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Top Ree's Mediterranean Pasta Salad with Crispy Chickpeas
2024/04/15

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There's plenty to love about : glorious ripe , fresh berries, watermelon, longer days. One of the reasons I look forward to the season is the return of . I know, I know: You can eat pasta salad year-round. But there's something about the hot, sunny, wonderful days of summer that simply demand it. This Mediterranean pasta salad is so scrumptious and different. The dressing is a Spanish-style romesco sauce that's full of delicious flavors from olives, roasted peppers, garlic, and rosemary. To give the salad great texture, crunchy roasted are sprinkled over the top. Don't stir the chickpeas into the pasta salad—scattering them on top ensures they stay crispy! 

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What's in giardiniera?

Giardiniera is a medley of pickled vegetables, usually made up of peppers, cauliflower, carrots, and celery. The mixture is bright and tangy, and packs a punch of flavor with minimal effort on your end. You can find a jar on the pickle aisle in most grocery stores. 

What pasta shape is best for pasta salad?

The key is to use a pasta that the dressing can really grab onto. I love lumache pasta which is a short, ribbed pasta with a "snail shell" shape. Gemelli is another pasta that works well in this salad. It has a twisted appearance, with two pieces of pasta twirled together.

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If you can't find either of those, cavatappi, elbows, or small shells are good options.

24 oz.

grape tomatoes, assorted colors

6 oz.

pitted Castelvetrano olives, drained

3 tbsp.

capers, drained

2

garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1

large, fresh rosemary sprig

3/4 c.

olive oil, divided

Ground black pepper, to taste

6 oz.

roasted red peppers, drained and roughly chopped

1/4 c.

slivered almonds

1

(15-oz.) can chickpeas, drained

2 tbsp.

olive oil

1/2 tsp.

kosher salt

Ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 tsp.

crushed red pepper

Kosher salt, for pasta water 

1 lb.

lumache pasta or gemelli pasta 

2 c.

jarred giardiniera, drained and roughly chopped, plus more for serving

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6 oz.

smoked mozzarella, cut into 1/2-in. pieces, plus more for serving

1/2 c.

packed fresh basil leaves, torn, plus more for serving

Step  1 Preheat the oven to 400°F. Step  2 For the dressing: Place the tomatoes, olives, capers, garlic, and rosemary sprig on a sheet pan. Drizzle with ½ cup of olive oil, and toss to evenly coat. Season with black pepper. Place in the oven and roast for 25 to 30 minutes (the tomatoes should have released their juices but still hold their shape). Discard the rosemary sprig and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.  Step  3 Set a large fine mesh strainer over a large bowl. Strain the tomatoes, olives, and capers, reserving the liquid for the dressing and the tomatoes, olives, and capers to stir into the salad.

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Remove the garlic from the tomato mixture and add it to the accumulated liquid. To a blender, carefully add the liquid mixture, remaining ¼ cup of olive oil, roasted red peppers, almonds, and more black pepper. Blend until smooth, and set aside. Keep the large bowl to mix the pasta salad; no need to dirty another bowl. Step  4 For the crispy chickpeas: Spread the chickpeas out on a large kitchen towel and thoroughly rub dry, discarding any loose skins. Transfer the chickpeas to a sheet pan. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss the chickpeas to evenly coat and roast until they turn a deep golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

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Remove the chickpeas from the oven, sprinkle with the crushed red pepper, and carefully toss with a spatula to combine. Set aside to cool. Step  5 For the pasta salad: Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, 2 to 3 minutes less than the package directions. Drain the pasta, and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Transfer to the large bowl that held the accumulated tomato juices and olive oil, and set aside (it’s okay if a little water collects in the bowl; it will mix with the dressing). Add the reserved tomato mixture, giardiniera, smoked mozzarella, basil, and the dressing to the bowl with the pasta, tossing gently to coat. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with extra giardiniera, smoked mozzarella, and basil. Sprinkle on the crispy chickpeas, and serve immediately.

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