Black Pepper Balsamic Strawberry Pasta Salad.
Time to freak out Monday with strawberry pasta salad!
Before you click that big red button on the upper left corner to unsee this, hear me out! Because strawberry pasta salad is a serious thing. Fantastic thing. Reeeeally delicious thing.
This is definitely a side dish for most people, but it’s easily dinner for me. I love all things strawberry and can’t ever pass up a strawberry dish. It’s been this way since I was a kid. If I could ever find the elusive strawberry scented Chap Stick instead of cherry, I was so ridiculously excited that I couldn’t stand it. I’d hoard it.
Strawberry flavored candy was always my go-to.
Strawberries were my first reach on a fruit plate. Always and forever!
The only thing I wasn’t into was strawberry ice cream, but that’s just because I’m a chocolate girl. Everything else? Bring on the berries.
So as you can imagine, my level of excitement for this pasta salad is UP there. It’s high. Insane. Crazy!
I know! How surprising!
One day maybe I won’t be sooo predictable.
But really, if you’ve been reading my blog during any summer over the last ten years, I usually go on and on about how I’m not a fan of pasta salads. The traditional pasta salad with noodles and ham cubes and cheese cubes and pepperoni and Italian dressing? SO not for me. Mostly because I just don’t love any of those ingredients on their own.
Except for cheese. OMG. Of course the cheese.
So I’m always looking for other fun and fancy pasta salad ideas. Half of you are probably going to think this is weird. Apparently strawberries in savory dishes can be polarizing (look away from this strawberry pizza then!) and tricky. But if you’re a lover of the sweet and savory like I am, and also a huuuuuge lover of strawberries?
I think you’ll be into it.
Also! Side note! I have never been crazy over black pepper. But here? Ooomph. I adore it. It gives this little punch to the salad that is just so fantastic. Such a perfect BITE, you know?
Here’s how we do it!
The strawberries are going to chill in some balsamic vinegar and black pepper for a while. Get all full of flavor, if you will. Act like a strawberry sponge and soak all that goodness up.
And then, we’re going to use the balsamic in the bottom of the bowl to make a quick little vinaigrette.
Boil some pasta. Add lots of fresh spinach because it will totally wilt with the heat of the pasta. And while I’m talking about that, I’ll tell you that this is SO good both warm and cold. I love it warm, right after making, because the hot pasta kind of melts the goat cheese. But it’s super flavorful and delicious after sitting in the fridge too. Best of both worlds, I tell you.
I toss in some thinly sliced cucumber too. It gives that crisp, fresh flavor that a summery pasta salad begs for. And it’s delicious with the balsamic, of course.
The flavors here just work and create a perfect taste explosion in your mouth.
Basically, serve it up and die and go to heaven.
- 16 ounces strawberries halved (and hulled if you wish!)
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper plus more for topping
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 8 ounces ziti pasta
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 garlic clove minced
- pinch of salt
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 8 ounces baby spinach
- 1 seedless cucumber thinly sliced
- 4 ounces goat cheese crumbled
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
Place the strawberries in a large bowl and pour the balsamic vinegar over top. Sprinkle on the black pepper and toss the strawberries well. I like to toss them every few minutes while prepping the rest of the salad.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the directions.
While the pasta is boiling, pour 2 to 3 tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar into a smaller bowl from the big bowl of strawberries. Whisk in the honey, dijon mustard, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stream in the olive oil while whisking until the dressing is combined.
Place the fresh spinach on top of the strawberries in the bowl. As soon as the pasta is finished, drain it and place it on top of the spinach. Drizzle on a few tablespoons of the dressing so the pasta doesn't stick together. Let the pasta sit, untossed, on top of the spinach so it wilts - about 5 minutes.
Toss the pasta with the spinach and the strawberries until it is combined. Add in the cucumber and the goat cheese. Sprinkle on some extra black pepper. Toss with more dressing (I like to keep adding some spoonfuls and then tasting, leaving a bit on the side to spoon on.) Top with the herbs and serve!
Just want that entire bowl to myself.