This sun-dried tomato pasta salad recipe with basil, corn, peas, green onions, and parmesan makes a refreshing and flavorful Tuscan-inspired side dish!
You’ve probably been there before: You’re at a deli and you order your lunch. That sandwich by default comes with a plain bag of potato chips – unless you’d like to have a cup of fruit, cole slaw, or pasta salad. Hoping against hope, you opt for the pasta salad.
When it arrives at your table, you’re disappointed. Again.
It’s swimming in either watery mayonnaise or bottled Italian dressing. Regardless of the dressing, there are always mini dices of raw bell peppers and celery … just like every other deli pasta salad you’ve ever had.
And you wish you had stuck with the chips.
Yeah, I’ve been there too, more times than I care to admit. I mean, fool me once, shame on you, but fool me twice, shame on me, right? You’d think I’d know by now not to get the pasta salad at delis.
And indeed, I might have sworn off sandwich shop pasta salad forever, were it not for one standout exception to the rule: the Tuscan sun-dried tomato pasta salad with basil, peas, parmesan, and corn at Beyond Bread, in Tucson, AZ.
My favorite deli, which is unfortunately 2000 miles from where I currently live, is one of the few sandwich shops that doesn’t seem to treat their Tuscan pasta salad as an afterthought.
Instead of the “standard” bell peppers and celery, the unique orecchiette pasta salad is chock full of sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, corn, peas, green onions, and shredded parmesan cheese. And they dress it lightly in a simple vinaigrette rather than drowning it in either mayo or a grocery store Italian dressing.
It’s worth the extra 50 cents when you’re at the deli and is so delicious I’ve made this sun-dried tomato pasta salad recipe with basil myself on numerous occasions, even six years after moving back to the East coast.
The restaurant as a whole has consistently stellar quality and a well-developed distinctive atmosphere. My dad and stepmom, visiting me one time when I was in college, did not care for Tucson as a whole (I know, crazy, right?!), but even they lit up when we went to Beyond Bread for lunch and said if they lived in Tucson they would be regular customers.
I think it was the highlight of their trip.
In honor of our recent trip to Arizona, I bring to you today my own copycat recipe, which I made about a week before our trip. Upon comparing it to the original Tuscan sun-dried tomato pasta salad at the actual restaurant, I’d have to say it’s extremely close (if not a little better, according to Mike).
I was even able to use some fresh basil from my garden. It’s so satisfying getting to cook with the things I’ve grown.
Rather than elbows or rotini, their Tuscan pasta salad uses orecchiette pasta (orecchiette, pronounced or-ray-KYET-tay, means “little ear” and that’s what the shape resembles ). It’s a little thing, but I like that it uses a unique pasta shape. I feel like it makes it even more apparent that this is not your average pasta salad.
I used to have some trouble finding orecchiette pasta — it was packaged in bags rather than boxes in the “gourmet” section of the pasta aisle — but our grocery store has recently started carrying more unique shapes of pasta. If you can’t find orecchiette, I’d probably go for bowties in this salad. Or, you can head over to my friend David’s blog Cocoa and Lavender for a tutorial and video on making your own orecchiette!
It would actually be perfect to use David’s tutorial since he lives in Tucson, where this orecchiette pasta salad originates. We got to meet up with him and have cocktails last week during our visit! Super cool.
While our default sandwich side dish at home is this lemon broccoli salad — I have two bags of broccoli in the fridge right now! — sometimes I feel like making something a little more exciting, and this is a reliably delicious and flavorful Tuscan pasta salad recipe. This time we even added some diced chicken and had it as a light dinner.
Next time you’re looking for a side dish for your sandwiches or cookouts or need something to bring to a potluck, check out this sun-dried tomato pasta salad with basil! You won’t regret it. Yum!
If you like this Tuscan sun-dried tomato pasta salad recipe, try these:
- The Best Easy Greek Pasta Salad Recipe
- Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Chicken Salad
- Mediterranean Sun-Dried Tomato Sourdough Stuffing
For more Tucson-inspired recipes, check out:
Sun-dried Tomato Pasta Salad
- 12 oz dried orecchiette pasta use bowties if you can't find orecchiette
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 cup corn canned or frozen
- 8.5 oz jar of julienned sun-dried tomatoes in oil oil drained and reserved
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (you can use up to 1/2 cup, but that's what I had available in my garden at the time)
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
For the dressing
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- Reserved oil from sun-dried tomato jar about 1/4 cup
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse.
- Combine dressing ingredients and mix well to combine.
- Toss all pasta salad ingredients together, then drizzle on the dressing and toss to combine.
- Eat lukewarm or chill before serving.