Over the years through experimentation, I’ve learned two secrets: First, adding just a bit of finely-grated hard parmesan to the dressing results in a richer base – it sets up better when chilled, and adds a depth of flavor and texture that’s lacking without it. Secondly, the brine from the Greek Kalamata olives adds a bit of “zing” that cannot be duplicated by just using salt. You’ll miss it if you don’t include it.
Exact proportions of the main ingredients can be adjusted to your preference — Enjoy!
12oz. bowtie pasta, cooked al dente in salted water
Fresh, small grape tomatoes – about 1.5 cups
1/2 pound pitted Greek Kalamata olives – with 3 tbs. brine reserved
1 diced sweet red bell pepper
1/2 red onion, sliced in fine rings and then quartered
7 brined pepperoncini peppers, or to taste
1/2 cup finely-grated hard Parmesan cheese
1/2-3/4 cup Kraft® Greek vinaigrette dressing, to taste
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
2 tbs. minced Italian flat-leaf parsley
Kosher or Lawrey’s® seasoned salt, to taste
Dash of garlic powder, to taste
Fresh garden oregano and basil, minced, to taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Boil the bowtie pasta in salted water (al dente) according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Ensure that it is drained thoroughly and then place in a large mixing bowl.
Add the Kalamata olives to the pasta and reserve 3 tbs. of the brine. Add the tomatoes, bell pepper and red onion. Add the dry spices, Italian parsley, oregano and basil slowly while folding the contents to ensure even distribution. Next add the brine, fine-grated hard Parmesan and the dressing. Mix gently.
Add the pepperoncinis and fold gently to incorporate, taste and correct the seasoning if needed. Top with crumbled feta cheese.
Chill for at least three hours before serving, so the flavors have time to set up.