Antipasto Pasta Salad, America's Test Kitchen Way

I recently bought The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook and I have bookmarked a lot of recipes. To be honest, I didn't bookmark this particular recipe, because it didn't fully grab my full attention...

The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook
...until last weekend, when I caught an episode of American's Test Kitchen, and watched as the salad was prepared on their show. I was intrigued about a few techniques they used-- and then I realized that I had most of the pantry ingredients. My son, who has moved home with us again, exclaimed "that looks so good, mom", as we watched the episode together.  Those green eyes, with thick lashes batted at me-- and I knew I was destined to make this.  This salad takes a few steps to prepare, but I have to say that each step was worth the effort.  Let's begin:

The choice of meats from ATK are pepperoni and soppressata (or salami).  My husband and son love pepperoni (I don't, particularly) so I stuck with that. Here's ATK's Tip #1-- we're about to quickly cook the meats in the microwave to prevents the salad from becoming greasy. I like this!

Arrange pepperoni in single layer on paper towel. Cover with another paper towel and layer sopresatta on towel. Top with another paper towel and microwave on highest power until meat begins to render fat, about 1 minute. Set meat aside. I have drained a 12-oz jar, each, of roasted red peppers, and pepperoncini. I love pepperoncini, and they're a great condiment to add to a sandwich-- and that's why I usually have a jar on hand. I like to roast my own red bell peppers, but once in a while I buy them in a jar for a quick shortcut.

 Per ATK's recommendation, I used provolone cheese, grated.  According to America's Test Kitchen, tasters preferred strong aged provolone cheese to milder cheeses, especially when grated into the salad for even distribution.Who's to argue with them? Timing is everything, with this salad, so the dressing comes next:

The ingredients are simple-- red wine vinegar, a little mayonnaise, garlic, olive oil, and some of the reserved juice from the pepperoncini. Of course, I'm going to add the red pepper flakes, because I've learned to add just the right amount for a little bit of kick.   So, now that prep work is done and it's time for pasta:

Campanelle pasta is one of my favorites to cook with.  Cook your pasta, according to package directions, until al dente.  The mushrooms (I'm still remember how tasty these were, as I type this)...

Clean and quarter the mushrooms.  You're going to reserve 1/2 cup of this dressing to toss onto the hot pasta.  You'll bring the remaining dressing to simmer in large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the mushrooms and cook until they release their juices and are lightly browned, about 8 minutes.

Transfer to large bowl and cool.  At this point, I could have just eaten the entire bowl of mushrooms!

In fact, I'm going to make just the mushrooms for a tasty Friday Happy Hour snack. But, back to the pasta salad...  drain the cooked pasta and return it to the pot.  ATK's Tip #2: adding vinegar and dressing to hot pasta will help the flavors to absorb faster (I do this when making my German potato salad).

Drain the pasta, return to pot, and toss with ½ cup dressing and the remaining vinegar.

Adjust seasonings, spread dressed pasta on rimmed baking sheet, and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes (truthfully, I let it cook to room temperature and it was fine).   It's time to bring all of the prep work and steps together to create the finished product.  Fresh basil! Yes, that's important. I have fresh basil in my garden and I look forward to these plants flourishing as the temperatures get warmer.

Add meat, provolone, roasted red peppers, chopped pepperoncini, basil, and cooled pasta to mushrooms and toss well. Season with salt and pepper.

 As Christopher Kimball usually says, "so there you have it".  It's quite colorful, don't you think?
VERDICT: Since I'm not a big fan of pepperoni, I found that flavor to be a little too dominate for my own personal taste. However, my husband and son loved this recipe.  They thought the pepperoni ratio was just right for them-- so adjust according to your personal preference. I picked out the mushrooms and ate them with great relish, they are that good.  This salad is hearty enough as a main dish, but could also be a side dish. From start to finish, this salad took over an hour to prepare. I would definitely make it again, especially for a potluck. It's flavorful, colorful and I think it would be a big hit.

I am linking this recipe to "Souper Sundays", which is hosted by the lovely and talented Deb at Kahakai Kitchen.  Each Sunday, she posts a round up of tasting recipes for Soups, salads, sandwiches or stews. I always look forward to what she's going to post each Sunday afternoon.

The printable recipe for this delicious salad is at the bottom of this post. This recipe was originally printed in the October 2007 issue of Cook's Country, which I also subscribe to.

Enjoying my weekend in the kitchen,

Antipasto Pasta Salad, from Cook's CountryThe parent TV Show to the Cook's Country Magazine ...
See Antipasto Pasta Salad, from Cook's Country on Key Ingredient.
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