Why It Works
- Overcooking the pasta ensures that it has the best texture once chilled, since it firms as it cools.
- Pickled onion adds pops of tartness without soaking the pasta itself in vinegar.
- Roasted piquillo peppers add vegetable depth, while fresh parsley, scallions, and lemon zest add bright notes.
Most pasta salad is a crime against good taste, but not this one. Crispy chorizo, sautéed garlic, roasted piquillo peppers, and plenty of fresh parsley and lemon zest make a pasta salad that you'll actually want to eat...a lot.
I started with pasta made for fideuà, a paella-like Spanish dish that uses pasta instead of rice. The kind I got were very short, thin, hollow macaroni with a slight curve. You can absolutely substitute regular macaroni or another short, hollow pasta shape, like ditalini.
I cooked the pasta until well done and completely tender throughout, a few minutes longer than the al dente stage. As I wrote in my primer on making better pasta salads, overcooking the noodles gives them a nice al dente-like texture once they are chilled.
Then I diced up some Spanish chorizo and cooked it in a skillet to until the fat rendered and the sausage crisped up nicely.
Toward the end of cooking, I tossed in some minced garlic, just to amp up the flavor a bit. I also minced some onion and set it in a bit of sherry vinegar to quickly pickle, which takes about 15 minutes. You can let it stand longer, it'll just get more and more tender as it sits. These onions give us little pops of acidity in the pasta salad without having the pasta itself taste tart.
To finish the pasta, I toss the chilled noodles with the crispy chorizo and its garlicky oil, some fresh extra-virgin olive oil, those pickled onions, and plenty of chopped parsley, sliced scallions, and grated lemon zest to perk the dish up—these are the bright flavors I want instead of lots of vinegar.
I guarantee it, this is a pasta salad worth eating.
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 pound small pasta, such as fideuà (see note), macaroni, or ditalini
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
6 ounces Spanish chorizo (about 2 sausages), diced
4 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 4 teaspoons)
1/4 cup chopped roasted or grilled piquillo peppers from 1 (12-ounce) brine- or oil-packed jar
1/3 cup chopped parsley leaves and tender stems (about 1/2 bunch)
2 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
2 to 3 teaspoons zest from 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
In a small mixing bowl, cover onion with sherry vinegar and let stand until lightly pickled, at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.
In a pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until very tender throughout, 2 to 3 minutes longer than al dente stage according to package. Drain in a colander, then chill under cold running water. Let drain well, then drizzle lightly with olive oil and toss to coat. Set aside.
In a small skillet, cook chorizo over medium-high heat until fat has rendered and chorizo is crisp, about 8 minutes; during last 1 minute of cooking, stir in garlic.
In a large serving bowl, toss pasta with chorizo, garlic, and its rendered fat, along with olive oil, piquillo peppers, parsley, scallions, and lemon zest. Drain onions and toss into salad. Season with salt and pepper. Serve right away at room temperature or make up to 1 day in advance, refrigerate, and return to room temperature before serving.
Fideuà is a Spanish dish similar to paella but made with pasta instead of rice; the pasta used here is the same pasta used in that dish, and it looks like small, thin, slightly curved tubular macaroni. Feel free to substitute other small, tubular pasta shapes instead if you can't locate it.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 6 to 8|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 17g||22%|
|Saturated Fat 4g||22%|
|Total Carbohydrate 21g||8%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||6%|
|Total Sugars 1g|
|Vitamin C 17mg||85%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|