I'm known for my delicious pasta salads. In my former restaurant days, some form of them always graced my take-out deli case and rarely do I leave them out of a summer gathering.
But I haven't be able to master making a truly tasty one without using mayonnaise … until now!
Not that I have anything against mayo, but I think it gets over used (and then ruins the dish). Also, plenty of people don't like it or have decided (for whatever reason) to stay away from it.
I honestly didn't expect this to be good. I thought I'd be compromising on taste. Never did I expect this to be even better than my mayonnaise version: nuttier, healthier, and still a creamy delight, bringing out the flavor of all the ingredients.
Creamy Mediterranean Pasta Salad (Without Mayo!)
Serves 6 or more
- 1 lb. mini penne pasta (or other small pasta shape); gluten-free or regular
- 1 cup raw cashews, filled to just over the top with water
- 1 cup kale broken into small pieces (core removed)
- 1/2 cup broccoli florets
- 1/2 cup frozen baby peas, defrost
- 1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, medium diced
- 1/2 cup fresh tomatoes, medium diced
- 1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and quarters
- 1/4 cup fresh scallions, slivered
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, slivered
- 1 medium garlic clove, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions but slightly under-cook by reducing the cooking time by about a minute. This will ensure that the pasta will be al dente (firm, but still cooked). Drain and add to a large bowl.
In the meantime, add the cashews and water to a mixer or food processor and purée until creamy and smooth. Add more water a bit at a time if too thick. Season with salt and pepper.
Stir in enough of the cashew cream to moisten all of the pasta.
Place a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add oil and heat and then add the garlic and cook for about 15 seconds or just until it begins to color.
Add broccoli, kale and peas and cook just until the kale begin to slightly wilt (about a minute). Season, stir and remove from the heat and add the contents of the pan to the pasta in the bowl.
Add the remaining ingredients, stir and check the seasoning. Refrigerate to chill.
Note: If a bit too dry, add a bit more of the cashew cream or drizzle with a bit of extra virgin olive oil (or both).