The 1-Ingredient Pasta Salad Upgrade I'm Having All Summer Long

My pasta salad with this one delicious upgrade is a popular dish in my household. I make it all summer long.

The 1-Ingredient Pasta Salad Upgrade I'm Having All Summer Long
pasta salad (close-up)
Simply Recipes / Sarah Crowder

Growing up a competitive swimmer, I hosted and attended countless pasta parties. If you're unfamiliar, these gatherings were created under the guise of carb loading but are, at their heart, a time for team bonding just before a big swim meet. Pasta parties are typically potluck-style, and attendees usually bring to share—you guessed it—a pasta dish. 

Because pasta parties often take place in the summer, my favorite contribution was always pasta salad. With crunchy vegetables, briny olives, and a zesty Italian dressing, it consistently proved the favorite among a sea of marinara and melted mozzarella-laden pasta.

I usually include the standard additions to pasta salad, like cherry tomatoes, cucumber, olives, and lots of fresh basil. If I feel fancy, I’ll also chop up some salami or pepperoni. Of course, I liberally coat the whole thing in Italian dressing. (In my swimming days, that meant store-bought, but now that I’m all grown up, I like to make my own using just olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, oregano, and salt.)

The merits of a classic pasta salad aside, I think my dish was so often a hit thanks to my special addition: generous chunks of halloumi.

pasta salad in a bowl with serving utensils
Simply Recipes / Sarah Crowder

If you usually put mozzarella in your pasta salad, this is more of an upgrade than an addition, but either way, it brings pizzazz to the dish. Halloumi’s saltier flavor and meatier texture are far more exciting, and that’s just when it’s added raw.

For even more texture, sometimes I crisp up the halloumi in a pan. Use paper towels to pat dry your cheese cubes, add a tablespoon of oil to a pan over high heat, and pan fry until the outside is golden brown and crispy.

With this method, the cheese becomes like salty, chewy croutons, making each bite of pasta salad even more satisfying.

Pasta salad with crispy halloumi, inspired by my childhood pasta parties, is a popular dish in my household. It’s a frequent summer dinner, conveniently made ahead, with the exception of the fried halloumi, which is usually added à la minute. Don’t worry, though; the dish is still great left over. While the halloumi will lose its crispiness, it remains pleasantly firm and salty.