So many pasta salads start with a great base - perfectly cooked pasta and a bevy of crisp, fresh vegetables - but fall apart when it comes to the dressing.
To us, the perfect pasta salad dressing requires a balance of savory, tangy flavors, with just a hint of sweetness. To create that for this salad, we start with oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, which provide a deeply savory, rich flavor. For tang, we puree the tomatoes with a mix of light mayonnaise and plain Greek yogurt. Finally, just a tablespoon of brown sugar ties everything together with a subtle sweetness.
For our vegetables, we went with red bell pepper and fennel - along with a host of fresh herbs - but you could substitute whatever vegetables you prefer. Lightly blanched carrots or green beans, as well as chopped radishes and raw corn kernels would be a fine start.
Start to finish: 21/2 hours (30 minutes active)
16 ounces dried small pasta (such as elbow or farfalle)
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
1 red bell pepper, cored and diced
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
8 ounces fresh mozzarella pearls (very small balls)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain the pasta and spread on a rimmed baking sheet to cool.
While the pasta cooks, prepare the dressing. In a blender, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, salt, pepper, brown sugar, mayonnaise and yogurt. Blend until smooth, then set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the dressing with the cooled pasta, bell pepper, fennel, mozzarella and herbs. For best flavor, cover and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
Nutrition information per serving: 300 calories; 90 calories from fat (30 percent of total calories); 10g fat (4g saturated; 0g trans fats); 20mg cholesterol; 42g carbohydrate; 3g fiber; 5g sugar; 11g protein; 200mg sodium.