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Pasta Salad with a creamy yet tangy twist! A perfect side dish for any BBQ or to be enjoyed as a meal on its own. Loaded with crunchy vegetables, freshly torn herbs, and topped with sunflower seeds for good measure! As irresistible as it is beautiful!
Ok so before we begin I just need to ask you a few questions. Please check all that apply:
(1) Do you like pasta?
(2) Do you like a dressing that packs a lemony punch and is creamy, savory, and completely addicting?
(3) Do you prefer your pasta salads to be bright, crisp, refreshing, with a balance of flavor and textures?
(4) Have I described pretty much everyone in the world? Uhhhh, this one is rhetorical- YES!!
So now that it’s abundantly clear, that this Pasta Salad with Lemony Buttermilk & Feta Dressing IS the pasta salad for YOU (and yo momma, and yo momma’s momma) Let’s get into the details!
Ingredients Needed for Pasta Salad with Lemony Buttermilk & Feta Dressing :
Good quality feta cheese. I mean the GREEK STUFF that comes in a whole compressed square. Not the pre-crumbled variety that, just like pre-shredded cheese, contains added stabilizers to maintain their structure. You get what you pay for, use the good stuff!
Buttermilk: If you don’t have buttermilk you could MAKE it! All you have to do is add acid (vinegar or lemon juice) to milk. For every one cup of milk, add 1 tbsp of acid. In this instance you only need 1/4 cup of buttermilk, so simply add 1/4 tbsp of acid to the 1/4 cup of milk, stir the mixture and let it sit for about 5 minutes… and VIOLA- buttermilk hack!
Mayonnaise: This is the binding ingredient to your dressing.
Louisiana-style hot sauce: Gives the dressing just a pinch of heat, but mostly tang. If you want a bit more heat add a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Lemon– for zest and fresh juice.
Garlic: I use a zester to get the finest mince possible.
Pasta: I used Penne Rigate, which has little ridges for the dressing to cling to. You could use another tube shape, of course, but try to choose one with ridges as opposed to a smooth texture.
Vegetables: I chose a medley of crunchy and low moisture vegetables (with the exception of the cucumber) so that I could make the pasta salad in advance. If you were serving right away, I think tomatoes would taste delicious in here as well. I recommend cutting the vegetables in uniform shape with comparable thickness. It’s a subtle detail but makes a big impact on the overall texture!
Red Onion and Scallions: packs a little aromatic punch. You could omit it if your not into raw onion, although I do still recommend
Fresh Herbs: Use a medley of what is in season and available to you. For this particular occasion, I used parsley, chives, and tarragon leaves. Other good suggestions would be basil, mint, or dill. No need to chop up with a knife. Herbs are delicate, just hand-torn is great.
Roasted Sunflower Seeds: I love the nutty, salty crunch of the sunflower seeds in this salad. As you can see in this picture, they are not shown. Reason being, I was making this salad for one of the families I prepare food for, and I wanted them to add just before serving, to maintain their optimal texture. I also recommend that you wait until serving to sprinkle on top.
Three Simple Steps to Make Pasta Salad with Lemony Buttermilk & Feta Dressing
Boil pasta in salted water for 2 minutes less than package directions. I like a little al dente! Drain and set aside.
While pasta is boiling, combine feta, buttermilk, mayonnaise, hot sauce, lemon zest and juice, salt, garlic, and black pepper in a medium bowl. Now the dressing is good to go!
Transfer pasta to a large serving bowl. Add buttermilk dressing, torn herbs, celery, carrots, cucumber, red onion, and scallions. Toss to incorporate. Top with sunflower seeds just before serving to maintain their crunch.
Pasta Salad with Lemony Buttermilk & Feta Dressing
Buttermilk Feta Dressing
- 5 oz good quality feta cheese crumbled (about 1 1/4 cups)
- ½ cup buttermilk
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp Louisiana-style hot sauce or a ¼ tsp cayyene pepper with 1 tbsp vinegar
- 1 tbsp grated lemon zest
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon grated garlic use zester. or very finely mince
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 lb penne pasta al dente
- 2 cups torn mixed tender fresh herbs such as basil, mint, dill, and chives, tarragon, parsely,
- 1 cup thinly sliced celery about ¼ in thick. sliced on bias (diagonally)
- 1½ cup Persian cucumbers ½ in thick. sliced on bias (diagonally)
- 1 cup thinly sliced carrots ½ in thick. sliced on bias (diagonally)
- ⅓ cup sliced scallions
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 3/4 cup salted roasted sunflower seed kernels add just before serving
- Boil pasta in salted water for 2 minutes less than package directions. Drain and set aside.
- While pasta is boiling, combine feta, buttermilk, mayonnaise, hot sauce, lemon zest and juice, salt, garlic, and black pepper in a medium bowl.
- Transfer pasta to a large serving bowl. Add buttermilk dressing, torn herbs, celery, carrots, cucumber, red onion, and and scallions. Toss to incorporate. Top with sunflower seeds just before serving to maintain their crunch.