Giada De Laurentiis Says This Swap Will Win Over Pasta Salad Haters

You're staring down the long folding table at a classic summer grill-out, sizing up the offerings. There are burgers and brats hot off the grill, a few meat-free patties, and maybe a chicken breast or two to boot. Corn on the cob sits next to a bowl of creamy potato salad, various chip offerings, a generous platter of sliced watermelon, and, just before the condiments, the saddest looking pasta salad you've ever seen.

It's a mess of overcooked rotini, crunchy, but carelessly-cut chunks of red bell pepper, insipid rings of canned black olives, weeping cherry tomatoes, and cubes of lifeless mozzarella all drenched in bottled Italian dressing, of which there is invariably either far too much or far too little. You opt to skip that scoop as it isn't worth the calories.

But does pasta salad have to be so bland and boring? Aren't there ways to elevate this staple side item so that even skeptics might be inclined to make some room on their plate? Luckily, Giada De Laurentiis has a quick tip that will give your pasta salad some pizzazz.

A Sardinian specialty for the win

If you're going to tweak something in your pasta salad, why not make it the star of the show, the pasta. That's just what De Laurentiis does in her recipe for Sardinian Pasta Salad, which can be found on her site Giadzy. The featured player here is fregola, a small, round pasta hailing from the island of Sardinia, which resembles Israeli couscous (via MasterClass). The orbs of fregola cook quickly and have a pleasantly toothsome chew.

With the noodle choice set, De Laurentiis adds in blanched, but still snappy green and wax beans, cherry tomatoes, fresh leaves of basil and tarragon, and luscious burrata (via Giadzy). This is all dressed with a simple vinaigrette featuring lightly sautéed shallots, olive oil, cider vinegar, and Dijon mustard and topped with flaky sea salt.

There are also a few helpful hints in this recipe. First, don't overdress. De Laurentiis' recipe makes an abundance of vinaigrette, so stick to her recommended dose and save the rest for a later dish. Second, let the fregola cool, but not all the way. Having it warmed slightly wakes up the fresh herbs and allows the dressing to absorb deeper into the pasta.