This pasta salad was truly one of my biggest kitchen accomplishments! Why you might ask? Basically, I took a favorite, yet processed, pasta salad recipe I’ve been eating for years and reverse engineered it into the healthy vegan version you are seeing today. This pasta salad is my ultimate BBQ go to featuring fresh heirloom tomatoes, celery, red onion, and a whole mix of spices that makes for a totally unique show stopper salad! Best part? It’s even better if made the day before so less stress for any party planning you have to do!
Give me that summer pasta salad NOW: Jump to Recipe
Growing up, I remember eating a version of this pasta salad at every Memorial Day picnic. The big difference with my verison is that it is made without two products I try not to eat anymore: McCormick Salad Supreme and Wish-Bone Robusto Italian Seasoning. Now don’t get me wrong, both of these are delicious and I still love the taste, but after doing some ingredient digging I realized they are not vegan and also contain a lot of ingredients that I don’t really feel comfortable putting into my body.
The McCormick salad supreme lists the ingredients of “romano cheese, buttermilk powder, lactose, whey, non-fat milk solids, and cheddar cheese”. First of all, why are all these needed for such a little bottle of seasoning?! Second, while I still eat cheese, I personally don’t feel good about any sort of packaged cheese that can sit on a shelf for months without needing refrigeration. That usually means it’s pretty processed and likely has fillers added to “maintain freshness”. Also, both McCormick salad supreme and Robusto contain “Natural Flavors”. That may sound okay because of the word “natural”, but frankly that’s just marketing at it’s best. Basically, a lot of natural flavors are added to products to help add back flavor lost in over-processing food. They also help maintain the consistency of the product, meaning it’ll taste the same any time of year regardless if the ingredients are in season or not. A lot of times, it’s chemicals you might have found in the original plant, but made by flavorists in a lab. Honestly, a lot of this I learned in my food science classes in college way back when. I try to stick to the motto of if I can’t find it in nature, I shouldn’t be cooking with it at home. There’s many other ingredients in these products that made me realize it was time for a homemade version, but hopefully that gives you a little insight into my motivations behind this recipe!
So now onto the fun part- the recipe! Instead of soybean oil & distilled vinegar in the original Robusto dressing, I opted for a mix of olive oil, champagne/white vinegar, & apple cider vinegar instead. For the seasoning, I focused the ingredients around the spices on the McCormick salad supreme and experimented with various amounts of paprika, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, celery seeds, black pepper, red pepper, and garlic powder. It took a few tries, but the end result ended up being so shockingly like the pasta salad I remembered eating from childhood… I was amazed!
This pasta salad is definitely best eaten cold and, personally, I like it best about 2 days after making it so all the flavors can soak into the vegetables and pasta noodles. Once you buy all the ingredients, the prep is super simple and this is truly an easy and unique pasta salad to throw together all summer long. Hope you enjoy!