Looking for a pasta salad recipe with some punch-you-in-the-face flavor? Me too!
Doesn’t it seem like a lot of pasta salads are kind of bland? There’s no reason why they should have to be. I recently went on a mission to create a picnic-ready pasta salad that was bursting with flavor. And I totally succeeded.
What Makes This Salad So Flavorful
- Fresh garlic. I used three whole garlic cloves in the dressing. Want more garlic flavor? Use 4 or 5 cloves.
- Adobo sauce. I love the smoky flavor of adobo sauce. I also love the spiciness of it. My trick to using adobo sauce? Buy a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Throw the contents into a blender until you have a smooth sauce. Place in a tight-lidded container and freeze. Scoop out desired amount when you need it.
- Lime: Lime adds a tangy citrus flavor. Add more if you desire!
- Sharp cheddar cheese: There is a time and a place for sharp cheddar cheese, and this salad is both. Look for extra sharp cheese if you can find it.
- Apple cider vinegar: The pasta is “soaked” in apple cider vinegar and additional vinegar is added to the sauce.
- Scallions: I add scallions to everything. Scallions are great for adding onion flavor to a dish without being overwhelming like raw onion can be. And they’re cheap too!
Flavoring Pasta With Vinegar
Infusing pasta with flavor has traditionally been limited to salting the water while the pasta cooks. I took it a step further and added apple cider vinegar to the pasta after it has cooked and been drained. I saw this tip on another website (sorry, can’t remember the name) and thought I would give it a try while attempting to make a summer pasta salad that is jam-packed with flavor. Here’s how to do it:
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Add salt to cooking water.
- Once pasta is cooked, drain and return to the cooking pot.
- Stir in 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar per pound of pasta.
- Let the pasta cool. As it cools, the pasta will take on some of the vinegar flavor. Once the pasta is cool, it’s ready to be made into salad.
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Chipotle-Lime Chicken Bacon Pasta Salad
Yield: 10 servings
Prep Time: 25 min
Cook Time: 10 min
- 1 pound of pasta (your choice, I used radiatori)
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup shredded chicken (I used rotisserie)
- 1/2 cup chopped bacon
- 3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn, thawed
- 1 Roma tomato, chopped
- 3 scallions, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup half and half (or heavy whipping cream)
- 1 lime, juiced
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons adobo sauce (From a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. In a pinch, use sriracha sauce)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Garlic powder, to taste
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Apple cider vinegar; Optional, to taste
- Prepare pasta according to package directions. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and return to the cooking pot. Pour in apple cider vinegar and mix. Let the pasta cool.
- Place all dressing ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add garlic powder, salt and pepper, and apple cider vinegar to taste.
- Combine pasta with salad ingredients. Reserve some of the add-ins (like bacon bits, scallions, corn, etc.) to place on top for presentation. Stir in sauce and mix well. Chill. Top with reserved toppings and serve.