Victoria at This Girl’s Gotta Eat makes a pasta salad that is SO unique! It truly pops with flavor! I made it awhile back for the catering job at Memory Fireworks and everyone really loved it. It was unusual for me to hear so many compliments on a pasta salad! I wasn’t sure it was that exciting but I must have been tired because the next day I loved it.
The directions called for grilling the zucchini and pineapple and I did that on an outdoor grill the first time. The second time I grilled it on the stove to see if there was a noticeable difference. Not a huge difference, I decided, since the salad was still excellent. But I could tell they weren’t grilled outside on the gas grill. There’s just no mistaking that outdoor grilled flavor. The final answer was that they are both good, but outdoor grilling is best for that step up in flavor.
I put a pot of salted water on to boil to make the pasta while I chopped and prepared the other vegetables. I was using zucchini, cucumber and green onions from my garden and that always gives me a thrill. Growing stuff is one of my favorite hobbies, besides cooking. I can be my own farm to table!
I sautéed the zucchini over high heat in a nonstick pan with a drizzle of olive oil and made sure they were nice and browned. That brown part gives the BEST flavor!
I emptied the zucchini onto a cutting board to cool enough to chop and added the pineapple chunks to the same skillet. I let the pineapple brown on two sides for that sumptuous flavor then emptied them into a mixing bowl.
The peel wasn’t tough on my cucumber so I diced it with the peel on and added it to my bowl. I added halved cherry tomatoes (also from my garden) and a handful of green onions.
My pasta was done to al dente and I drained it in a strainer. I cannot find gemelli anywhere in my city! We’re not fancy pasta shape people up North, I guess. I went with rigatoni because I had many boxes of it that needed to be used.
I added a squirt of ginger from the tube, a can of diced green chilies (I was out of jalapenos of any kind, unfortunately) and a few shakes of dried cilantro, being out of fresh cilantro as well. I whisked together the oil and some white wine I use for cooking and poured it over the pasta and vegetables. A good stir and I put the salad into a container, covered and chilled it for several hours.
We had salad for several meals as a side to grilled meat and loved it each time. I liked it better with jalapenos rather than the green chilies I used this time. The jalapenos were stronger and a better contrast to the sweeter vegetables. And of course they added a little more heat. But the salad as a whole is an impressive change to our usual pasta salads, refreshing and probably even a bit more healthy!
Zucchini Pineapple Pasta Salad
2 small to medium-size zucchini, cut in half lengthwise (about 4 cups)
1/2 of a peeled and cored pineapple (I used a drained 20 oz can of chunk pineapple the second time)
1/2 cup diced cucumber (I didn’t peel it)
handful of cherry tomatoes; halved (about 12)
1 lb gemelli pasta (I used rigatoni)
2 small to medium-size shallots, finely chopped (I used 1/3 cup chopped green onions)
1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger (save yourself time and use it from the tube)
2 tsp finely diced jalapeno (use more or less depending on how much spice you like (I used canned green chilies the second time)
6 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons champagne or chardonnay wine vinegar (I used some white wine that was more vinegar than wine)
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro or mint (I used a teaspoon of dried cilantro)
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Preheat grill to medium. Grill the pineapple and zucchini for a few minutes on each side until beginning to char. You still want the zucchini to have a little crunch. Remove from the grill and set aside. Once cool enough to handle, diced the pineapple and zucchini and add to a large bowl or casserole dish. Toss with the cucumber, and season lightly with salt and pepper to taste.
In a small bowl, whisk the shallots, ginger, jalapeno or hot sauce, oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add dressing to the pineapple-zucchini mixture and toss to combine.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Season with salt and cook pasta to al dente, according to package directions. Drain and cool slightly. We want the pasta to be warm enough to absorb the flavors of the vinaigrette as well as the vegetables.
Add the slightly cooled pasta to the dressed pineapple-zucchini mixture. Add the cilantro or mint and toss everything well to combine. Season with a little more salt and pepper to taste if needed. You can also add more oil or vinegar if you’d like.
Store covered in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. The salad will last for 4-5 days when refrigerated.
Adapted from This Girl’s Gotta Eat