Vegetarian Mediterranean broccoli pasta salad with garlicky balsamic olive oil dressing
All of you who follow us on our social media accounts and especially on Instagram, know that since late January we are in a process of downsizing in order to move permanently in the countryside. Before making any final decisions, we decided to make a long-term test. The test was moving to Panos parents’ house in Evia island and live in the guesthouse for a month (our future sweet tiny home).
We started the test late February. And early March, guess what happened… You guessed correctly. The COVID-19 happened…! This was not on our New Year’s resolution! And certainly, it was not in anybody’s resolution!!! I mean… come on! Really? A worldwide-spread virus?!
The lockdown and curfew here in Greece, forced us to stay exactly where we were. In the countryside. Panos is currently working from home until further notice and I work on the blog with some help from him whenever he’s available. We consider ourselves quite lucky, compared to those who are in this lockdown in the cities: at least here we have a garden to walk around.
One of the harshest measures is the need of a special permit you need to carry around in order to be able to get out of the house. Errands nearby and the essentials are now on a weekly basis only for us. Since Panos’ parents are considered a vulnerable group and in high risk due to their age and health issues, we also shop for them on this weekly outing. This also goes for my parents (thankfully my sister lives with them and can help them out).
Among other measures, only two people per car are allowed. Also, a specific number of customers can shop at any time, depending on the square footage of the super-market/shop/pharmacy etc. Only emergencies can be treated by doctors and hospitals. Always keeping a 2-meters distance when crossing each other! This is the harsh reality these days. And it’s surreal.
What is happening in our neighborhood, the countries of Southern Europe, Italy and Spain is heart-breaking. The pain, the devastation and the deadlock are hard to grasp. :( And the worst thing is that this is happening in what is supposed to be the most beautiful season of the year: Spring! We try very hard every day to remind ourselves that it’s springtime: the rebirth of nature at its glory! How ironic…
Being optimists by nature we try our best to stay positive. We step outside in the garden, walk around and make plans for our future moving to the guesthouse when all this is over. We take photos that we share with you, showing all the nature’s beauty and hope we you can make you smile a bit, perhaps.
Don’t forget our dear friends that despite all the nasty things happening right now, spring is here. All we must do is endure. We must be patient; we must stay at home for the sake of all of us. Especially our families and our loved ones.
Being at home all the time made us find ways to be more creative. So, we do what we know best: cooking! :) Yeap, we do that a lot (big surprise, right?)! Cooking, but also baking a lot of homemade bread. We cook everyday with the produce that this small garden is offering to us. Using ingredients from our pantry is also on our daily schedule. Strangely enough this lockdown made everybody quite frugal, creative and appreciative.
With that in mind (staying frugal that is), we had a meeting Panos and I (yes, we do that! :) ) a few days ago, making plans and scheduling our meals. What we had at that time in our fridge was broccoli and spring onions from the garden, some red sweet peppers from our last visit to the farmer’s market (before the lockdown) and sun-dried tomatoes.
The pasta salad
At the aforementioned creative meeting, lots of ideas were put on the table. All proposals were taken under serious consideration. After a while… I said, “What about making a broccoli pasta sauce?”. And Panos added “What about instead of a sauce, we make a pasta salad?”. We looked at each other in agreement, nodded happily and started to discuss the spices we would use and the dressing we would make, to create a delicious salad. How we do love these meetings (plus they are short)!!!
Making this pasta salad wasn’t difficult. It contains some of our favorite ingredients. The broccoli we harvested a few days ago, was one of the last of the season. It turned out to be amazingly sweet and fragrant! Yes… broccoli can be fragrant… if you are into broccoli, that is! :D
The spring onions were also at their best. The harvesting process was quite an experience for us. Born and raised in the city we loved every minute of it!
