Everyone keeps pasta in the house so today I’m going to give you one tip and you can thank me later: instead of keeping spaghetti on hand as your weeknight dinner go-to, buy a pasta with some personality. Gemelli is one of my personal favorites because it’s not quite the playful corkscrew shape that feels most appropriate in a child’s mac and cheese, but it’s straight up more fun — and not to mention more versatile — than spaghetti, linguine or fettuccine.
Gemelli is also perfect for a picnic pasta salad because there is something about it that makes it look infinitely more special than your usual noodle. Which is a good thing, because this pasta salad is no boiled pasta with Italian dressing from a bottle.
This salad was born from one of those moments where I had friends coming over and despite the fact that I could have probably fed a dozen more people than I had planned, was convinced that I did not have nearly enough food for everyone. Luckily for everyone – yes, crisis averted – I had all the ingredients here in my kitchen calling to be combined.
- 1 pound (16 ounces) gemelli pasta
- ¼ cup good olive oil
- 1½ cups pesto (packaged or see recipe below)
- 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1¼ cups part-skim ricotta cheese
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1½ cups frozen peas, defrosted
- ⅓ cup pignoli aka pine nuts (optional)
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water for 10 to 12 minutes until is al dente. Drain and toss into a bowl with the olive oil. Cool to room temperature.
- In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the pesto, spinach, and lemon juice. Add the ricotta cheese and puree. Add the pesto mixture to the cooled pasta and then add the Parmesan, peas, pine nuts, tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Mix well, season to taste, and serve at room temperature.