This is not your traditional pasta salad. It’s way better.
I grew up with the classic Italian pasta salad being served at every party. You know the one…tri-color pasta tossed with cubes of salami, red & green peppers, black olives (the kind in the can), provolone and everything is covered in bottled Italian dressing. I have eaten this pasta salad enough in my day that I am more than happy to never eat it again, and haven’t considered making it in years, but I recently came across a recipe that made me fall back in love with Italian pasta salad and it’s SO much better!
I came across this recipe while watching an episode of America’s Test Kitchen where they discussed the common problems with traditional pasta salad such as soggy vegetables, tasteless dressings, texture inconsistency, lack of creativity, and uneven distribution of ingredients. The ingredients, while similar to the more common Italian pasta salad described above, are much more robust and elevated. They referred to the ingredients in this salad as “antipasti inspired” and I love that!
The dressing is made extra virgin olive oil that is infused with garlic and anchovy and blended with spicy pepperoncini peppers & salty capers. It’s delicious! It is all then tossed with antipasti inspired ingredients like olives, sundried tomatoes, mozzarella and salami.
A note on anchovies. I know I probably just turned a lot of people off from this recipe with that scary word “anchovy,” but you have no idea how often anchovies are used in restaurant cooking, dressings and condiments and you don’t even know it. In the case of this pasta salad, they melt into the oil and you won’t even know they are there but you will notice the depth of umami that the anchovy brings to the party. I don’t understand these people who hate on anchovies without even trying them (you are missing a world of flavor!), but if you are one of them, go ahead and leave them out.
I agree with America’s Test kitchen’s recommendation on selecting salami. We both prefer a small, individually packaged, dry Italian-style salami. However if it is unavailable, you can ask the deli counter for thick cuts of Genoa salami and then cube it. But the quality is of cold cut style salami is not as good as individual packaged sausage style salamis.