There are three things I really love about this pasta salad: 1) it’s spicy, but not burn your mouth spicy, thanks to paprika, cayenne powder, dijon mustard, and garlicky pickles. 2) I can’t say the words “zesty salami” without saying “zesty zalami” instead. And 3) salami, or more specifically, sopressata salami.
I’ve combined some of my favorite things (pasta, cured meat, mayo, spice) for a not-your-run-of-the-mill pasta salad, guaranteed to be a hit at your next BBQ or summer party or weekend breakfast (no judging).
I made this pasta salad a few weeks ago for a barbecue party, and it was so good I made it again the next weekend.
But first, a confession: I really just wanted to make pasta salad for the teeny pasta. I originally wanted to use ditalini, which I always see in pasta salads in The Food in My Beard. However, I couldn’t find ditalini in Whole Foods, and I was too lazy to go to another grocery store. So luckily, I found another adorable pasta: smalls shells pasta. They’re baby little versions of regular shell pasta. So cute.
I also just wanted to use sopressata in a pasta dish. Sopressata is an Italian dry salami, garlicky and spicy. I love it in cheese and charcuterie boards, and it goes so well with the creamy sauce in this pasta salad. Baby pasta plus sopressata, and this dish was born, only enhanced by a few other delicious things.
Adding to the list of stellar ingredients is pimientos. I love making pimiento cheese (here’s my old school recipe from five year ago!) and always keep a jar in my cupboard. Pimiento cheese and pasta salad remind me of my childhood – but the pasta salads I remember were the classic plain mayo-based ones. Cold and drab and heavy. This one is bright and refreshing with a kick. It’s zesty, remember?
Unsurprisingly, this pasta salad tasted better the longer it sat. My boyfriend Matt and I each had a small bowl each right after I mixed everything together (for tasting purposes, of course). Then another bowl after a few hours to taste how well the flavors came together. Then heaping servings at the BBQ. Then as a snack again later that evening. And the next day. We really liked it.
It’s especially good that this recipe makes a large batch (one entire box of dry pasta is about a pound). It’s so creamy and garlicky, with the perfect amount of spice. Zesty Salami Pasta Salad. You’ll find yourself constantly tasting and snacking (and now I’m also inclined to say “znacking”)
Zesty Salami Pasta Salad
16 oz small shells pasta (you can also use elbow macaroni, ditalini, rotini)
3/4 cup mayonnaise (I used olive oil mayo)
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
8 oz sliced sweet pimientos
1 cup chopped spicy dill pickles
1 small shallot, minced
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
8 oz sopressata salami, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
- Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse, set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the mayo, mustard, paprika, cayenne powder, sugar, and lemon juice. Whisk together until smooth and well combined.
- Transfer cooked pasta to the bowl, and add the remaining ingredients (you can also reserve some of the green onions for garnish). Toss together and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill pasta salad in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Adapted from Kitchen Confidante
It’s fun to customize this pasta salad according to your preference or what you have on hand – use a different pasta shape or type, use genoa salami instead of sopressata, adjust the seasonings, add herbs (chives or thyme would be great), or cheese, or olives, or nuts. Just make sure to mix everything well, let it sit, and make extra for yourself.