Crazy Pasta Salad with Cucumber-Corn Pesto

SERVES: 6 as a main, 10 as a side

The food processor is going to be your very best friend here as most of the work of this pasta salad involves chopping. If you don’t have one, that's ok! Great time to hone your knife skills. You can easily grate the cheese and corn on a box grater, coarsely chop the almonds and finely chop the herbs and jalapeno by hand.

Active Time: 45 Mins

Total Time: 45 mins plus chilling

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Produce

  • 1 pound cucumbers, (a mix of kinds is fun here)
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2 ears yellow corn
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 heaping, packed cups of herbs, such as parsley, cilantro, and/or dill (from about 2 bunches total)

Pantry

  • Kosher salt
  • 12 ounces mixed pasta shapes with differing textures
  • ¾ cup (3½ ounces) roasted unsalted almonds
  • ¾ cup olive oil, plus additional for drizzling and serving
  • ⅓ cup white or red wine vinegar

Dairy

  • 6 ounces (⅓-pound wedge) manchego

1. Make the pasta:

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt very generously.
  • Examine cook times on the boxes of your chosen pastas. Add the pasta with the longest cooking time to the pot and stir. Back out the rest of the pasta shapes according to their cook times, and begin checking for doneness at 2 minutes less than the package instructions direct. For example: if you’re using rigatoni, orecchiette, spaghetti, and ditalini, with 12, 9, 8, and 6 minute cook times, respectively, add the rigatoni first, followed by the orecchiette 3 minutes later and so on. Pasta is surprisingly more forgiving than we think! So if one shape needs another 30 seconds to become al dente but the others seem to be done, don’t fret. (But note! This is a great time to cook your pasta TRULY al dente, as the pasta will soak up a lot of the pesto and plump as it sits.)
  • Drain the pasta, toss with a drizzle of olive oil, and transfer to the refrigerator. Toss once or twice as it’s cooling.

2. Make the cucumber corn pesto:

  • Add ¾ cup roasted almonds to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse just until coarsely chopped. (Don’t overdo it– keep the pieces nice and chunky.) Transfer to a bowl and reserve for serving.
  • Remove the rind from 6 ounces of manchego and chop the wedge into cubes. Add to the food processor and pulse until the cheese has the texture of gravel. Transfer to the largest bowl you have. (You’ll use this for tossing the pasta salad.)
  • Peel any cucumbers with thick skins (such as classic American cucumbers). Roughly chop into large pieces and transfer to the food processor. Pulse just a few times, until coarsely chopped, and the pieces range from the size of an almond to the size of a pine nut. IMPORTANT: Pulse conservatively! You may only need to pulse 3-4 times. You’re looking for chopped, not pureed, cucumbers. Transfer cucumbers to the bowl with the cheese.
  • Coarsely chop 1 jalapeno, seeds and all, and add to the food processor.
  • Shuck the corn and cut off the kernels with a chef’s knife. Transfer the kernels to the food processor, along with 1 clove of garlic. Process until the corn is very finely chopped and milky, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed. Transfer to the bowl with the cucumbers.
  • Measure 2 packed cups of parsley, dill, and/or cilantro. Including the tender stems is totally fine. This will seem like a ton of herbs, but the volume will decrease tremendously when they’re chopped, so don’t hold back.
  • Add to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to the cucumber bowl.
    Add ¾ cup olive oil and ⅓ cup white or red wine vinegar. Stir to combine. Season very generously with salt. Both the cucumbers and the pasta will soak up a lot of seasoning, so don’t be shy here.

3. Add the pasta and toss

  • Add the pasta and toss to combine. Season again with salt.
  • Transfer to the refrigerator until chilled, about 1 hour and up to 5 hours in advance. Or eat at room temperature– your choice! Just before serving, add the almonds and toss to combine. Now taste! Season again with more salt, more vinegar, and/or additional chopped jalapenos. Drizzle with more olive oil and serve.

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