A Squared: What's For Dinner Wednesday: Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad with Mozzarella & Pancetta

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad with Mozzarella & Pancetta

Let me start off today by apologizing for any blog weirdness you may have experienced on A Squared recently. I have noticed that some of my scheduled posts were going live early without my knowledge. Oops! So, if you saw one and are looking for it-- fear not! They will be back... when they were originally scheduled to show up!

A good pasta salad is one of my favorite summertime dishes since its light, versatile, and can be a complete meal in one bowl. I love coming up with different ingredient and flavor combinations and making a huge batch. Pasta salad is perfect for a summer picnic-- like for dinner at Chicago Movies in the Park, for brown bag lunches at work, and also a side dish at cookouts. That's exactly what I created this pasta salad recipe this week. My friend Alexis was very brave and hosted a little BBQ on our cold and gloomy Chicago Memorial Day and this was my contribution to the meal.

I decided to put an Italian spin on my recipe this time around. This pasta salad is a take on a Caprese with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella with a few other layers of flavors. I love the intense flavor of sun-dried tomatoes and thought that using both the chewy tomatoes and the liquid they are packed in would make for a great addition to this simple salad. I also added in some bell peppers for extra sweetness (and color!) and then some crispy pancetta and toasted pine nuts (on the side, for my allergic husband) to keep it savory and crunchy.

The dressing is a spin on my favorite vinaigrette-- utilizing the sun-dried tomato oil, red pepper flakes and Dijon for some kick, and a combination of honey, balsamic vinegar, and white wine vinegar for sweetness.

I love this recipe and made sure to keep a few servings around to pack for lunch this week. I hope you enjoy it and keep it in mind for your next summer dinner, cookout, our picnic.

  • 14 oz. dry shortcut pasta, like farfalle, rotini, or penne *I used Barilla White Fiber Mini Penne
  • 4 oz. pancetta, diced
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup small yellow tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
  • 2/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in Italian herb oil, sliced (liquid reserved)
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella pearls (or a fresh mozzarella ball, diced)
  • 8-10 large fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (optional)
For the dressing--
  • 3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar **Keep a little extra on reserve. See below.
  • 2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbs. reserved oil from sun-dried tomato jar
  • 1/2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 Tbs. dry parsley flakes
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain well, rinse pasta, and set aside.

Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add diced pancetta and cook, stirring often, until pancetta is crisp. Transfer the cooked pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and cool.

In a large bowl, gently combine pasta, cooked pancetta, and the next 9 ingredients (through optional pine nuts).

In a small bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar and next 7 ingredients through parsley flakes until fully combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Pour over the pasta mixture and toss to coat.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours.

**Prior to serving, taste the pasta salad as it may have absorbed the dressing. If needed, sprinkle with additional balsamic vinegar to taste, toss, and serve.

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