June 30, 2010

Trattoria Pasta Salad

by IsaChandra

Serves 6

Time: 30 minutes || Active time: 20 minutes

Trattoria Pasta Salad

Forget that tired old pasta salad Aunt Gertrude brings to the family reunions, this salad is where it’s at! No mayo required, the Sundried Walnut Dressing gives up plenty of flavor, beans keep you stuffed and arugula gives you that Trattoria feel. So tell Aunt Gertrude she’s fired, but could she get you some fresh black pepper before she leaves? This recipe is modified from Appetite For Reduction.

Note: this is a low-fat recipe, but if you like, you can add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to the dressing.  You can also add 1/2 cup toasted walnuts to the salad when you’re mixing it, just toast 1/2 cup extra when making the walnuts for the dressing.

Time management tip: Cook the pasta first and then prepare everything else, including the dressing.

For the Sundried Tomato Walnut Dressing:

1/4 cup sundried tomatos (the dry kind, not the oil-packed kind)
3 tablespoons walnuts, toasted
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoons dijon mustard
3/4 teapoon salt
A few dashes fresh black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

For the pasta salad:

8 oz shell shaped brown rice pasta, boiled al dente, drained and cooled

1 15 oz can great northern beans or navy beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups arugula
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped in half
Salt to taste
Fresh black pepper

Optional: 1/2 cup toasted walnut halves

Prepare the dressing:

First rehydrate the tomatoes. Place them in a bowl, a submerge in warm water. Let them soak for about 15 minutes, then drain.

Meanwhile, toast the walnuts. Preheat a small, heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Toss in the walnuts and toast them, stirring often, for about 7 minutes. They should be varying shades of toasty brown, and smell walnut-y. Transfer immediately to the food processor.

Pulse the walnuts and fennel seed to finely chop. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the marjoram, and puree until relatively smooth. Add the marjoram and pulse a few times to get it integrated. Keep refrigerated in a tightly sealed container until ready to use.
Once the pasta is cool, toss all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Taste for salt and keep chilled until ready to eat.

  • June 30, 2011 at 11:32 pm: julie

    Holy moly this looks ah-maaazing.

  • July 1, 2011 at 1:51 am: Caitlin

    mmmm! i have a work potluck coming up and i had thought of bringing pasta salad. now i know i’m definitely bringing pasta salad!!! this looks amazing! :)

  • July 21, 2011 at 3:14 am: barb

    holy mother of god this is good! i used cannellini beans and oil-packed sun dried tomatoes cuz that’s all i had. this dressing could be used as sauce for any number of dishes. the salad is really good as is, but i think, if you wanted to, you could even add ONE more veggie (any more would just confuse the taste). i think chopped persian cucumbers, diced fresh tomatoes or shredded zucchini would be good additions. and pine nuts in lieu of walnuts would be good too, but i do love it with the walnuts. the dressing is super easy to make/store if you have a magic bullet. i’m definitely making it and keeping it on hand for every day salad dressing or sauce. and the dish is beautiful. even my 6 year old ooohed and ahhhed at how pretty it looked!

  • July 29, 2011 at 3:50 pm: Sarita

    I made this recently– delicious!! I made a few subtle changes: I added olive oil to the dressing, used (white) wheat pasta, subbed the marjoram with oregano (bc that’s what I had), and left out the red onion. It came together just beautifully. Thanks again for another great recipe!

  • August 10, 2011 at 2:34 am: sweetandsourkiwi

    Excellent! Tangy, sassy, bold awesomeness. And I didn’t even make it with the beans, which I’m sure would take it to new heights. I forgot the tomatoes initially and it was just as good without them, really. I might sub fresh cherry tomatoes next time since they’re in season right now. The only bummer was that it didn’t taste as good the next day…not one of those “marinate and marry” kind of salads.

  • August 23, 2011 at 1:36 am: Wendy

    Oh thank you, thank you, thank you for this gift! I have the cookbook, but I would not have done the combo here, sometimes ya’ need things spelled out! I was starving tonight and didn’t have many calories left, and here is this gift. Oh was it ever good! I didn’t use the peppers (hate) nor olives (too lazy to look for them) and it was so filling and zesty!

  • September 26, 2011 at 8:25 pm: Thomas Ens

    I made this recently and it was fantastic. Everyone loved it, and even had a comment that they could eat the dressing by the spoonful. Urrrmmm, okay…

  • October 25, 2011 at 10:18 pm: Cate

    this salad is so fantastic! i adore it, yum. the brown rice pasta was delicious.

  • November 14, 2011 at 2:22 pm: Larissa

    Ooooo I’m getting more hungry while reading the recipe…..
    I know what I’m going to cook tonight :)

  • February 23, 2012 at 9:04 pm: Rebecca

    This is delicious! I could not get the jar of roasted red peppers to open (tried all the tricks I know!) but it tastes wonderful even without them. I’m so glad I tried brown rice pasta too, it seems much more versatile than whole wheat pasta (less heavy) and less grainy than the quinoa/corn pasta I’ve been using a lot lately.

  • April 22, 2012 at 1:49 am: sarah

    was UNREAL!!! thanks so much for the epic salad <3

  • May 15, 2012 at 4:00 am: Kim

    Loved it! Great recipe and this will be a staple in my home!

  • January 15, 2013 at 1:15 am: Mel

    I just made this salad for a pre-movie picnic lunch. I hope my friends love it as much as I do. Thanks for sharing!

  • July 30, 2013 at 11:38 am: Shamini

    OK, I have to comment on this pasta salad. It is amazing! I especially love it without fennel and marjoram, but with dryfried tofu and extra roasted pepper. I’ve made it SO many times, and to so many people. I don’t think I’ll ever be tired of it. Thank you so much for all your wonderful recipes!

  • September 1, 2013 at 9:27 pm: Mina

    The grocery store I went to was out of arugula, so I used dandelion greens. So yummy! This will be my new potluck go-to! Perfect for a hot summer day.

  • November 21, 2014 at 10:04 pm: Akrati

    Mine too! Its my favorite potluck dish to take, especially for summer picnics.

  • September 23, 2015 at 6:51 pm: Vegan Girl

    Excellent choice Isa, This is another option to learn how to prepare vegan food.