Pasta and Co. Black Bean and Couscous Salad

Some weeks it can be really hard to come up with a recipe to blog about, especially in the summer when so much of what we eat is just grilled meat and veggies. For the most part I’ve been blogging about new recipes, but this is something I’ve been making since college (and possibly even before college) – an oldie but a goodie, if you will. Sometimes I forget how much I love it, but then it shows up at a family barbecue (in this case, little Oliver’s birthday a couple weeks ago) and I’m reminded that it really is my favorite summer dish. And then I make it for another event (in this case, for my soon-to-be-sister-in-law’s bachelorette weekend in Leavenworth this past weekend), and everyone gets so excited about it that I realize it’s not just my favorite, it’s kind of a universal favorite.

ingredients 2

Growing up, my aunts Barb and Nina made this salad for almost every family function. I was a picky child who didn’t like beans or onions (amongst a wide variety of other things), yet somehow I set those issues aside to gobble up what we all called “m&m salad” (due to the diced colored peppers that look like m&ms). For a long time I thought we had invented that clever name, but it turns out that’s what Pasta and Co. (where we first found the salad, and then the recipe) calls it.  The cookbook that it comes from is sadly out of print, but luckily I had the foresight to steal my mom’s copy, so I can share it with you all today.


Although the actual recipe has you start with dried beans, I just dump in a (rinsed and drained) can as a time saver – although someday I’ll try it the proper way. Since couscous is the easiest thing in the world to make, ever, the only time committment this salad requires is the time to chop up the peppers, along with a few scallions and a handful of parsley. Whisk up the dressing and you’re all set.


Since I was making this for a group of people I didn’t know, I followed the actual recipe – but in the past I’ve made it with quinoa instead of couscous and found it to be equally delicious.

packed up

I was in charge of Saturday’s lunch for the bachelorette party, so on Friday morning I packaged up my couscous, threw in some fun treats for a cheese and charcuterie platter, and I was all ready for a picnic – just call me Ina Garten! You don’t even need a cooler if you’re packing it up for a long car ride, as it’s supposed to be served room temperature (just ask my aunt, who once packed a giant tupperware in her suitcase and checked it through to Hawaii – true story.  We all thought she was nuts until we were enjoying couscous all week).


For the beans:
1 can black beans (see note, below)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sherry wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground or cracked pepper
1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, peeled and put through a press

For the couscous:
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp sherry wine vinegar
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 clove garlic, peeled and put through a press
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 cups vegetable or defatted chicken stock
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups uncooked couscous (package will probably say “instant” or “quick cooking”)

For the veggies:
2/3 cup (about half of one small) red bell pepper, diced
2/3 cup (about half of one small) green bell pepper, diced
2/3 cup (about half of one small) yellow bell pepper, diced
3/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup sliced green onions (sliced 1/8″ thick on the diagonal)

To assemble:

1.  Prepare couscous according to package directions, or using stock and olive oil.

2. Drain and rinse beans, and toss with oil, vinegar, salt, cumin, pepper, Worcestershire, and garlic.

3. Whisk together all couscous dressing ingredients (oil, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper) and pour over couscous.

4. Add chopped veggies and beans to couscous.  Chill. It’s delicious right away, but always better the next day.

NOTE: the original recipe calls for you to soak your beans, which is a step I skip. When you prepare the salad using the full bean dressing  and the full couscous dressing, it can be pretty heavy (and delicious – if you want it to taste the way it tastes when you buy it at the store, do it this way). To lighten it up, however, I usually skip the bean dressing, since it’s almost identical to the couscous dressing – I just make sure to add a little Worcestershire to the couscous.  If it seems dry once everything is mixed together, you can always add a little extra oil and vinegar.  I sincerely hope that everyone tries this, and figures out how they like it best.

close up

10 thoughts on “Pasta and Co. Black Bean and Couscous Salad

      • Carly,
        I see the Pasta & Co cookbook all the time in the thrift stores.
        I saw one just two weeks ago.
        SP Seattle

  1. Hi Carly, This is my kind of salad. Thanks so much for sharing — Molly and Jeani have an orzo salad that is quite similar — but I like quinoa better – we add some feta cheese and capers and it’s also very very delicious. I look forward to your postings and sounds like you have been very busy with Joe’s pre-wedding festivities. Much love to all, Marilyn

    • Your salad sounds delish – did Molly tell you I made your oatmeal fudge bars last week? They were a HUGE hit at work!! I love that you are such a loyal reader of the blog 🙂 XOXO

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