Pack some pasta salad, it’s the perfect picnic food! Whether you are hanging lakeside with the kids all day or heading to a summer concert in the park with your sweetie, prepping a pasta salad for the cooler makes for a fresh, flavorful and fit meal later.
Plus, picnic recipes like my popular Niçoise Tortellini Salad are super simple and speedy to assemble – you know I’m spending the time savings outdoors and out of the kitchen!
If you are a Julia Child super fan (like me, here I am in her famous kitchen on display in the Smithsonian), you likely know this larger-than-life lady took the traditional Niçoise salad mainstream when she introduced the art of French cooking to the everyday 60s housewife.
Julia’s composed salad typically included tuna and ingredients like tomatoes, green beans, potatoes and the signature Niçoise olives which are grown exclusively in the French Riviera. My no-rules riff on this classic salad skips the fish entirely, tosses in zucchini and swaps cheese tortellini for potatoes to give it an unexpected Italian vibe. Rather than blanching vegetables, I give them a head start on softening and caramelizing by roasting in the oven with olive oil for 10 minutes.
I relied on my friends from Litehouse Foods for the dressing, I used their Organic Rosemary Balsamic Vinaigrette. You can make your own balsamic dressing if you have the time, but I’d rather save a few minutes for kicking my feet up. A crumbling of salty, tart Feta punctuates the Mediterranean flair of this little feast in a jar even more. It’s soooo good!
“Jar Salads” are so versatile — I usually use Mason canning jars, but today swapped those out for glass jelly jars for a different look! Either can be easily packed and toted on a picnic, to work for a desk lunch, or also as a plate-free way for guests to enjoy a light meal when hosting an outdoor event. I’ll often swap out disposable plastic cups for glass jars when entertaining outside, this way there is no safety hazard and the clean-up is super quick.
Here’s another Salad Nicoise variation I did with tuna, capers and potatoes.
What is your favorite make-ahead salad? Have you been to an outdoor theater or concert this season? Have any cooler-packing tips, I need help! Please share in the comments – XOXO, Jennifer