad looks fantastic! I have fallen in love with Feta over the last year or so and am always looking for new recipes to use it in.

    Thanks so much for linking up to Creative Thursday this week. Have a wonderful weekend. I hope your delayed Mother's Day Celebration is a much deserved day of relaxation and pampering :)


  11. I would love to have this for lunch right now! So gald I dropped in from Creative Thursday. I would love to invite you to come party with us sometime on Fabulous Friday. Have a great weekend!

  12. Oh My Opa! Can't wait to try this! I'm making my grocery list out now.


  13. This looks amazing! Mr. B loves feta and Kalamata olives so I am certain he will love this. I just may have to make it up for the holiday weekend BBQ! I'd love it if you would share this ate You're Gonna Love It Tuesday going on right now! Have a wonderful day ♥

  14. love all the fresh chopped veggies! we have a "kids in the kitchen" link up - no kids required - just good family style recipes - I hope you'll join!

  15. So get had 2 top 4 viewed links this week! Ahh!!!

  16. This looks fab - I may just have to get my act together and try something new!

  17. This looks great,i've just come back form the gym and I need some of this :) Pinning this recipe...Thanks so much for linking up to Creative Mondays I'm running of now to find pasta

  18. This looks like a delcious salad. I love pasta salad and have made a Greek version before. Never thought to add cucumbers. I'll have to try that sometime! Thanks for the tip and the recipe.

  19. Oh Mary this looks so scrumptious! I can't wait to make it this weekend! I love finding new pasta recipes...Thanks so much for sharing at Mix it up Monday :)

  20. Hi Mary,
    It is always so nice to see you here at the party. Your Salad looks so fresh and delicious, a Salad that we would just love! Hope you have a special week end and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  21. You know, I have never made a "cold" pasta salad before. I need to make one. I am a very picky eater but I think I can handle it with italian dressing, peppers, onions, cilantro, pesto seasoning. Do you think that would be good? Thanks for sharing this version at Toot Your Horn Tuesday! Hope you are enjoying your holiday weekend :)


  22. Hi I found you on the Blog hop. Now following you. Please stop by and say hi when you get a minute.
    Please check out my new Weekly Goals Blog hop. You can find it here. if you would like to check it out.
    Have a great evening! Lenetta


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