How To Make The Original St. Louis Pasta House Salad ~ Copycat
I’m on a roll lately with recipes from restaurants that have fabulous food. This isn’t really a copycat recipe since the restaurant shared the recipe in the newspaper. If you’ve ever been to St. Louis or lived there as I have, then you’ll know all about the famous St. Louis Pasta House Salad.
I’ve been making this salad since my early days right after college . . . let’s see that was about 5 years ago? Hardly close, its been 43 years!
But good things never die. Great recipes endure time. And this house salad is hands-down one of my top 10 restaurant recipes.
The vibrant colors add to the sensory level of this salad!
There’s no pasta in this “Pasta House Salad“. It’s just full of fresh lettuce, tangy artichoke hearts, sweet red onions, and some added zest of pimentos. Tossed with a delightful vinaigrette made of good olive oil and red wine vinegar.
Don’t use either extra virgin olive oil (evoo) or balsamic vinegar. Both of them, alone or together, are too strong-flavored and will overpower the main ingredients of the salad. And that’s not a good thing, because once you dress a salad, it’s impossible to undress it.
You put the dressing on before adding the grated cheese so that the grand finale of finely-grated Parmesan is showered on the salad and mixed in well.
How easy is that?
Key Tips for Preparing This Delicious Pasta House Salad
- Use absolutely fresh lettuce and red onions. . . and nicely chilled because you can’t chill this salad once it is dressed. You could chill it without the vinaigrette, but that’s all. If the vinaigrette is tossed in, the salad will wilt in the fridge. And that wouldn’t be a good thing (unless you bought twice the amount of ingredients and want to make another unwilted salad).
- Cut the lettuce, red onion slices, and artichoke hearts into bite sizes. You don’t want lettuce and onions falling all over your guests’ mouth and chin.
- If you buy whole artichoke hearts, cut them into quarters so that when they are forked, only a small amount of that infamous tang will be combined with the other ingredients. Artichokes can really overpower in recipes, just like garlic. So cutting them into smaller pieces gives a great flavor blend to the tastebuds.
- Only drain the pimentos and artichoke hearts from their liquids. Do NOT rinse them. Keep the flavor of the liquid on both of them . . . it’s part of the marriage of flavors in the vinaigrette.
- Make sure that the parmesan is super, finely grated. No slivers or chunks. The finely grated parmesan is delicate enough to cling to every other ingredient in the salad.
- Only use regular olive oil (not extra virgin), and only use red wine vinegar (not balsamic or any other vinegar). These will all change the entire flavor of the salad. And it’s the vinaigrette that makes this salad so delicious.
- Do not dress and toss the salad until RIGHT AT THE MOMENT OF SERVING. (I guess that’s why I wrote that in all caps plus bold and underlined!!) The lettuce wilts after only 10 – 15 minutes due to the acidity of the red wine vinegar, artichokes, and pimentos. Personally, I love wilted salads, but most people don’t.
- You can only chill the ready-made salad WITHOUT the vinaigrette. Otherwise, you got it, the lettuce will wilt.
- You’ll need to add salt and pepper at the end of tossing it . . . to your taste preference. Even though my family has cut back on salt as a condiment, we all agree that salt is needed (and in the recipe already).
Here’s a list of “oh-so-helpful” kitchen gadgets that help me in my kitchen and will do the same for you when making this pasta house salad!
super easy to use and WAY easy to clean! (Amazon Best Seller — for good reasons)
I could not be without this handy, dandy, and super cheap knife!
Oh so kind on your knives!
Here are more delicious restaurant salad recipes that are simply MAGNIFICO and can be prepared right in your own kitchen — and YES, I make ALL of these salads on rotation:
Caleco’s Caesar Salad Dressing (in St. Louis)
- 1/3 head of romaine lettuce
- 1 round head of iceberg lettuce, cut into 1" - ½" bite size pieces.
- 1 cup of thinly sliced red onions, then cut in halves
- 1 cup of canned artichoke hearts packed in it's own juice/brine (not marinated), drained well, but not rinsed with water
- 1 cup diced pimentos (from a jar), drained well, but not rinsed with water
- ⅔ cup regular olive oil
- ⅓ cup red wine vinegar
- ⅔ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Wash the iceberg and romaine lettuce, drain completely. Refrigerate until nice and COLD.
- Using your hands or a plastic cutting knife (do not use a regular steel-based knife that will discolor the lettuce), cut the romaine lettuce into 3 or 4 pieces --> per leaf
- Again with your hands or plastic cutting knife, split the head of iceberg lettuce in half. Pull the heart (not the hard stub) of the iceberg out of each half. Break it up into small pieces (with no knife). Separate the rest of the iceberg lettuce. The lettuce will break up further when the salad is tossed.
- Place the iceberg and romaine lettuce in a large bowl. Add the artichoke hearts, sliced red onions, and pimentos.
- Drizzle the olive oil onto the salad and give it about 3 tosses so that the oil cings to the lettuce and ingredients.
- ** Always dress salads with olive oil first and the vinegar next, because everything clings to the olive oil better.**
- Drizzle the red wine vinegar next and give the salad about 3 tosses.
- Sprinkle the cheese all over the salad and toss until mixed completely.
- Taste to determine if it needs salt and pepper. I always start with 1/2 teaspoon each until it tastes just right!
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So if you’re ever in St. Louis, trust me, bee-line to one of the locations of this very delicious home-town Italian restaurant that is literally ONLY in the St. Louis metropolitan area. Believe me, you’ll come home wanting to make this wonderful pasta house salad as much as I do!
PS: There is absolutely no compensation or payment of any kind for sharing about The Pasta House Co. in St. Louis. It’s been my pleasure to share a wonderful published recipe and to let you know about this great Italian (and local only) restaurant.
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