This Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad Recipe is full of flavor from sun dried tomatoes, fresh basil, and cheesy breadcrumbs. Similar to a Romesco sauce, this dish is delicious hot or cold and great for picnics and cookouts. Vegan and easily gluten-free!
What is romesco sauce?
Romesco is a tomato-based sauce typically made from roasted tomatoes, garlic, nuts (such a pine nuts or almonds), olive oil, and red bell peppers. It originates from Catalonia and was originally made by fishermen to pair with their catch. Today it is a common pairing for fish and meat dishes.
This recipe is not traditional! It is a twist on this classic dish, utilizing prepared roasted red peppers, oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, and walnuts. This creates a sauce that is a bit smoky, hearty, and bright – and perfect for pasta salad.
How to Make Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad with Romesco
- Toast 1 cup walnuts on a baking sheet until fragrant and browned. Set a large pot of salted water to boil.
- In a food processor or high speed blender, combine roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, garlic, nutritional yeast, kosher salt, and lemon juice. Add 3/4 of the cooled roasted walnuts. With food processor running, stream in olive oil. Use enough so that a thick and smooth sauce emulsifies in the processor bowl.
- Toast breadcrumbs in a skillet with garlic, salt, and nutritional yeast until golden brown.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse with water after draining to remove any excess starch. Add pasta to sauce in a large bowl and stir to combine. Sprinkle generously with breadcrumbs and remaining 1/4 cup walnuts.
Other Uses for Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
- On top of roasted or crispy potatoes
- As a dip for crudité or crispy ravioli
- As a sauce on pizza
- On top of spaghetti squash
Can you store romesco sauce in the freezer?
Yes. To make this recipe ahead of time, blend ingredients as instructed and store sauce in a sealed container in the freezer for up to three months. To serve, thaw at room temperature or in a bowl of warm water.
What is the best shape of pasta for pasta salad?
Short pieces of pasta with curved edges tend to work best for salad applications. They are easy to eat with a singular fork, because no one wants to be twirling spaghetti while standing at a cookout! Shapes with curved or corkscrew-style edges (like fusilli) hold sauce and seasonings well. While shapes like macaroni and orzo can work, pasta salad is easiest to eat when a more traditional short noodle is used.
How long can pasta salad go unrefrigerated?
Bacteria can begin accumulating on cooked pasta dishes after two hours, so it’s best to store your pasta salad in a cooler if you are bringing it to a cookout or potluck party and plan to eat it at room temperature. Keep it as cold as possible until ready to serve. Do not leave a dish to sit out in the hot sun, as this can increase the replication of bacteria on the surface of the food. This post has great food safety tips for events!
How to Customize Pasta Salad
Vegan cheesy breadcrumbs and toasted walnuts are a fun way to amp up textural contrast in this dish without adding dairy. Here are some other ideas to add your own spin to this dish:
- Add fresh cherry tomatoes and pieces of red bell pepper to further complement the romesco flavor
- Include more fresh herbs, such as oregano and parsley
- Incorporate more vegetables like sweet corn, fennel, or green peas
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