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?
- 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
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.
In a small bowl, whisk sesame oil, honey, soy sauce, vinegar, cayenne pepper and mayonnaise to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Mix half of dressing into pasta.
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.
Season with salt. Mix in peanuts, scallions and enough dressing to coat. Serve.