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 in a nice 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 and 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
Cut up in this noodle salad, the Castelvetrano olive 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 come from. The olive cultivar is called Nocerella del Belice which was cultivated for its buttery flesh and mellow, slightly sweet flavor. They are usually called Castelvetrano olives on the jars as opposed to the olive variety name, Nocerella del Belice, but sometimes both names are noted on the container.
Castelvetrano olives are found in the condiment section of grocery stores and sometimes in the refrigerated section with prepared foods. They also appear 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. Some Castelvetrano olive brands have a harsh acidic taste which takes away from the fresh tomato taste. 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. 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 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.
Castelvetrano Olive, Tomato & Noodle Salad (Oil-free Vegan)
- 1/2 lb noodles cooked to al dente
- 1 can artichoke hearts in water
- 1/2 lb tomatoes
- 8 Castelvetrano Olives
- 8 romaine leaves (washed and dried thoroughly)
- 4 cups of arugula (washed and dried)
- 1 cup of Basil (washed and dried)
- 1 lemon
- 2/3 cup oil-free Bright Summer Tomato Dressing, divided
- Cook the noodles according to the package and/or until al dente. Stir the noodles as need to kepp them from sticking together. Drain the noodles in a colander. Rinse with cold water several times so that the noodles don’t stick together and allow to drain completely. Meanwhile, during the time it takes to bring the pasta water to a boil and while the noodles are boiling, you can prepare the noodle salad ingredients and the salad will be ready to assemble by the time the noodles are ready.
- Drain the can of artichoke hearts, place them in a bowl or jar with filtered water and drain again. This step will remove the can brine flavor so that the dressing flavors shine through. Cut the artichoke hearts in half or in quarters.
- Cut the tomatoes into bite-size wedges. If using small cherry or grape tomatoes cut them in half.
- Remove the pits from the olives with an olive pitter if you have one or cut the flesh off the pits with a knife. The pitted olives can go in the salad whole or cut up. I like the olives to be cut in half if small and in quarters if large so you get small bursts of the olive in more bites of the salad.
- Stack the romaine leaves and cut them chiffonade (stack the leaves, roll them up and slice into 1/4in–1/2in ribbons)
- Remove the tough stems from the basil. Either tear the basil leaves into bite size or cut them chiffonade into 1/4in ribbons (same as the romaine leaves). Reserve some pretty uncut leaves for garnish if desired.
- The arugula can go in the salad as is.
- Place the well-drained noodles in a large serving bowl. Squeeze one or two lemons on the noodles and mix well.
- Pour about 1/3 cup of the oil-free tomato dressing around the rim of the bowl. Mix well with the tongs or your impeccably clean hands.
- Add the romaine lettuce ribbons, the basil and the arugula. Reserve some of each for garnishing and presentation if desired).
- Add the tomatoes, artichoke hearts and olives. Reserve some of each to garnish the top of the salad if desired. Add some more dressing if needed and mix well. It's nice to leave some dressing to put on the table so family and friends can add as desired.
- Next is the fun part. Garnish the salad with the reserved ingredients anyway you like. The colors of the greens and tomatoes are so vibrant, you can't go wrong.
- Your beautiful Castelvetrano Olive, Tomato & Noodle Salad is ready to serve. This salad is great accompanied with the Red Pepper, Chickpea & Corn Soup, grilled zucchini, green beans,squash, corn on the cob . . .