I don’t trust people who claim to not like pasta salad. Pasta is good, and so is mayonnaise. Often there are other ingredients involved that are not pasta or mayonnaise, and they are also good. Sometimes it’s just too hot to eat a steaming bowl of spaghetti, but what am I going to do? Stop eating pasta from the end of June until the beginning of September? No, I’m going to eat pasta salad.
In terms of shapes, I’m a big fan of the classic macaroni elbow, but any noodle will do (especially if you overcook it). But a new pasta threatens to usurp the salad throne, and that pasta is the pillowy, potato-y gnocchi.
Gnocchi salad is kind of like a mixture between potato salad and pasta salad, and it’s very good. It’s one of the few pastas that doesn’t get crunchy as its starch solidifies in colder temperatures, which makes it the perfect make-ahead picnic dish — it firms up a bit, but never crunches. The little potato dumplings also have a tendency to soak up whatever dressing you toss them in, which prevents your salad from getting all watery and gross. Gnocchi also cooks up much faster than other store-bought pastas, and I do love saving time.
You can use gnocchi in nearly any pasta salad recipe, and I have taken the liberty of developing my own — which I will share with you now, because that is my job — but I urge you to riff on mine, play around with gnocchi salad, and have fun with flavours.
How to make gnocchi pasta salad
For the dressing:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic or red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Italian dipping spice mixture (I’m pretty into the Trader Joe’s Soffritto blend right now, but use your favourite)
- 2 teaspoons honey or simple syrup
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
For the salad:
- 500g of store-bought gnocchi
- 220g fresh mozzarella cheese, torn into bite-size pieces
- 1 dry punnet of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 50g of olives (your choice), chopped
- 50g of salami or other cured meat, sliced into ribbons
- About 15 basil leaves, chiffonaded (I know “chiffonade” is not really a verb, but you know what I mean!)
Add all dressing ingredients to a jar or other lidded container, close it, and shake like heck to emulsify the dressing. Set aside and let the flavours meld while you prepare the rest of the salad.
Cook the gnocchi according to the package instructions, drain, rinse with cold water, and let cool completely. Add to a large mixing bowl with the remaining ingredients and toss. Dress with three tablespoons of the dressing, toss again, and serve immediately or chill in the fridge until half an hour before serving time. You can make the salad a day ahead, just make sure to let it come back close to room temperature before serving so you can fully taste all the wonderful flavours. Serve with the leftover dressing on the side.
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