Pasta Salad with Chickpeas, Walnuts and Arugula

Pasta Salad with Chickpeas, Walnuts and Arugula

This light summer pasta dish pops with color and bursts with flavor. The smooth texture of the pasta and chickpeas combined with the crunchy walnuts and fresh arugula makes this dish a summer classic!

Ingredients

For the Pasta Salad:

  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese*
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound small or medium-sized (up to 1-inch) dried whole-wheat pasta shells
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup (packed) coarsely chopped arugula (about 8 ounces)**
  • 1 cup California walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas)


For the Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic (about 1 good-sized clove)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (plus some for the pasta cooking water)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 


*Luxury ingredient: Fresh mozzarella. It really makes a difference here. If you like, you can use those tiny fresh mozzarella balls (they are so good), and if they seem too big you can cut them in half, or even in quarters. Don’t make them too small, though, because it’s nice to bite into a chunk of fresh mozzarella in this texturally fun dish. If using a larger hunk of cheese, just cut it into large dice.

**Young, small (and therefore not-so-bitter) arugula is best for this. Just pinch off and discard any stem extending past the base of the leaf and use the rest. For older, larger arugula, remove and use only the leaves, and discard the stems.

Directions

For the Pasta Salad:

  1. Stir chickpeas, mozzarella and dressing together in a large bowl, and grind in a generous amount of black pepper. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, foil, or just a plate, and let it stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes.
  2. When you are ready to assemble the dish, put up a large pot of water to boil over high heat and add a tablespoon of salt. Place a large colander in the sink. When the water boils, add the pasta, keeping the heat high. Cook for the amount of time recommended on the package, checking it toward the end of the suggested time, to be sure it is not getting overcooked. When the pasta is just tender enough to bite into comfortably, dump the water-plus-pasta into the colander. Shake to mostly drain (it’s okay to leave some water clinging); then transfer directly to the chickpea mixture in the bowl.
  3. Toss well from the bottom, sprinkling in the Parmesan, chopped arugula, tomatoes and walnuts as you go. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

For the Dressing:

  1. In a bowl, combine the vinegar, garlic, salt, thyme and oregano; whisk to blend. Keep whisking as you drizzle in the olive oil until it is fully incorporated.
  2. Makes about 1/2 cup dressing.