Antipasto Pasta Salad + Lemon and Red Wine Vinaigrette
This is a variation of one my first tried and true “party recipes.” I never actually threw a party until I had kids. My mother made this for Henry’s baby shower, and I then made it for many subsequent kid parties. Nowadays, Jon and I try to entertain at least 1 time a year in a “big” way. My favorite thing to do is have a backyard barbecue in the summer with lots of families and food.
This salad is great on its own as a full summer meal because it’s got you covered with whole grain pasta, fresh veggies, and protein from the chickpeas and the chicken sausage. You can easily make this more of a side dish and just leave out the sausage.
You can use any short shape pasta, but I think the farfalle is cute, and kids like it. You can also use store bought dressing for this if you don’t feel like making one from scratch, but this one is super easy and you probably have everything you need if you keep a stocked pantry.
The whole thing takes about an hour to make, and it’s best after it has set up in the fridge for 1-4 hours because the mushrooms marinate in the dressing, and the spinach starts to wilt. It will stay good in the fridge, though, for at least 3 days after you make it.
For this salad, I like to use whole wheat pasta and chicken sausage to keep it healthier, and I like Al Fresco Sweet Italian. They have a lot of good Mediterranean flavors, so just pick your favorite. The sausage comes pre-cooked, and I just like to give it a good sear in my cast iron skillet for a little extra color and flavor.
When you’re making this, don’t worry about letting the sausage or pasta cool before mixing. Mixing the ingredients together while hot or warm actually helps the flavors come together better and helps the spinach wilt more quickly. (That tip is courtesy of Ina herself.)
One last thing –this recipe makes a LOT, like probably 10-12 servings. But it always gets eaten at my house, if by no one but me. If you’re trying to be healthy, this is a great meal to have on hand because it lasts for days and requires nothing, not even any heating, to be a substantial lunch or dinner in the warmer months (is this what the cool people call “meal prep?). This plus my Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad (whoa, I really need to update the recipe and photos because they’re so amateur) are my 2 favorite spring and summer make-aheads, hands down.
Total Time: 1 hour (plus at least 1 hour set time)
Difficulty Level: Easy
1 pound whole wheat farfalle
24 ounce Al Fresco Sweet Italian Sausage (or your favorite flavor)
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced thinly
4 ounces grape tomatoes, halved
¼ red onion, sliced very thinly
4 large handfuls raw spinach
5 ounces roasted red peppers, sliced thinly
1 16 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 15-16 ounce can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1 cup lemon and red wine vinaigrette (recipe follows)
4 ounces grated Parmesan
Fresh basil leaves (optional)
- Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, add the sausage to a well-oiled cast iron skillet over medium heat. Brown evenly on all sides, about 15 minutes total. Remove from pan, and set aside.
- While the pasta and sausage cook, add the sliced mushrooms, halved grape tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, raw spinach, sliced roasted red peppers, drained chickpeas, and drained artichoke hearts to the bottom of a very large mixing bowl.
- Once the pasta is cooked and thoroughly drained, add it to on top of the veggies.
- Once the chicken sausage is cooked, sliced into ¼ inch slices, and add it to the bowl.
- Toss everything with the lemon and red wine vinaigrette (recipe follows).
- Once cooled, toss with the grated Parmesan.
- Serve cold or at room temperature topped with fresh basil leaves (optional)
Lemon and Red Wine Vinaigrette
Total Time: 5 minutes
Yield: about 1 ½ cup
Difficulty Level: Easy
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 lemons
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
- Add all ingredients to a mason jar. Seal, and shake until well mixed.
- Serve with Antipasto Pasta Salad. You can also use this on any salad or as a marinade.