How To Get A Crunch In Pasta Salad Without Using Raw Vegetables

Amidst the soft noodles, tender proteins, and creamy cheese in a pasta salad, it's essential to have a bite of crunchy ingredients. Typically, that comes from the veggies involved. A Southwest pasta salad may include tomatoes, onions, and bell pepper, while a veggie antipasti Italian pasta salad may have pepperoncini, hearts of palm, and artichoke hearts.

While these additions create a much-needed textural balance in your recipe, there's such a thing as having too much crunch here. Warm pasta dishes are typically served with a smooth sauce and cooked veggies, where all the soft ingredients can meld together for a cohesive meal. Since pasta salad is already a little colder and firmer than a cooked dish, it's a good idea to at least cook your vegetables a little before throwing them in. You don't have to spend too much time on this if you don't want to — even blanching foods like green beans, broccoli, and sugar snap peas will make a world of difference.

Blanch your veggies for a little softness

One of the best parts of making pasta salad is the minimal effort — it's a summer dish, after all, and we want to spend as little time as possible over the stove during the warmer months. So if you blanch your veggies, you'll only need to spend a few extra minutes making sure they get nice and soft. Simply bring a pot of water to a boil, drop your items in, and then drain and immediately plop them in a big bowl of ice water. Broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, and green beans should only take three minutes in the hot water, while peas only need about 90 seconds. Blanching isn't enough to fully cook your veggies, so you'll still get that crunch you're looking for — but it will make them a little softer, and as a bonus, they'll be a little brighter in color. If you're trying to remove the skin of a certain food, like peaches, this process will also loosen it up and make it easier.

While it's a good idea to follow recommended blanching times for specific veggies, you can also test them yourself to see if they have the texture you want. Use a slotted spoon to remove one from the pot of boiling water and squeeze it to see if it has softened a little. Then, once they've cooled down completely in your ice bath, pat them dry and feel free to chop away.