This pasta salad may a little more time than other pasta dishes, but it’s worth the wait.
What Pasta to Use?
There are two key components to this recipe – the dressing, and the pasta. For salads, the pasta choice is important as it’s what holds the dressing, the source of flavour in the salad. Fortunately, there are several options. Fusilli is not only one of the most common pasta options but also helps catch sauce in its many grooves. However, penne, macaroni, or conchiglie are also solid options for holding sauce, especially a colder one that has had time to thicken.
Cooking the Pasta
Cooking the pasta for this roast tomato and basil pasta salad is another key component. If the pasta is too soft, it will turn mushy as it cools, and breaks down further in the dressing. Too hard, and the pasta will tighten up when it cools, resulting in pasta with too much of a bite.
Usually, I would recommend cooking pasta for a minute longer than it takes to reach al dente, then instantly submerging it in ice-cold water. However, the pasta will be combined with the sauce, then chilled so I recommend cooking for 1-2 minutes less than the packet timings.
The pasta will continue to cook in the hot sauce. Mixing the hot sauce and pasta also helps prevent the cooked pasta from sticking together due to the higher levels of starch on its exterior surface.
IMPORTANT: The sauce packs a lot of flavours, but it’s still important to season the pasta’s cooking water. This allows it to absorb the flavour as it cooks. Debates will rage over the water’s exact salt requirements and whether it should taste like the sea. Personally, I like to add a teaspoon of salt to a litre of water, so it tastes like salted water. Don’t worry as you won’t eat any of this salt, it will only serve to season the cooked pasta.
Pasta Salad: Roast Tomato & Basil Dressing
While it’s referred to here as a salad dressing, it’s not too dissimilar to any other pasta sauce. Firstly, we need to cook the tomatoes, with the preferred method here, being roasting. Then, we’ll blend, strain, and mix with a splash of olive oil and basil. Olive oil will help give the sauce a glossy sheen while sweetening the sauce. The basil will give a peppery kick that helps bring out the flavour.
How to Serve This Pasta Salad
People often want a hot meal, and it’s understandable as it brings untold comfort and brings back find childhood memories. However, cold food tastes better in terms of flavour in many cases as many aromatic compounds are more pronounced on the tongue than scorching hot food. Saying that, when I say cold, I don’t mean chilled as those same fibres begin to contract and tighten in cold conditions. Therefore, I recommend bringing this salad up to room temperature before serving.
Roast Tomato & Basil Pasta Salad
- Baking Tray
- Parchment Paper
- 500 g Fusilli Pasta
- 2 Tsp Salt
- 2 Litres of Water
- 1 Green Pepper Thinly Sliced
- 150 g Cherry Tomatoes
- For the Dressing
- 800 g Plum Tomatoes Cut in Halve
- 1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
- 3 Garlic Cloves Peeled
- 2 Shallots Peeled and Halved
- 80 ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Salt / Black Pepper to taste
- Juice from ½ Lemon
- 15 g Basil Leaves
- Preheat the oven to 160C or 140C Fan 0r 325F or Gas 3
- Lay the tomatoes on a baking tray lined with parchment. Drizzle with half of the olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the tomatoes. Roast in the oven for 40-45 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down and have just begun to char.
- Add 2 tsp of salt to 2 litres of water and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 1-2 minutes less than the packet instructions.
- Remove the tomatoes and allow to cool slightly so they’re comfortable to handle. Transfer the tomatoes with the basil to a blender or using a hand blender, blitz until smooth. Slowly blend the olive oil, and lemon juice. Season to taste.
- Drain the pasta and toss with the dressing. Set aside to cool and serve at room temperature.