Making a pasta salad is nothing complicated for sure, and isn't it nice to do something simple? That's what a hot summer day with no air conditioning can do to a person! Simple yes, but that doesn't mean the taste is simple. Au contraire...it can be explosive and downright tickle-you-pink delicious. But that's only if you can find the freshest of ingredients.
Here's my recipe, in case you're tempted to try a new variation. The vinaigrette is actually based on a spring roll dipping sauce....with a bit of added olive oil to make it more vinaigrette-y. What this means is that it's light & fragrant, it's got a little twang (from the garlic & fish sauce) and it can easily coat the most sauce-hungry pastas such the type called casareccia, without leaving a heavy oily feel. I think that's the part I like most about this particular salad.
I'm not into promoting things on this blog, but I have to admit that De Cecco brand pasta is my favorite pasta. This particular noodle has lots of nooks & crannies where the sauce gets all nicely tucked away in...but, of course, any shape pasta can work.
Served with a green salad, this is a very satisfying dinner. Not too filling, but plenty enough to make a meal. The quantity in the recipe below will make 5-8 servings (depending on if it's a main dish or side dish.) Don't worry, however, if you don't have 5-8 mouths to feed all at once. You can always make a smaller quantity, of course. However, the leftovers are worthy of looking forward to...it holds well enough for the next day's meal. (And isn't it nice to have a left-over that you actually look forward to eating?)
Pasta Salad Ingredients
250 g dry pasta, casareccia or other type
75 g Greek black olives, oil-cured
100 g feta cheese
500g whole cooked shrimp (weight with the heads), or 225g when peeled
110g or 12 petals of tomate confite* (optional, but adds that explosion of flavor)
1 ear of corn, cooked & shucked
a bunch of cherry tomatoes*
1 bunch fresh basil or cilantro
* Note: tomate confite is a tomato that has been peeled, seeded, quartered and then slow roasted in the oven. I used tomate confite which is hard to see in the picture since they're all diced up, but I also used the inside core (the seeded part that I removed from the tomatoe before roasting it). It was really good....but if I didn't already have roasted tomatoes in my fridge, I could've just used cherry tomatoes.
Juice of 1 lime
1-2 TBLS sugar (to taste)
2 TBLS fermented fish sauce (nam pla)
1 TBLS white vinegar (or unseasoned rice vinegar if you have it)
2 small cloves of garlic, pressed
1 tsp dried pepper flakes (more or less to taste) - or fresh jalapeno minced to taste
olive oil, to taste (~1/4 - 1/2 cup)
- Cook pasta, rinse in cold water, drain & reserve in big mixing bow. Get all other salad ingredients ready: pit the olives & cut into slivers, cook & remove kernels of corn from the ear, cut the cherry tomatoes in half or quarters, peel & de-vein the cooked shrimp, and dice the feta cheese.
- Prepare the vinaigrette: Cut the shallot into a very fine dice & put into small mixing bowl. Add the lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, white vinegar, garlic & pepper flakes. Stir. Adjust flavoring to taste. OK to do ahead of time (it will soften the shallots this way). Just before serving, whisk in the olive oil, a little at a time until it's a light consistency. Keep adding more if you like a heavier oil taste. Season with salt & white pepper to taste.
- Pour some of the vinaigrette over the pasta & vegetables. Add the finely chopped basil or cilantro, and gently mix together. Add more vinaigrette until very well coated. Can serve immediately or refrigerate before serving.