The Perfect Pasta Salad

Pancetta, olives, tomatoes, and artichoke hearts add zing to a bow-tie pasta salad that is just right for a barbecue

Italian Pasta Salad by Cookbook Author Maria Desiderata Montana
Italian Pasta Salad (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Two-Tomato Farfalle Salad With Pancetta may look too good to eat, but by all means dig in!

I believe we eat with our eyes first, and this farfalle pasta salad looks too good to eat, but do it anyway! In this recipe, the festive pasta shape, reminiscent of little bow ties, is paired with fresh and colorful ingredients. It will definitely please your friends and family.

Instead of a traditional cream- or mayonnaise-based pasta salad, I’ve created a healthy Italian version using extra-virgin olive oil as the dressing. Pancetta, Pecorino-Romano cheese and green olives lend the subtle taste of salt naturally. The addition of in-season orange tomatoes along with sun-dried tomatoes adds a ripe sweetness, while marinated artichoke hearts give a tangy flavor.

All of these ingredients can be enjoyed alone, but when tossed together in one big bowl, every bite packs a zesty punch.

This is the perfect summertime salad to bring to a backyard barbecue. Enjoy alone or as a side dish with grilled fish, chicken, steak or pork.

Two-Tomato Farfalle Pasta Salad With Pancetta

16 ounces farfalle pasta, cooked according to package instructions

2 slices of pancetta

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 medium-size orange tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 cup artichoke hearts marinated in oil and vinegar, drained, and roughly chopped

1 cup whole, pitted green olives

1 handful fresh basil leaves, torn

1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, cubed

1) Cook pasta according to package instructions (remove from heat a little earlier than the stated cooking time if you like your pasta al dente).

2) Drain in a colander, then place pasta back in its original pan and add cold water. Once the pasta is cool, drain, put in a large bowl and set aside.

3) Slice the pancetta into small pieces. In a small frying pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and crushed garlic. When temperature reaches medium-low heat (take care that garlic doesn’t burn), add pancetta. Stir constantly until the pancetta is cooked through. Add to the pasta bowl.

4) Chop orange tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, and artichoke hearts. Cut Pecorino-Romano cheese into 1/2-inch cubes. Drain green olives.

5) Add tomatoes, artichokes, cheese and olives to the pasta bowl. Add torn basil. Lightly drizzle salad with 4 tablespoons olive oil and gently toss. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour to allow the flavors to set. Plate and serve.

*This story by Maria Desiderata Montana first appeared in the U-T San Diego.