Roasted Garlic Italian Couscous Salad
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A roasted garlic Italian Couscous Salad that’s light and refreshing! We’re roasting garlic and tomatoes and adding it to pearl couscous with an easy Italian dressing, fresh basil, olives, and fresh mozzarella. The perfect spring side dish!
The season of salads is upon us!
And here’s another one to add to your list to make over and over again. My roasted garlic Italian couscous salad came about one evening when I was trying to clean the fridge and tie up all the loose ends in a neatly wrapped, meal prep friendly salad.
Said, ‘loose ends’ happened to be around because someone I know went a little (read: crazy) overboard in the produce aisle and cheese case at Costco and came back with what can only be described as the world largest log of fresh mozzarella and a box of cherry tomatoes bigger than one’s head. Things like this happen to people at Costco, I’ve noticed. Not that anything like this has ever happened to me before. 🙋🏻
But since it happens to be the start of spring and summer potlucks and picnics, I think it’s the perfect time to introduce you to my happy outcome – Italian couscous salad with roasted garlic dressing.
In the past, I’ve shared with you guys my favorite Mediterranean Pasta Salad which so many of you have made and loved. I want to say that today’s pearl couscous salad has a similar vibe. Different flavors but along the same notes.
Once it’s officially spring, it’s like all I want is greens, veggies, and cheese. Then again, when do I not want cheese? And this Italian Couscous salad hits all the notes. But there is also a lot here that doesn’t usually go into a traditional salad, at least not the kind I grew up eating. In the Midwest, if you’re salad didn’t contain eggs, potatoes, or mayo, it simply wasn’t a salad. Okay, I admit, maybe it was more of an unspoken rule. But my Italian couscous salad is nothing like the retro salads most of us grew up eating. I’m talking about a salad that’s 100% free of mayo, eggs, and potatoes. It’s a more elevated, modern, more sophisticated type of tomato and mozzarella salad that you can serve with just about anything on the side.
Negative, it’s not a Caprese salad either.
We’re using pearl couscous today because during my springtime kitchen pantry tidy up, I found a large mason jar full of this stuff. I must’ve purchased it sometime earlier and just hadn’t gotten around to finishing. Maybe it was another Costco binge; we can’t be sure. Besides the obvious, over the top cuteness of pearl couscous, to me, the flavor is just like pasta and works well with just about everything. Of course, you can easily swap it out for something like orzo or any other tinny, tiny shaped pasta you like.
Roasted Garlic Italian Couscous Salad – what’s to love:
- Let’s start with the obvious: not another mayo-based salad
- It feeds a crowd
- This couscous salad is easily customizable! I’ve used roasted cherry tomatoes, olives, roasted red peppers, mozzarella, chopped basil, and chopped parsley but you could easily swap one or more ingredients out for something else that you like or prefer.
- You don’t have to use pearl couscous! You can replace it with equal parts dried farro, cooked quinoa (roughly ~4 cups), or orzo pasta!
- You could add meat: If you too have a meat lover in the family, you could add in diced salami or herb roasted or grilled chicken. Or serve chicken on the side.
- It’s the salad that keeps on giving! I’ve boxed this into meal prep containers (affiliate link) and kept it in the fridge for up to 4 days with no problems. Feel free to halve or double the recipe if you need more or less.
- And finally, how you add the tomatoes is optional. I prefer to roast the tommies because 1.) more flavor and 2.) and more importantly because the husband won’t touch a raw tomato, like, ever.
- TIP: If you go with fresh tomatoes, feel free to grab roasted garlic from the deli counter, so you don’t have to spend time making some for the dressing
May I offer a little advice? Double the ingredients for the dressing.
Not because this salad needs more than one portion. Because the roasted garlic dressing is so darn good. I regretted it the minute I was done making it the first time around because I hadn’t. See, the garlic cloves we tossed in with the tomatoes for my Italian couscous salad play a two-part role.
- The obvious, they help give the tomatoes the most delightful garlicky aroma.
- And more importantly, we’re going to use the roasted garlic in our homemade Italian dressing.
And believe me, that dressing is a dream!
It’s pantry staples other than the garlic. A little olive oil, a few dried herbs, a hint of honey, dijon, and red wine vinegar. Take it from someone who enjoyed this dressing for almost two weeks straight, that dressing is heavenly!
Glorious golden sunshine.
To finish off the Italian couscous salad, I suggest using tons of herbs! I’ve got a bunch of chopped basil and parsley. Both work beautifully with all the other ingredients we’ve used.
You’ll notice that I have kalamata olives in Italian couscous salad, and yes, it’s not really Italian, but it’s what I had in the fridge and what I wanted to, or rather, had to use up. If you have the choice, I suggest black olives here. I think the flavor would work well. Kalamatas, clearly also work.
And there it is. Our gorgeous Italian couscous salad. To me, the roasted tomatoes and mozzarella along with the peppers and basil give it a pizza like quality. Just brighter, healthier, and dare I say, more flavorful?
Here’s to salad season!
Italian couscous salad:
- 2 ½ cups cherry tomatoes
- 6 cloves garlic (peeled)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1¼ cup Israeli (pearl) couscous (see notes)
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, diced
- 1 cup chopped basil
- ½ cup EACH: chopped olives and chopped parsley
- 1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and diced
roasted garlic dressing:
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon EACH: Italian seasoning and dijon mustard8
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Prep: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350ºF. Toss the tomatoes, garlic cloves, olive oil, and a big pinch of salt and pepper together on a medium baking sheet. Roast the tomatoes for 50 minutes to an hour, tossing halfway through, remove the garlic around the 30-40 minute mark or whenever it has started to soften and brown and set aside. While the tomatoes are roasting, prepare the couscous according to package directions. Remove the tomatoes and let cool for several minutes.
- Dressing: When the garlic has roasted, add it to a blender (or a jar if using an immersion blender,) along with the remaining dressing ingredients and salt and pepper. Blend until smooth, taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
- Assemble: Add the prepared couscous to a large bowl along with all the other salad ingredients (except the tomatoes) and toss with the dressing. Fold in the tomatoes gently. Taste and adjust seasonings as preferred. Leftovers can be kept in an airtight container or portioned into meal prep containers.
- The pearl couscous can be replaced with orzo or even 4 cups of cooked quinoa (1 1/4 cup dry).
- Leftover salad can be kept in an airtight container (or meal prep containers) for up to 4 days. The flavor is actually better as the salad sits!
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