Easy Tomato & Pasta Salad
Pasta salad extraordinaire - tomatoes & pasta in an A+ one-bowl meal. Whole-grain pasta, baby kale, basil, and the best tomatoes you can get your hands on, with a generous drizzle of strong harissa dressing.
Tomato season is officially on from where I stand. Using a mother lode of assorted cherry, zebra, and heirloom tomatoes, I made this quick, summer-tastic pasta salad for a picnic the other day. Whole-grain pasta, baby kale, basil, and the best tomatoes you can get your hands on get a generous drizzle of strong harissa dressing (garlic, harissa, nutritional yeast, etc.). This is exactly what you want to be making during peak tomato season, and you can whip up the dressing and slice the tomatoes as your pasta cooks.
Beyond that, everything comes together in a flash, and good pasta salad is always a crowd pleaser. I've added some alternate suggestions below as well, building on the general concept. Enjoy!
Variations & Add-ins
I've suggested some additional toppings in the recipe below:
- Lentils: I was disappointed that I didn't have any black lentils cooked and on-hand, because I would have added those for the added substance and nutrition boost. If you have some, add them!
- Olives: Olives were a great addition, and I enjoyed pasta salad leftovers with a bit of slivered makrut lime leaves tossed in (so good!).
- Almonds: Whole toasted almonds - yes for the crunch, and everything else that makes almonds delicious.
- Flowers: Added a bit of pretty with some dried herb flowers.
You don't really need any of these, the whole thing is good without (especially if your tomatoes are on point), I guess what I'm encouraging is a bit of latitude when it comes to add-ins and flare. You could even make a nice, clear, garlic broth, and pour it over a bowl of leftovers for a beautiful soup.
Easy Tomato & Pasta Salad
This is the quintessential summer salad. It travels beautifully, and is perfect for any family-style get-together. Use a mix of the best tomatoes you can get your hands on. I love a mix of heirlooms, green zebras, and multi-colored cherry tomatoes cut into bite-sized bursts of summer. Bonus - you can make the dressing a day or two ahead of time. To make this gluten-free, use a gluten-free pasta
- 1/4 pound kale, loosely chopped or baby kale
- 8 ounces dried whole-grain short pasta
- 1 teaspoon whole caraway seeds
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 2 tablespoons harissa paste
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup water or almond milk
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon tahini (optional)
- 2 pounds of tomatoes, halved or quartered
- lots of fresh basil, torn or thinly sliced
- to serve, any or all of the following: herb flowers, thinly sliced makrut lime leaves, torn olives, chopped toasted almonds, cooked black or French lentils
Arrange the kale in a large serving bowl. Cook the pasta in salted water per the package instructions, drain, and shake off any additional water.
Make the dressing by toasting the caraway in a dry skillet just until fragrant - a minute or two, tossing regularly. Transfer to a mortar and pestle, and crush the seeds. Add the garlic, and the salt, and crush into a paste. Work in the harissa, followed by the lemon juice, and then the water, eventually the nutritional yeast, and tahini (if using). Taste and add more salt if needed (I sometimes add a bit of sweetness at this step too if the lemon is too assertive).
Just before serving pour 1/3 of the dressing over the kale and toss well. Add the pasta, another third of the dressing, and toss again. Arrange the tomatoes, and basil on top of the kale-pasta, and give the gentlest toss, being extra nice to the tomatoes. Drizzle with the remaining dressing, and top with any of the suggestion extra toppings. Enjoy!
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I topped this with roasted pepitas and it was great!
I just made this recipe but the Harissa dressing is extremely spicy! I just put 1 tbsp of Harissa in the dressing recipe (not the recommended 2 tbsp) and only placed half of the entire dressing recipe on the salad and its nearly inedible!
I love those kinds of dishes! Full of vegetables and pasta! Both are my favorites! I love pasta so much that sometimes I am thinking that I was an Italian in my previous life :D hahahah xoxo
Another beautiful recipe! And so versatile... Quick question: I know there's no equal, but do you have a suggested alternative to nutritional yeast for those trying to go yeast-free? I love the its taste and cheesiness, and I don't know how to even come close?!
Not off the top of my head, but perhaps someone else will jump in with a suggestion or two!
Heye Heidi! Loving the pasta recipes lately ;) What's the difference with the tahini based dressing? Is it to mellow the harrisa? Would love to see a post about how you put together and balance your dressings - is there an outline ratio you tend to use? xxxxx Hannah-phoebe
Heidi, you mention tahini in your instructions but it's not in the list of ingredients. I also made a pasta tomato salad last night but I used tortellini and roasted tomatoes because my tomatoes were a bit over-ripe. Very happy with the results. Looking forward to trying the Harissa dressing.
HS: Hi Terri - thanks! Fixed.
Can I use Harissa powder instead of paste? In the same proportion? TY, Heidi ~ love your blog & cookbooks!
HS: Hi Kristin - I think I would start with less, an then add more of the powdered version to taste, just to be safe.
You have a typo above. You omitted tahini (optional) from the ingredient list and substituted a second mention of harissa instead. Recipe looks great.
Thanks Seana! - Fixed :)!
OMG that is so beautiful! I can almost taste it. I make my own harrisa and I LOVE the taste of it but I bet this would be good with homemade (is there any other kind?) Asian dressing as well....Yum!! I wish my tomatoes were doing better. I have some Indigo Rose ones growing but they are slow....
Did you use a harissa powder or paste? If so, which brand? Thanks. This recipe sounds yummy. Also, what are makrut lime leaves and where to find? Is this different than Kaffir Lime Leaves? Thank you again...
HS: Hi Jennifer - I use paste, and bounce around different brands. And yes: kaffir lime. They freeze well, so stock up when you come across them :).