Castelvetrano Olive, Tomato & Noodle Salad (Oil-free & Vegan)
Served at room temperature, this Italian inspired Castelvetrano Olive, Tomato & Noodle Salad hits all the flavor notes: sweet and tartness from the tomatoes, sour tartness from the lemons, herbal minty freshness from the basil, peppery and slight bitterness from the arugula and an occasional bite of saltiness from the buttery flesh Castelvetrano olives.
All of these flavors come together woven in a canvas of noodles dressed with a bright summer oil-free tomato dressing created specifically for this salad. This is a great salad to bring to a pot-luck party. It keeps well, so you can make ahead. Bring some extra dressing to liven it up at the party. This recipe serves 4 to 6 as a main entree, double the recipe and the dressing recipe for a larger crowd.
The Castelvetrano Olive
The Castelvetrano olive cut up in this noodle salad, adds a nice buttery but firm texture with a burst of fruit and saltiness that goes so well with the fresh summer tomatoes. Traditionally, they are brined in just salt, without citric acid and some brands are saltier than others. If you find them too salty, you can soak them in water for about 5–10 minutes whole with their pits still in or give them a quick rinse after pitting them.
Castelvetrano olives are medium green in color with a little brightness. If they are super bright in color they may have dye in them. Cured in a salted brine, Castelvetrano olives have a mild fruity taste and firm but creamy texture. They are so-named for the town Castelvetrano in the Valle del Belice (Belice Valley) region of Sicily, Italy where they are grown. The olive cultivar is called Nocerella del Belice which was cultivated for its buttery flesh and mellow, slightly sweet flavor. They are usually labeled as Castelvetrano olives on the jars as opposed to the olive variety name, Nocerella del Belice, but sometimes both names appear on the container.
Where to Find Castelvetrano Olives
Castelvetrano olives are found in the condiment section of grocery stores and sometimes in the refrigerated section with prepared foods. They also are found at Olive Bars which are usually located in or near the produce section of grocery stores. Mediterranean and Italian markets have a good selection of jarred olives and Castelvetrano olives are usually there too.
Some Castelvetrano olive brands have a harsh acidic taste which overpowers the fresh tomato taste in the salad. Other brands have a more subtle taste. Look for brands with just a few ingredients like salt, citric acid, and ones that don’t contain vinegar which is the traditional list of ingredients. I prefer the olives with the pits still in them. They have more taste than just the brine they are in and don’t go bad as quickly once the jar has been opened.
Any fresh tomato that tastes good on its own will be perfect for this salad. Tomatoes start flooding the Farmers markets in June and continue to come in through mid-November here in Sacramento, California. I have made this summer noodle salad with all kinds of tomatoes from both the Farmers market and from grocery stores. The salad always turns out really good. If you can’t get to a Farmers market, Costco, Trader Joes and most grocery stores usually have “on the vine” and heirloom varieties that are perfect for this salad.
Whole Wheat and Gluten Free Noodles
Noodles and tomatoes! You can’t go wrong. Typically I make this salad with whole wheat spaghetti noodles when I am certain that none of my guests have a gluten intolerence or celiac disease. Whole wheat noodles hold up beautifully and taste great with the rest of the ingredients. When I bring to a party where there may be guest who can’t eat wheat, I use gluten free noodles.
I have made this salad with gluten-free brown rice quinoa noodles from Trader Joes and it came out really good. The noodles hold up well after being dressed and tossed with all the ingredients. More stirring during the boiling is needed to keep the noodles from sticking together and a little more rinsing with cold water after boiling. These noodles don’t swell up as much as wheat noodles though, so you will need more than the 1/2 lb noted below to yield the same number of servings.
The Greens and Artichoke Hearts
Each of the greens offer unique tastes and textures that wrap beautifully with the noodles and taste so good with the tomatoes and olives. The arugula adds a peppery taste, the basil gives a refreshing herbal, slightly minty taste and the romaine adds a refreshing crispy taste and texture. Artichoke hearts give a nice bite in the salad that makes the whole salad feel more substantial and satiating.
This Castelvetrano Olive, Tomato & Noodle Salad has been a crowd pleaser every time! Served as the main dish, the recipe below makes enough for 4–6. Using the full pound of pasta noodles and doubling the rest of the ingredients, including the bright summer oil-free tomato dressing will yield enough for about 8–10 people and if served along with several other dishes like at a pot luck party it will serve even more.