I'm pro-pasta salad in almost all its forms. There was a Cuban cafeteria I frequented when I lived in Louisville where the ensalada de macarrones — made with elbow macaroni, diced ham, chopped peppers and lots of vinegar — was undoubtedly the best side dish.
I love the fancy, if a little retro, version that's available at my local Italian market. It's served in those little plastic deli tubs and made by tossing penne with sundried tomatoes and cubed, smoked mozzarella.
Heck, if you give me a bowl of classic Midwestern pasta salad made with bowtie pasta and bottled Italian dressing, I'm pretty much in heaven. What I love about pasta salad is that it really seamlessly straddles the line between side dish and entrée. What it is really depends on your mood (and what else is on your plate).
This version definitely feels a little more filling because you're swapping in gnocchi, a dense potato dumpling, for basic pasta. Then the dish gets hit with a bunch of bright flavors — lemon, greens, snap peas, chives — to keep it feeling seasonal. Plus, pine nuts seasoned with simple red pepper flakes provide an unexpected toasty note.
For the salad
- 16 ounces pre-packaged gnocchi
- 1 cup greens of your choice
- 1/2 cup sugar snap peas, chopped or halved vertically
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
For the vinaigrette
- Prepare the gnocchi according to the package instructions, then place it in a large bowl with the greens and sugar snap peas. Set aside.
- In a small pan, add the olive oil, red pepper flakes and pine nuts. Stir over low heat until the pine nuts take on a toasted brown color and are fragrant, about 5 to 7 minutes. Keep a close eye on them — pine nuts can scorch pretty quickly! Remove from the heat and add to the gnocchi.
- To make the vinaigrette, whisk together 4 tablespoons of olive oil, the white wine vinegar, the zest of one lemon and the minced chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Cover the gnocchi with the vinaigrette and gently stir to combine. Serve cooled or at room temperature.
I like arugula or spinach, but it's up to you to decide what greens to use.
If you do eat dairy, some shaved Parmesan or Manchego cheese would be a delicious addition to this dish.
To make the pasta salad feel even more substantial, feel free to add marinated artichoke hearts or even some thinly-sliced prosciutto.
about plant-based eating
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