less of a pasta turned into salad and more of a salad made of pasta, you know?
Home Movies Tuesday!
Hello and welcome to Home Movies Tuesday! If you’ve found your way over by some miracle but are not yet subscribed, here, let me help you with that:
I’ve got some good news and some great news. The good news is that we’ve almost made it to Memorial Day Weekend, where every weekend from now until September will be marked not by traditional time, but by how many pasta salads you’ve eaten. The great news is that below, you’ll find a recipe for a superlative pasta salad (please just trust me when I say yes all the zucchini will fit in the skillet and yes you only need 8 ounces of pasta).
But wait, there’s even MORE great news! This edition of Home Movies is sponsored by All-Clad, and to celebrate, they’ve let me pick some of my favorite All-Clad products to give away to our Home Movies subscribers. First up: the D3 Stainless 12” skillet that I used for this very pasta salad (and most pastas, tbh!). It’s large enough to toss everything together without worrying about overcrowding or egregious spills and has held up beautifully over many years (and hundreds of pounds of pasta). For a chance to win one of your own, just click here and enter your email.
Happy 50th birthday All-Clad and happy pasta salad season to all who celebrate! -AR
Pasta salad: both pretty boring and the most popular dish at every outdoor gathering you go to, a true mystery of our time. A food that’s destined for greatness (I love pasta! I love salad!) but usually falls kinda flat by containing too much pasta and being either underdressed or unnecessarily creamy (which is worse, who could say?). Will I still eat multiple servings while drinking ice-cold wine? Happily! But I’ll spend most of the time thinking about how it could be better, wondering where all those little black olives come from.
But! This is the summer of very good pasta salad— mark my words— and this one with sizzled scallions, more zucchini than you think you can eat, little briny capers and lots of parmesan, is *the one*.
This pasta salad is pasta salad post-makeover montage. She’s more sophisticated, flavorful, and exciting with a lot going on, but still absolutely refined. She’s the potluck dish people are going to try and immediately shout, “WHO MADE THIS?!”, and plead with you to send them the recipe. She might even show up the other dishes, but she will not apologize! This pasta salad is what I want to eat at the picnic, and also what I want to eat straight from the fridge when I get home after being outside all day, a little day drunk, a little sunburned (despite my best efforts), and very, very hungry, and the good news is that this pasta salad makes sure I really CAN have it all!
On this week’s Home Movies, you’ll unlock the secret to this very pasta salad, but also learn about perfectly toasted nuts, life lessons from Alison’s boxing coach, watch an entire block of parmesan being chopped (did I mention this is the perfect pasta salad?), hear a much needed PSA about over-pasta-ing our pasta salad, potluck etiquette and witness some truly relatable host/guest role play.
This pasta salad is lucky enough to receive the same special treatment of all of my favorite pasta dishes— tenderly cooked-down vegetables, plenty of punchy alliums, salty cheese, and lots of fresh herbs (yes, this is a perfect vessel for #lotsofdill). As long as you’re following that basic formula, it’s super adaptable to whatever you have on hand. Do leeks, shallots, or spring onions work in place of scallions? You bet! Don’t like capers? Go for something else that’s salty and briny, like olives or anchovies. Can’t find good zucchini? I’d use another summer squash, or even fennel. You can replace the parmesan with pecorino or feta, walnuts with almonds, use a splash of vinegar instead of lemon juice (just don’t leave it out— it really benefits from a little acidity), etc. You get it. She’s chill, she’s flexible, and will be great with anything. Just note the ideal ratio of salad to pasta (3 to 1, thank you very much!), because remember: it’s more of a salad made of pasta and less so pasta turned into salad?
Click HERE for a printable PDF.
pasta salad with zucchini, sizzled scallion and parmesan
The capers and lemon give it the bright brilliant tanginess that pasta salad craves, but what truly makes this one special is the mix of textures: jammy, caramelized pieces of zucchini, frizzled bits of scallion, little nuggets of parmesan, crunchy toasted walnuts, and perfectly cooked, just-past-al-dente pasta. Please note that what makes it a pasta salad/salad made of pasta and not just a bowl of room temp pasta (also good!) is that we’re going heavy on the vegetables and heavier still on the herbs. It’s what will make this little number oh so daytime appropriate, although pasta for lunch, pasta for dinner, truly anything goes. As for make ahead-ability, it’s best at room temp and truly gets better with age. Low maintenance at its finest!
1/4 cup/52 grams olive oil, plus more if you like
1/2 cup/60 grams walnut pieces or almonds, coarsely chopped
kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
2 bunches scallion
crushed red pepper flakes, optional
1 pound, or 2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
3–4 oz/45–60 grams drained capers, depending on how much you like capers
8 ounces pasta, such as rigatoni or another tubular shape
2–3 garlic cloves, finely grated
1–2 lemons, juiced or 2 tbs/28 grams vinegar
2–3 ounces/60–90 grams parmesan, coarsely chopped
1 cup fresh, spriggy, leafy herbs such as parsley, cilantro, dill and or mint.
1. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add walnuts and fry them till deeply golden brown, smelling almost like popcorn, 2–3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon if you have it, remove nuts (leaving oil behind) and transfer to a small bowl; season with salt and set aside.
2. Thinly slice about 1/3 of the scallions and set aside. Coarsely chop the remaining scallions (light and white green parts-- the whole thing!) and add to the skillet with oil. Season with salt and pepper and cook over medium-high heat until they're lightly browned at the edges and completely tender, bordering on "melty," 8–10 minutes. Add crushed red pepper flakes if using, then add half the zucchini.
3. Season zucchini with salt and pepper and let it cook down until tender and translucent, 10–15 minutes. This time will vary depending on the zucchini-- larger squash has more water and will take longer to get to that melty translucent stage, but just stir or shake your skillet occasionally, taste one every now and then, and be patient. Once it's there, add the remaining zucchini (you should have more space in your skillet now) and season again with salt and pepper. Add capers and cook zucchini until it's wilted and tender, but still has a little bite, another 5–8 minutes or so (you want some very soft, tender zucchini and some less so).
4. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of salted water until just past al dente (you aren't cooking it again, so it should be basically fully cooked without feeling mushy). Drain and rinse under cold water; set aside.
5. Transfer the zucchini mixture to a large mixing bowl and add garlic, the juice of 1 lemon, and remaining thinly sliced raw scallion; season everything with salt and pepper. Add pasta and gently toss to coat (I don't even like using a spoon here, just some casual bowl tossing). Season again with more crushed red pepper flakes and lemon juice if you think it needs it.
6. Add half the parmesan, walnuts and herbs and toss to coat. Transfer to a serving bowl (you can also serve out of the bowl you just made it in) and top with remaining parmesan, nuts and herbs.