Perfect Picnic Pasta Salad
I know I’m going out on a limb here calling this the ‘perfect picnic pasta salad’ but I am standing by it! And I’m one who doesn’t typically love pasta salad because it’s often too goopy for my taste. And bland. Dreadfully bland. But not to worry this pasta salad is neither goopy or bland. In fact the pasta has a ton of flavor to it and it’s all thanks to few tricks. Here’s the play by play.
Make sure you have the mayonnaise, mustard and cheese mixture whisked together and ready for when that pasta comes off the stove. This is the key to getting the flavors into the noodle and not just on top. The noodles will look creamy, almost like a mac-n-cheese, at first but within 20 minutes or so they will have soaked up all of the mixture and it will almost look like you forgot to add the mayo!
The next key is to make sure you get that pancetta nice and crispy. I buy the kind that is pre-diced in the little package and sometimes there are some fatty bits in those. You don’t want to bite down on that so try to remove those. And low and slow is the key to a nice crispy pancetta. The next trick is to layer on the flavor with the addition of garlic and chili pepper which I add at the end, otherwise the garlic will get bitter and that will ruin the flavor. I find those flavors go sooo well with the pancetta and pasta. I added that little bit of red chili to this recipe for flavor more than heat which is why I’m recommending a mild pepper. If you want to leave that out you could add just a small pinch of red pepper flakes, too. Not too much or it will take over the dish. And the reason I used 2 Tablespoons of oil to cook the pancetta, which is a lot, is that I want some of that extra oil to go over the macaroni salad because there is a lot of flavor from the garlic and chili in that oil and that helps spread those flavors into the pasta as it sits in the fridge – which I highly recommend letting it do. Overnight is best.
Now lets talk about Fava beans.
Fava beans (Broad beans) are seasonal from about early April to late May and they are just delicious little jewels. That’s how I like to describe them anyway. They are a bit of work though because they have a pod but they also have an inner shell. You have to remove the bean from the pod, then blanch them in simmering water for about 1 minute. They float to the top when they are done. Drain and cool the bean slightly then pop them out of their skin. This is great job for your kids or for when you are watching your favorite show. This part can be done a day or two in advance and then just refrigerated. Or, if it’s really not going to happen but you want to try this recipe anyway….then substitute for Edamame. Same idea and easier to find year round.
Enjoy this pasta recipe for your upcoming Mother’s Day as part of a picnic or as a delicious side dish for your next summer BBQ!
- 8 oz (2 cups) elbow macaroni
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 cloves garlic, diced
- 3 oz. diced pancetta
- 1/2 small Fresno pepper (medium heat small red pepper), diced *can substitute a small pinch of crushed red peppper flakes
- 2 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup Fava beans (shelled and blanched) or Edamame *about 1 1/2 lbs fava beans in their pods. Remove from pods, bring a pot of water to a simmer and blanch for 1 minute. Drain and remove them from their skins
- Cook the pasta according to the instructions; typically 7-8 minutes.
- While the pasta is cooking whisk together in a large bowl the mayonnaise, parmesan, Dijon and salt.
- Once the pasta is cooked al dente drain and immediately toss with the mayonnaise mixture. The noodles will soak up the mixture better if they are hot.
- In a medium sauté pan over medium heat add the olive oil for about 30 seconds and then add the pancetta and cook low and slow until crisp and all the fat is rendered. Then add in the peppers and garlic. Cook for 30-60 seconds more. Remove from heat and pour mixture, including the oil, over the pasta.
- Fold in the Fava beans or Edamame and taste for seasoning. Refrigerate until ready to serve (great made a day ahead!).