Picnic recipes: the best pasta salad ever

A pasta salad popped out of a friend’s picnic bag at a wine tasting picnic I was at last weekend and it was delicious – just the right combo of saltiness (feta), crunchiness (cucumber) and soft creaminess (av0). Since then I’ve been so into pasta salads – they’re perfect for an easy dinner, cold lunch and of course, picnics. This is my ultimate pasta salad, but you can always add all manner of other goodies to this basic recipe.


Serves 6 generously

500 g small pasta shells
1 cucumber, chopped into smallish pieces
500 g rosa or cherry tomatoes, halves
2 mielies, cooked (I do this in the microwave) and kernels removed
Half a packed of black olives, pitted and chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped into small pieces
1 red pepper, chopped into small pieces
120 g feta, chopped into small squares

Wholegrain mustard
Canola or olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Pinch of sugar

Cook the pasta and let it cool in a colander. Once it’s cooled down, pour into a large bowl and mix in all the ingredients. To make the dressing, combine about three tablespoons of oil with one or two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon of mustard, a pinch of sugar and lots of black pepper and shake up in a jam jar. These are not exact measurements though –  add more oil, vinegar or mustard to your taste. To transport the salad for a picnic, I keep the dressing in the jar and pour it on only when we get there.

Feta, rosa tomato and olive pasta

This is one of the easiest pasta dishes I make. There’s hardly any chopping, and no stirring involved. It just needs a slow bake in the oven. I made this pasta for dinner for my cousin and boyfriend the night before we ran the Two Oceans half marathon – it was great for carbo loading!

tomato pasta 2 resized

Serves 6

  • 1.2 kg of rosa or cherry tomatoes
  • 200 g feta
  • A handful of pitted black olives
  • A head of garlic
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 750 g farfalle pasta, cooked according to packet instructions

Heat the oven to 180 C.

Put the tomatoes and olives in a big ceramic dish with a good slug each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Break up the garlic head and tuck the individual cloves in between the tomatoes (there’s no need to peel them). Season with black pepper. Place in the oven and cook for about 40 minutes, or until the tomatoes are just starting to burst. Crumble in the feta and bake for a further 10 minutes. Take the dish out of the oven, pop the garlic cloves out of their skins, add roughly chopped basil leaves and mix well. Add to the cooked pasta and serve with a few basil leaves on top. It goes well with a watercress, rocket and avo salad dressed in lemon juice.

Joe’s carrot and sausage pasta

Serves 6

This is one of my boyfriend’s specialities. It’s easy, healthy and filling. I’m not a big fan of vegetarian sausages usually, but cooked in a tomatoey pasta sauce, their texture improves a lot.

Tomato, carrot and veggie sausage pasta

  • 1 medium onion, chopped finely
  • Some garlic – equivalent of 2 heaped teaspoons of chopped garlic
  • 2 courgettes, grated
  • 500g carrots, grated
  • 250g mushrooms, chopped
  • 500g frozen vegetarian sausages, chopped (you need to slightly dethaw them to chop)
  • 3 x 400g tinned peeled tomatoes
  • 500g tagliatelle
  • 200g feta, chopped into small pieces
  • Chilli flakes (up to you how much –  try 2-3 tsp for a mild kick)
  • 2 T Marmite
  • 1 lemon (zest and juice)

Pour a little olive oil into a deep frying pan (I prefer to use a big casserole dish that you can put on a hotplate) and add the garlic and onions.  When the onions have started sweating a bit, throw in all of the mushrooms, and the chopped veggie sausages.  You made need to add a little more olive oil at this point, depending on how thirsty the mushroom are for it.

After about 5 minutes or so, add all the tomatoes and mash or chop them up.  Once they are simmering nicely you can put in all the grated carrot and courgette.  For seasoning, add some chilli flakes for a bit of heat, a couple of tablespoons of Marmite for some saltiness and body, and the lemon zest and juice of a lemon (or half, depending on the size of the lemon).  Also add a sprinkle of brown sugar to cut through the acidity if necessary.

The meal can now simmer away for about 20 minutes, during which time you can cook the tagliatelle.  When the sauce is ready, season with plenty of black pepper and crumble over the feta. Serve on top of the tagliatelle.