The Country Cook: Pasta Salad with Sweet Balsamic Dressing

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pasta Salad with Sweet Balsamic Dressing

How many of y'all cook with balsamic vinegar? I have only recently started using it. I've had it in meals when I've eaten out but it wasn't one of those ingredients that I kept in my own pantry, until now. And actually, I could really use your advice. I need help picking out a good one. Most recipes tell you to use a "good quality balsamic vinegar" but rarely is a recommended brand given.  I interpret the words "good quality" as meaning "more expensive." Is that correct to assume? So I bought the slightly more expensive bottle (seen in picture below) and it was just fine but I know I've tasted better. It wasn't the most expensive bottle on the shelf but it was definitely not the bottom of the line. What brand is your favorite and how do you like to use it in recipes?
Ok here's the other, more fun thing, I need your help with. This whisk below was given to me by my friend Megan. Megan cracks me up. Not only is she absolutely sweet and would bend over backwards to help someone out but she comes up with some amazing zingers. I keep trying to get her on Twitter. Megan's sense of humor was made for Twitter. I am literally snorting out loud at some of her texts to me sometimes. Anyhoo, I was letting her know that the Chicken Whisk she gave me will be making his debut on the blog. And she asked me if I had named it yet. I told her, that so far, I just call him Chicken Whisk but he really should have a name with pizzazz. 
I'm sure you can imagine the hilarious name game that ensued. We went back and forth with name ideas.  These were just a few: Reggie, Chuck, Cluck, McNugget, General Tso, McLovin, Mother Clucker, Sir Pecks-a-lot, Biscuit and Atila the Hen. So, I need your help in naming the chicken whisk. If you would please vote for your favorite name or if you have a different name, leave me a comment below! I'll go with whatever y'all choose - majority rules. And next time Chicken Whisk makes an appearance, we'll use his new name. 
Now, about this recipe. Oh goodness, I love me some pasta salad. I just adore this twist on it  The sweet balsamic dressing really makes this so different than your usual pasta salad recipes! I could still get the great taste of the Feta cheese and tomatoes and cucumbers and the dressing is just a nice, light accent flavor. Special thank you to Mary at Sweet Little Bluebird for this recipe!
1 (1 lb.) box Rotini pasta
Feta cheese (8 oz.), crumbled
1 large cucumber, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in halves
1/2 cup red onion, diced

Sweet Balsamic Dressing:
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
1/8 tsp. black pepper
I'm using an English cucumber here. They do not need to be peeled because the peel on these are very tender and mild-flavored. Just give it a good rinse in water and then slice.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse cooked pasta in colander with cold water (until pasta is cooled), drain well.
Put drained pasta in a large bowl then top with cheese, tomatoes, onions and cucumbers.
For the dressing, combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
Whisk well to combine ingredients thoroughly. This will take a few minutes for the oil and sugar to blend. Be patient, it will blend.
Now, if you are serving this right away, go ahead and add all the dressing to the pasta, toss it together, then serve. If you are not serving right away, then wait to add dressing until right before serving (keep salad covered and refrigerated until ready to serve.) 
Or, if you are going to eat this over the course of a couple of days, add the dressing as you eat it. This will keep the salad from soaking up all that yummy dressing while sitting in the fridge. 
Then dig in!  Such a refreshing pasta salad and lots of ways you can make this your own. I love black olives and I think they would be amazing in this. Also, if you want to make it more of a meal, try adding some sliced, grilled chicken!


  1. How about Colonel?

  2. How about "Whiskey" for the chicken whisk?

  3. With balsamic, it's tricky. Lots of vinegars out there are labled balsamic but aren't really balsamic. They're just plain vinegar with sugar and food coloring added. So read labels.

    As for brands, it varies, but frankly what you are looking for is age. The longer a balsamic has been aged, the sweeter, thicker and more syrupy it gets. That's the balsamic you use in non-cooking applications. Such as drizzling over fruit, dipping your bread in, pairing with cheese and the like. Those bottles will be expensive, yes. But it's used sparingly. For everyday applications as long as you are using a real balsamic all the brands are pretty similar. I have used the higher priced stuff as well as store brands and don't notice much difference. If you have a Trader Joes near you, they have an excellent every day balsamic.

  4. Avasmommy, that is great advice. I didn't know there was that difference. So I need to get one of the aged ones. I bet that was the difference! Since the balsamic vinegar is the star in this, I want to get something good. Thank you!

  5. Thanks for the shout-out, Brandie! I'm so thrilled you liked it! I came up with this recipe when I was pregnant with my first daughter - she's now 17! I can't tell you how many times I've made this over the years...too many times to count! It's awesome topped with teriyaki marinated grilled chicken! Mmm, mmm, good! A summertime favorite!

  6. I lke "Henny" as in in Henny Penny the hen in the children's book. Your recipe looks wonderful and I wonder the same about what Balsamic is best, so I will be reading all the comments to serif can find which one is good.

  7. I really like D'Aquino Balsamic Vinegar of Modena but as Avasmommy said, Trader Joe's is always a good option.

  8. This looks so good and i'm always looking for new salads and lighter meals so thanks for posting this. I'll be making this soon.

    I like the name Penny whisk

  9. how about Rooster Cog-Burn lol.

  10. How about ChickenHead!

  11. I vote "Chicken Little" for your little chicken whisk. Love the recipe and will try this today on my salad for lunch! Yum!

  12. So cute. Personally, I really like Chicken Wisk. Whisky would be next on my list. How about "Chick A Boom"? :-) You probably don't remember that song and if you do...It's in your head now. "Chick-a-boom, Chick-a-boom, don't cha just love it." LOL

    There is a place in Winston-Salem, NC that I love to go to for some AWESOME Oils and Vinegars you should visit if you're ever down this way. Or go to and check them out. I love their Traditional 18 Year Aged Balsamic. My next favorite thing there is their Tuscan Herb Blend Olive Oil. Makes me want to go to their store right now.

    The salad looks so good although we don't eat Feta...but we love lots of other cheeses I can choose from. I will try the dressing.

  13. OH my...thanks for this! I LOVE pasta salads but can't stand mayonnaise! This one is right down my alley!

  14. Loved the classiness added to this salad for sure.. It is a real stunner plus a must-have of season.. Thanks...:)

  15. Made it for a pot luck at work today and it is absolutely delicious. I use Baslamic Vinegar from Trader Joes. It is there house brand and I think it is the best.

  16. Very Cool... Looks Delicious..

  17. I'm thinking Sir Mix-a-lot...


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