Roman Pasta Salad

In the U.S., summer pasta salads have become ubiquitous (I love them $20 words, as my father would say). You see them at every outing or function. And it's usually the same deal: chilled macaroni or ziti floating in a mound of mayonnaise or bottled Italian dressing, with some greens or cherry tomatoes added for color. That's what I experienced during my youth until I took a trip to Italy---and discovered pasta salads unlike anything I had back home. No mayo, no bottled dressing, and simple, fresh ingredients. In fact, no chilling in the fridge. Back in the old days, refrigeration was at a premium, and pasta salads were made and served as is.

The recipe given follows that concept. I first had it in Naples, even though it's commonly known as Roman Pasta Salad. If it were up to me I would call it Napoli Pasta Salad or Neopolitan Pasta Salad, but, then, what do I know? The salad works best with tubular pasta or shells. You can use rotini, penne, whatever. I used rigatoni. The dish is simplicity itself. Basically the cooked pasta is marinated in onion, basil, tomato, and black olives. If desired, you can add grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese---although this wasn't done when I first had the dish. Also, as they do in Naples, serve at room temperature. Add a good hunk of bread, some light red wine, and you're set.


5 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 medium onion, sliced into thin rings
1 bunch basil, rinsed and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 16-ounce can black pitted olives, drained and halved
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound rigatoni

1. In a large bowl, toss and mix together the tomatoes, onion, basil, olives, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Let stand at least 2 hours for flavors to develop.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the rigatoni and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and toss the warm pasta into the salad, season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
    Yield: 6 main courses or 12 side-dish servings.   

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