Oops! I thought I shared this recipe about a year ago, but I guess I hadn’t. I’ve had more than a few requests. Ah well, here it goes: I give to you: THE BEST PASTA SALAD ON EARTH!
Throw out everything you know about those horrible pasta salads from the nineties; this is completely different. When I created this recipe I thought, what does everyone love to eat? Then I put it together in one dish. The assertive honey-lime vinaigrette that goes with it ties together all the tropical flavors. I often serve this at parties when I need to feed a crowd. It’s both easy and generous, which makes guests happy. No matter how much I make, it’s gobbled up with no leftovers. You can easily adjust this recipe to make more or less of it. As it stands now, you’ll get 8-10 portions. If this is at a buffet, it’ll serve double that.
1 box medium shell pasta
4 large cloves of garlic
1/3 c olive oil
1 T honey
1 T Dijon mustard
1 lb medium-sized shrimp
1/2 -1 t red pepper flakes (you decide heat)
2 Haas avocados, diced
2 mangoes, diced
1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, roasted* and diced
1/4 c chopped green onions
1/4 c cilantro, chopped
1. Cook pasta to al dente in a large pot of very salty water. Meanwhile make the vinaigrette.
2. Zest and juice 2 limes. Make a garlic paste with 2 of the garlic cloves by either grating it with a microplane or mincing it, sprinkling it with salt, and smashing it with the flat edge of a knife. Add juice, zest, garlic paste, honey and mustard to the bottom of a small bowl. Whisk it all together. Slowly stream in the olive oil as you whisk. Season aggressively with sea salt and black pepper. Taste it. It should be quite assertive. If you slightly cough, it’s perfect. This dressing gets absorbed by the pasta, so if it’s not strong to begin, it won’t stand up.
3. Put hot, drained pasta in a large bowl. Pour vinaigrette over it and stir. Add bell pepper. Leave at room temperature. If I am making this for a party, I sometimes pause at this moment. Shrimp and avocado need to be added very close to serving for freshness’ sake and I don’t want to wilt the herbs or cook the mango by adding it to the hot pasta. If making this to eat quickly, put it in the fridge to chill slightly.
4. Just before serving, heat a large skillet with a few tablespoons of olive oil over a medium high flame. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and the red pepper flakes. Once sizzling and fragrant, add shrimp. Season with sea salt and black pepper. When shrimp has slightly curled and blushed (flirty crustations!), turn them over and turn off heat. Squirt with the juice of half of the remaining lime. Allow shrimp to cook in the residual heat of the pan for another minute or two, until pink on both sides. Do not overcook. Add shrimp and all the pan juices to pasta salad.
5. Add the remaining ingredients, making sure to douse the avocado with the remaining lime juice. Stir to combine and season with sea salt and black pepper. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
*To Roast a Bell Pepper:
1. Place it on the flame of a gas burner. Use tongs to turn it as it blackens.
Place pepper on the top rack of an oven. Broil on high. Turn a few times to blacken every side.
2. Put blackened pepper in a bag and twist the top to lock in the steam. Set aside for about 15 minutes. Use the sides of the bag to massage off the blackened skin as you take it out. Quickly rinse off the extra black parts, but don’t run it under the water and lose all the flavor.
3. Remove stem and cut it open. Remove the ribs and seeds. Now it can be cut into whatever shape you need.