Serious Heat: Dressing Up Pasta Salad

[Flickr: KayVee.INC]

Pasta salad is my absolute favorite summer picnic indulgence. But I wanted a twist to make it a memorable side dish, especially for a picnic potluck. Last year, I found an old Bon Appétit recipe that used an Asian-inspired base for the dressing: a mixture of sesame oil, honey, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and a kick of cayenne powder. I added a little mayonnaise into the sauce as a personal preference (what's a pasta salad without a hit of mayo?), and additional vegetables on hand.

The Asian-style dressing delivers a unique touch to the pasta, along with the slight fire from the cayenne. The crunch of the honey-roasted peanuts adds texture and sweetness, making the total combination my go-to recipe for pasta salads.

What's your twist on pasta salad?

Serious Heat: Dressing Up Pasta Salad

About This Recipe

Yield:6 to 8


  • 1 pound fusilli or any other preferred pasta shape
  • 4 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 3 red bell peppers, seeded, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups snow peas
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup honey-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped


  1. 1

    Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain very well. Transfer to large bowl.

  2. 2

    In a small bowl, whisk sesame oil, honey, soy sauce, vinegar, cayenne pepper and mayonnaise to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  3. 3

    Mix half of dressing into pasta.

  4. 4

    Heat canola oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add bell peppers, peas and sauté until just beginning to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add vegetables to pasta.

  5. 5

    Season with salt. Mix in peanuts, scallions and enough dressing to coat. Serve.


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