Italian Pasta Salad - America's Test Kitchen
SERVES 8 to 10 as a side dish
For a better, more worthwhile pasta salad, we used corkscrew-shaped fusilli, which had plenty of surface area for capturing dressing. We cooked the pasta until it was a little too soft so that as it cooled and firmed up, it would have just the right tender texture. Rather than toss raw vegetables into the mix, we took inspiration from Italian antipasto platters and used intensely flavored jarred ingredients such as sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, and pepperoncini that offered a mix of textures that didn't overshadow the pasta. For heartiness, we included salami, and to balance the salt and tang, we added chunks of creamy mozzarella, fresh basil, and peppery arugula. To ensure that the pasta itself was just as flavorful as the rest of the dish, we made a thick, punchy dressing by processing some of the salad ingredients themselves—capers and pepperoncini plus some of the tangy pepperoncini brine—with olive oil infused with garlic, red pepper flakes, and anchovies.
- 1 pound fusilli pasta
- Salt and pepper
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 anchovy fillets, rinsed, patted dry, and minced
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 cup pepperoncini, stemmed, plus 2 tablespoons brine
- 2 tablespoons capers,rinsed
- 2 ounces (2 cups) baby arugula
- 1 cup chopped fresh basil
- ½ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, sliced thin
- ½ cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered
- 8 ounces salami, cut into ⅜-inch dice
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into ⅜-inch dice and patted dry
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
- The pasta firms as it cools, so overcooking is key to ensuring the proper texture.
- We prefer a small, individually packaged, dry Italian-style salami such as Genoa or soppressata, but unsliced deli salami can be used.
- If the salad is not being eaten right away, don't add the arugula and basil until right before serving.
- Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until pasta is tender throughout, 2 to 3 minutes past al dente. Drain pasta and rinse under cold water until chilled. Drain well and transfer to large bowl.
- Meanwhile, combine oil, garlic, anchovies, and pepper flakes in liquid measuring cup. Cover and microwave until bubbling and fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Set aside.
- Slice half of pepperoncini into thin rings and set aside. Transfer remaining pepperoncini to food processor. Add capers and pulse until finely chopped, 8 to 10 pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add pepperoncini brine and warm oil mixture and process until combined, about 20 seconds.
- Add dressing to pasta and toss to combine. Add arugula, basil, tomatoes, olives, salami, mozzarella, and reserved pepperoncini and toss well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve. (Salad can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Let come to room temperature before serving.)