Replace Vinegar With Pickled Veggies For A Perfectly Balanced Pasta Salad

A popular and refreshing spring and summertime dish, pasta salad colorfully blends common salad ingredients with cold pasta and seals the deal with an oil and vinegar dressing. However, pasta salads get a bad rap for gaining an acerbic, metallic taste after sitting for too long in the serving bowl. The culprit responsible for pasta salad's quick and unappetizing demise is vinegar.

While vinegar and oil are a classic duo for veggie-based salad dressings, pasta isn't as absorbent or complementary as lettuce. Therefore, it's best to remove vinegar from the equation altogether in order to achieve a well-balanced, delicious pasta salad without an unpleasant aftertaste. Of course, acidity is still a crucial factor in pasta salad, but you can bring it to the recipe by using pickled veggies instead.

Typically, pickling juices are a blend of vinegar, water, sugar, and salt used to simultaneously infuse and preserve vegetables. Pickled vegetables are thus bursting with just the right amount of acidity your pasta salad needs, not to mention the benefits of their inherent vegetal flavors. They also have soft yet crisp textures that pair perfectly with tender pasta. Furthermore, many pickled vegetables come complete with additional seasonings and herbs like mustard seeds, garlic, dill, bay leaves, coriander, allspice, and red pepper flakes. By adding spiced and pickled vegetables to pasta salad, you're also adding depth of flavor and sophistication.

Pasta salad sauces and pickled vegetable combinations

Now that you've replaced vinegar with pickled vegetables in your pasta salad, you might be wondering what to do with the olive oil. You can draw inspiration from countless olive oil-based pasta sauces. The simplest sauce idea would be a spicy, herbal aglio e olio, a blend of olive oil, garlic, salt, and red chili flakes. An aglio e olio pasta salad would taste delicious with the acidity and umami tastes of kalamata and Castelvetrano olives, blanched asparagus, freshly chopped parsley, and cherry tomatoes. If you're willing to make an elaborate oil-based sauce, pesto is the ultimate pasta salad flavor bomb. The salty and savory blend of basil, pine nuts, and parmesan tastes just as delicious cold as it does in hot pasta dishes. Try a pesto pasta salad with cherry tomato halves, capers, and black olives.

You can kill two birds with one stone by using oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes in pasta salad. The tomato-flavored oil would need nothing more than a sprinkle of salt and pepper to transform it into the most delicious salad dressing. You could complement the rich umami of the sun-dried tomatoes with sweet and tangy banana peppers, toasted pine nuts, and blanched broccoli. A Mediterranean-style pasta salad gives you even more opportunities to use pickled vegetables. You could use olive oil, oregano, and garlic dressing to toss with marinated artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, pepperoncini, sliced cucumbers, and crumbled feta cheese.