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 them 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 overboard in the produce aisle and cheese case at Costco and came back with what can only be described as the world’s largest log of fresh mozzarella and box of cherry tomatoes.
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.
Ingredients for Italian Couscous Salad:
- Tomatoes: The cherry tomatoes and garlic cloves get nice and roasted before we toss them in the pasta salad.
- Israeli couscous: Is the base of our Italian salad. Sometimes it’s also called pearl couscous. You’ll need 8 ounces of prepared pearl couscous for this recipe.
- Garlic Cloves: The garlic plays a two-part role in this recipe. We start by roasting it with the tomatoes to add aroma, then we blend it up in the dressing to make a roasted garlic Italian dressing that you could sip with a spoon!
- Olive Oil: The olive oil is the base of our salad dressing and it’s also used to toss the tomatoes in before roasting.
- Mozzarella: You can use fresh mozzarella or you can use a chunk of low-moisture mozzarella cut into cubes from the deli section.
- Basil: Fresh basil was meant to be in a pasta salad with cherry tomatoes!
- Olives: I like to use kalamata olives for this recipe because I love the briny flavor. Feel free to use black olives here as well!
- Parsley: Fresh parsley adds a punch of color and it also adds another fresh herb flavor.
- Red wine vinegar: Is used in the roasted garlic vinaigrette.
- Seasonings: You’ll need a bit of dried basil and Italian seasoning for the dressing.
- Dijon Mustard: Mustard is the emulsifying agent in the vinaigrette. It keeps the salad dressing from separating.
- Honey: A squeeze of honey for sweetness and to balance the dressing.
How to make the best Italian Couscous salad:
- Roast it up. Start by getting your oven and tossing the cherry tomatoes, garlic cloves, olive oil, salt, and pepper onto a baking sheet. Let the tomatoes roast until they’re bursting and tender. While that’s happening, chop the herbs and prepare the couscous.
- Make the dressing. When the garlic has cooled, toss it in a jar with a few glugs of olive oil, red wine vinegar, Italian seasoning, dried basil, dijon, honey, salt, and pepper. Blend it all up with an immersion blender or toss it in a traditional blender.
- Toss it in a bowl. Add the prepared couscous, roasted peppers, olive, cherry tomatoes, basil, parsley, and mozzarella to a bowl and toss with the dressing until combined. Taste and season further with salt and pepper as desired. I like to let the salad sit for a bit before serving, the flavors just have a chance to intensify further that way!
What’s to love about this Italian salad:
- Not another mayo-based salad
- 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!
- 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 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 it adds more flavor and more importantly because the husband won’t touch a raw tomato.
- 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
If you like this recipe, you might also like:
- Italian Potluck Salad
- Homemade Italian Dressing
- Pasta Puttanesca
- Gnocchi alla Sorrentina
- Italian Wedding Soup
Original recipe shared April 2018, updated with new images and post, April 2022.
- 2 ½ cups cherry tomatoes
- 6 cloves garlic (peeled)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 ounces (1¼ cup) 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 mustard
- 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, 2 tbsp olive oil, and a big pinch of salt and pepper together on a medium baking sheet. Roast for 50-60 minutes, tossing halfway through. Remove the garlic around the 30-40 minute mark or whenever they've softened; set aside. Prepare couscous according to package directions while you wait. Remove the tomatoes and let cool for several minutes.
- Dressing: Add the roasted garlic 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 couscous to a large bowl 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 for up to 4 days. The flavor is actually better as the salad sits!
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