We wanted a short type of pasta for the salad. The main reason for this is that it’s more practical while eating it: you don’t create a mess like you do with longer pasta. Our original choice was rigatoni. But rigatoni is too big. So, we went with the fusilli on this one. It’s another short type of pasta but it is better suited for a salad. Plus, it’s cute. Fusilli makes pasta salads look pretty. :)
Then we wanted to add something to make the salad sweeter and tangier at the same time. Remember the red sweet peppers and the sun-dried tomatoes we mentioned before? These two ingredients pair perfectly with the broccoli and the spring onions. So, we have added them on our ingredients list as well.
The dressing we wanted to use had to compliment all these amazing ingredients. It had to be sweet and tangy as well. We were looking for a flavor that would make the salad have a certain “je ne sais quoi”. We started gathering the dressing’s ingredients starting by the most essential: extra virgin olive oil.
We added garlic, balsamic vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. Then we gave it a try. Still, there was something missing. Freshness! So, we added dried spearmint. Ta-daaaaa!! Spearmint was the ingredient that made this dressing pop out! The result was now truly delicious!
Then we tossed all the ingredients together and gave them some time to allow the flavors to come out. Besides, this pasta salad is better served in room temperature. You can serve this salad with a handful (or two) of crushed walnuts for extra flavor and texture. Of course, that is optional.
If you have any leftovers, you can easily make this a casserole dish just by adding some bechamel on top, some sprinkled cheese and putting it in the oven. Yummy!!!! Remember? We try to stay as frugal as possible. ;)
This broccoli pasta salad is very healthy, it’s easy to make and you can serve it as a main dish. It’s also a great option for our vegetarian and vegan friends. If you are vegan simply replace the honey with agave or maple syrup. This recipe is also ideal for those who are fasting before Easter.
Bottom line… This is definitely not a boring pasta salad!
So, let’s see how easy it is to make this.
- 250g / 9oz fusilli pasta (or rigatoni or any other short pasta)
- 600g / 21oz (2 medium-sized) broccoli *
- 100g / 3.5oz (1 medium-sized) sweet red pepper, finely diced
- 50g / 2oz (2 medium-sized) spring onions, finely sliced
- 100g / 3.5oz (10-12 pieces) sun dried tomato, cut in small pieces
For the dressing
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 30ml (2 tablespoons) balsamic vinegar
- 75ml (1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey **
- 1 tablespoon dry spearmint
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
* You only need the broccoli florets, cut in 1-2 inches / 3-5cm pieces. That would be about 350g / 12oz from the initial weight of the broccoli.
** You can substitute with agave or maple syrup if you follow a vegan diet
Put the broccoli florets in your steamer basket and cook them for 6-8 minutes or according to your personal preference (pic.1). Remove the florets from the basket and place them in cold water for a few seconds to stop the steaming process (pic.2)
Alternatively, if you don’t have a steamer basket, you can boil them for a few minutes, until fork tender, but still firm.
Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box. Strain the pasta (pic.3) and place it under cold water, since in this recipe we don’t need the starch. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl (pic.4). Set aside and start preparing the dressing.
For the dressing
In a small bowl, put the olive oil, the balsamic vinegar and the honey. Add the spearmint, the pepper and the salt (pic.5). Add the garlic (pic.6).
Mix the ingredients well by whisking, to make sure that the honey is fully dissolved (pic.7). Add the dressing in the large bowl with the rest of the ingredients (pic.8)
Toss everything well (pic.9). The salad is ready to be served.
Optionally you can top the salad with some crashed walnuts. This will give your salad a very interesting and crunchy texture.
1. For this salad use only the florets. Cut them in small pieces. This way, steaming them will be easier and faster.
2. You can add crashed walnuts in your salad if you wish. The result will much more interesting.
3. If you wish to serve this salad in a special occasion, make sure that your guests are not allergic to walnuts (if using).
4. If you are vegan simply replace the honey with agave or maple syrup.
Did you like this salad recipe? Then check out some of the other amazing, delicious and healthy salads on our list!