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The 5-Ingredient Pasta Salad We're Inviting to Every Summer BBQ

Food52 logo Food52 6/25/2019 Emma Laperruque
a plate of food on a table © Provided by Food52

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. Psst—we don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Today, we’re making a side dish that’s good enough to eat for dinner.

I love mayonnaise and I love pasta, but I don’t love mayonnaise-y pasta salad. Probably for the same reason that I don’t love mayonnaise-y potato salad: These side dishes often appear at warm-weather, crowded-backyard, sticky-sweaty occasions, where I’d always prefer something a little brighter and lighter.

There are lots of no-mayo pasta salads on Food52 that fit the bill. This one features a saucy peperonata with sherry vinegar and capers. This one has pesto, olives, and lemon zest. And this one is the ultimate ode to summer tomatoes.

All of these, like so many no-mayo pasta salads, have one thing in common: cheese. Maybe it’s milky mozzarella or ground-up Parmesan. But its purpose is always the same—to add some richness or creaminess and apologize for the shall-not-be-named missing ingredient.

This pasta salad makes no apologies.

It has five ingredients, each one of which confidently holds its own, like Lady Gaga’s outfits at the Met Gala: pasta, peppers, anchovies, walnuts, and olives. (You have to picture paparazzi hooting and hollering after each one.)

I’ve seen this combo work wonders for years at my family’s annual summer reunion—not at dinner, but before dinner, while we drink and snack as the sun slumps in the sky. My mom is known for overdoing it on appetizers, and her strategy is usually the same: roasted peppers, mixed with mashed anchovies and olive oil, a big bowl of roasted nuts, and a just-as-big bowl of briny olives. It’s the sort of spread that people spoil their supper over (though I was raised to believe that’s a good thing).

It turns out, all you need to do is mix these ingredients together and add pasta, and you get a side salad that’s repeat-worthy good. Like classic pasta salad, it would be happy next to hamburgers and hot dogs, or grilled chicken, or tempeh kebabs. But I’d just as soon make this alone and call it a day.

a plate of food with a fork and knife © Provided by Food52

Pasta Salad With Roasted Peppers, Green Olives, Walnuts & Anchovies

By Emma Laperruque

  • 3 bell peppers, preferably a mix of warm colors (red, orange, yellow), halved
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups walnut pieces and halves
  • 1/2 pound short-shaped pasta
  • 3/4 cup pitted and torn Castelvetrano olives
  • 1 (2-ounce) can anchovy fillets, drained and finely chopped
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pinch osher salt, plus more for the pasta water

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Related video: Martha Stewart's One-Pan Pasta

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