Photo of Mollie Katzen

Pasta Salad with Cilantro-Walnut Pesto

Pasta Salad with Cilantro-Walnut Pesto

Enjoy this light, refreshing – and slightly different – pasta salad. It will look familiar, but taste surprising, in a very subtle way—try it hot or cold. Be sure to make the pesto well ahead of time for optimum flavor.

Ingredients

For the Pasta:

  • 8 ounces pasta (fusilli or cavatappi)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup Cilantro-Walnut Pesto (recipe follows)
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, or to taste
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced very small
  • 8-10 snow peas, trimmed and halved diagonally
  • 4 to 6 ounces fresh mozzarella – in small dice
  • Black pepper to taste

Optional:

Additional minced vegetables: minced carrot, cucumber, and/or fennel

For the Cilantro-Walnut Pesto:

  • 1 cup California walnut halves
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
  • 1 cup firmly packed cilantro (leaves and smaller stems)
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Optional toppings:

  • Minced fresh cilantro
  • Halved cherry tomatoes
  • Chopped California walnuts

Directions

For the Pasta:

  1. Cook the pasta according the package instructions. Drain, then toss with olive oil, salt, 4 tablespoons of the pesto, and the vinegar. Stir to blend thoroughly, let it cool to room temperature.
  2. Stir in the vegetables, followed by the mozzarella and black pepper to taste.
  3. Serve warm or at room temperature – or chill, and serve cold. Top it with additional pesto, if you like, plus any of the other optional toppings.

For the Cilantro-Walnut Pesto (Makes 1/2 cup):

  1. Place the walnuts in a blender or the small bowl of a food processor, and grind to a coarse meal.
  2. Add the garlic, cilantro, and salt, and continue to run the machine until it becomes a uniform green paste (some light walnut texture is fine).
  3. Run the machine while you drizzle in the oil. Transfer to a container with a tight fitting lid, and refrigerate until use.