I think I've forgotten how to blog about food (I’ll save you from having to do the math- it’s been 87 days).
At this point I could start rambling about life and all the things that have kept me from blogging for the past 3 months. Things like: my job, too many weekends spent in the city, too many lazy Saturdays, etc. But I'll get right into the recipe and spare you the details. I honestly wouldn't even know where to start.
What I do know is that this is my favorite pasta salad in all the land. (<- how did I do with the life-to-recipe segue?)
It packs the most flavor per forkful of any I’ve ever eaten. The first time I ever had it was at a friend’s house, where it was served alongside tri-tip and grilled asparagus. It made a pretty big impression on me that day, and five or so years later, I’ve made it countless times.
I make it when I’m craving it. When it just goes well with something else we’re making. When I need to bring a side to an event. And now, when I need a not sad desk lunch that will last a whole week and keep me excited about lunch for a whole week. Not any easy feat, but this pasta salad is up to the task!
It’s all of the bright flavors and varied textures of a good antipasto plate in pasta salad form. A pasta salad that takes serious restraint to keep from eating way more than is reasonable, because it’s that hard to not take “just one more bite.”
[P.S. If the concept of a "not sad desk lunch" is new to you, a good place to begin your education is with a brief study of its antithesis, the "sad desk lunch." (See one of my personal favorites here.)]
antipasto pasta salad
recipe adapted from america's test kitchen
[ serves 6-8 as a side ]
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat and add pasta.
While the pasta cooks, whisk together 5 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, olive oil, mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons pepperoncini juice, crushed garlic, red pepper flakes, and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Toss the pasta with the the remaining 5 tablespoons red wine vinegar and ½ cup of the dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool completely (you can speed up the process by spreading the pasta in a single layer on a baking sheet and popping it in the fridge for 30 minutes).
While the pasta cools, bring the remaining dressing to a simmer in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the mushrooms in the dressing for about 8 minutes, or until lightly browned. Set aside to cool completely.
Transfer the cooled pasta to a large bowl or container and pour the mushrooms (and all of the liquid!) over the top. Add the pepperoncini, salami, mozzarella, roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, and basil, and toss to combine. Taste again for salt and pepper before serving.
1 pound fusilli or campanelle pasta
10 tablespoons red wine vinegar, divided
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
12-ounce jar sliced pepperoncini, drained, 2 tablespoons juice reserved for dressing
4 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt + freshly ground black pepper
1 pound mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
5 ounces sliced salami, halved and cut into ¼-inch strips
1 pound whole milk mozzarella, cut into little cubes
12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained, coarsely chopped
14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
Note: I've deviated only slightly from the original recipe, and since the original is perfect, I feel the need to give you the option to stick with it. Where I only use 5 ounces of salami (one package from Trader Joe's), the original recipe calls for 8 ounces each of pepperoni and salami. Where I used a whole pound of mozzarella in cubes, the original calls for 4 ounces of grated aged provolone. I've also taken to using sliced pepperoncini to save the extra work of stemming and chopping. But when I have time, I do it the real way ;)