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Upgrade Your BBQ Sides With This Herby Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is the ultimate side dish blank canvas. You get to pick the noodle shape, mix-ins, and dressing, so it’s not surprising that we have over 50 different recipes for it. This time around, pasta salad gets a Mediterranean twist, showcasing some of my favorite flavors from that corner of the globe. And the best part—although pasta salad is usually thought of as a side, the added protein from the chickpeas will make this easy to turn into a main.

What makes this Mediterranean?
The Mediterranean is a big region with influence from southern European, Middle Eastern, and north African cuisines, so this pasta salad had to feature a little something from each. After a few tests, I landed on harissa paste and fresh mint from North Africa, za’atar and chickpeas from the Middle East, feta and olives from Greece, and sun-dried tomatoes and oregano from Italy.

What is harissa paste?
Harissa is a North African condiment made from dried chiles, bell peppers, olive oil, garlic, and some sort of acid. It’s earthy, warming, and adds a depth of flavor to your food that will make people ask you for the recipe. It can be green or red, and it’s easily found in most grocery stores in the international or condiment aisle. But, like with most store-bought items, not all harissa paste is created equal. My go-to brand has become New York Shuk because they add a few extra spices (cumin and coriander) that make a world of difference when it comes to creating balanced flavor.

Pro tip!
Put your water on to boil before you start chopping your vegetables. By the time it comes to a boil, you’ll be all done with prep!

Did you try making this? Let us know how it went in the comments!

Yields: 8-10 servings

Prep Time: 20 mins

Total Time: 40 mins

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt

  • 8 oz.

    dried, short pasta, such as gemelli, penne, or bowtie

  • 1

    (15-oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed, drained

  • 1

    large red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, chopped

  • 1

    Persian cucumber, quartered lengthwise, chopped

  • 2

    scallions, chopped

  • 3/4 c.

    crumbled feta

  • 1/2 c.

    chopped mixed pitted olives

  • 1/2 c.

    chopped sun-dried tomatoes

  • 1 tbsp.

    chopped fresh mint

  • 1 tbsp.

    chopped fresh oregano

  • 1 tsp.

    za’atar seasoning

  • 2

    cloves garlic, grated

  • 1/2 c.

    mayonnaise

  • 3 tbsp.

    fresh lemon juice

  • 1 tbsp.

    harissa paste

Directions

  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until al dente according to package directions. Drain (do not rinse); season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, tossing to distribute. Let cool slightly.

  2. In a large bowl, toss chickpeas, bell pepper, cucumber, scallions, feta, olives, tomatoes, mint, oregano, and za’atar until combined. Fold in pasta.

  3. In a small bowl, whisk garlic, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and harissa. Pour over pasta salad and toss until coated; season with salt, if needed.

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