In the warmest months of spring and summer, pasta is still eaten in Italy - just a bit differently. Enter Pasta Fredda - aka, the Italian pasta salad!
Just as we tote bowls of pasta salad along to our summer potlucks in the 'states, Italy follows suite with a similar tradition. Pasta Fredda, which translates to "cold pasta," is Italy's version of pasta salad. While it can be eaten at home, it's most traditional for these pasta salads to be brought along to picnics and beach lunches for an al fresco meal.
The recipes for pasta fredda are endless, but the idea for all of them is the same: bright flavors, lots of colors, and lots of fresh ingredients. Other than cured meats such as salami or ham, meat is rarely used in a traditional Italian pasta salad. Many feature fresh seasonal vegetables and herbs, and as far as sauces go, it can span simple vinaigrettes to pestos and beyond.
One important rule that reminds consistent, however: the pasta shape is important! Only use short pasta shapes - especially ones with nooks and crannies for ingredients to hide in - and never use a long and thin noodle like spaghetti, linguine and beyond. The long shapes have a tendency to be a bit more limp, while shorter shapes will retain more of a bite after sitting and marinating for some time.
Another pasta salad tip? Cook your pasta a minute or two less than you normally would. That way, it will keep a perfectly aldente texture even after sitting and marinating with the rest of the ingredients for hours on end. That's the beauty of pasta fredda - it gets better and better as it sits!
Additionally, depending on the region in Italy, it may be most common to see cold rice salads on menus as opposed to pasta salad (an equally delicious option with just as much customization potential). Check below for some of our favorite pasta salad recipes that will transport you to an Italian summer on the beach - and, hint hint, pasta salad tends to pair well with a dry chilled white wine.