Pasta salad often gets a bad rap, but this bright, lively rendition brimming with juicy tomatoes, crisped salami, and peppery arugula is pasta salad at its best. It’s deliciousness lies in a few techniques. First, in a skillet, gently crisp salami in a pool of olive oil until it renders its fat, then set it aside. Use the salami-flavored olive oil to make a zingy cherry tomato vinaigrette (in the same skillet) with red onion, crushed capers, and a mix of red wine vinegar and lemon juice. Toss with freshly cooked pasta and the crisped salami, and off the heat, add torn chunks of mozzarella and arugula. In the spirit of summer, it’s easygoing in the way it can be served—from a hearty dinner at your kitchen table to a refreshing side at a sunny backyard BBQ or picnic.
A few notes and tips: Play around with the cured meats—for example, swap prosciutto, speck, or pepperoni for the salami, or try a combo. Use larger tomatoes, coarsely chopped, in place of the cherry tomatoes. Reach for shallots or vidalia onion if you don’t have red onion, and feel free to experiment with other types of vinegar (sherry or white balsamic work nicely here). Toss in spinach in place of the arugula -- or pack it full of tender, leafy herbs like basil, parsley, and mint. If you don’t have mozzarella, shower the salad with grated Parmesan or pecorino instead, or simply omit the cheese. I’m partial to fusilli and other twisty pasta shapes for this salad—they’re easy to spear with a fork and their nooks and crannies trap the delicious vinaigrette—but let your pantry guide the way. —EmilyC
- Prep time 15 minutes
- Cook time 15 minutes
- Serves 4
fusilli (or use casarecce, shells, or a small tubular pasta)
extra-virgin olive oil, divided
to 4 ounces salami, thinly sliced
red onion, finely chopped
garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 1/2 cups
cherry tomatoes (about 12 ounces), halved
capers, coarsely chopped (or more to taste)
red wine vinegar
lemon juice, or more to taste (from 1 small lemon)
(packed) baby arugula
mozzarella, torn into bite-sized chunks
- Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt and pasta; cook until al dente according to package directions.
- In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add salami. Cook for about 30 seconds, then flip with tongs and cook on the other side for about 15 to 30 seconds longer. You’re looking to render some of the fat but not fully brown or crisp the salami—it’ll continue crisping and firming up off the heat. Transfer the salami from the pan to a towel-lined plate, leaving as much oil in the pan as possible. Once cool, tear the salami into bite-sized pieces (if needed).
- In the same pan over medium heat, saute onion and garlic for 5 to 7 minutes, or until tender. Season with a pinch or two of salt and pepper.
- Add the cherry tomatoes and capers to the pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until some of the cherry tomatoes start to spill their juices into the olive oil but still retain their shape, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Add the red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and remaining 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil.
- Drain the pasta (don’t rinse), and add it and the salami to the cherry tomato vinaigrette. Toss well to evenly integrate.
- Adjust salt and acidity to taste (tip: make sure you taste bites with salami to judge its saltiness).
- Let cool for about 5 to 10 minutes, then toss in the arugula and mozzarella. Serve warm, room temperature, or chilled.