I know I've worked up a real gem of a recipe when all my people give me the same reaction. With this Good and Green Pasta Salad every reaction shared the same beginning — intrigued but not impressed with the look of things — and ended with the same question: is there anymore? At this point, it's fair to say this is one of those unassuming lick-the-bowl clean dishes that you'll make over and over again. Need a snapshot of what it's going to taste like? Imagine twirls of pasta coated in a garlicky herb cream sauce and bites of juicy sweetness from a tumble of cherry tomatoes. It's plush, summery, and completely irresistible. Let's get into what makes it special.
Two Sauces, One Pasta
This is a pasta salad for the summer. You can bring it with you to the cookouts and picnics without having to worry about it getting funky at room temperature because its creaminess is complements of a luxurious garlic cashew cream. And the pesto part of this pasta salad? Whirl together dill, basil, parsley, a little olive oil, and miso in a food processor and you've got your green sauce. Now it's highly possible you'll fall in love with each of these sauces, but they are truly magical when mixed together with a little starchy pasta water to make the dressing for this pasta salad. After making this recipe over 10 times I can say to you with complete confidence — you won't be mad you doubled the recipe.
Big Flavor How You Like It: Miso or Parmesan
I've got a major crush on this recipe because it's so accommodating. You can make it two ways. Fully plant-based and vegan, or vegetarian with cheese. The vegetarian approach is in the written recipe. Details on making it vegan are below and in the notes of the recipe :)
Make It Vegan
- Use white miso in the herb sauce. It adds the same umami depth that Pecorino and Parmesan Reggiano add in the vegetarian version. White miso is mild and slightly sweet which plays beautifully with the natural sweetness in raw cashews. Together they mellow out the sharpness of the raw garlic without ever tempering its desired bite.
- Use less salt in your pasta water: Starchy pasta water amps up the creamy factor in this pasta salad while helping to season the overall dish. Miso is pretty salty so reduce the salt used to boil your pasta. 1 tablespoon of kosher salt to 12 cups of water should do it.
Good and Green Pasta Salad
Garlic Cashew Cream Sauce
4 oz raw cashew pieces (½ cup)
4 oz ice cold water (½ cup)
1 oz. garlic cloves (about 4 to 5 fresh medium-size cloves)
Good and Green Herb Sauce
½ cup packed basil leaves
½ cup packed parsley leaves
¼ cup dill fronds
2 oz. olive oil (2 Tbsp.)
2 Tbsp. grated Pecorino Romano
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan Reggiano
For the Pasta
12 cups water
4 to 5 Tbsp. Kosher salt
1 lb. rotini, radiators, Cascatelli, or any pasta that’s clingy around sauce
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced into halves and quarters
Fresh ground black pepper
Garlic Cashew Cream Sauce: In a high speed blender combine the cashews, water, and garlic cloves. Beginning slowly, gradually increase speed of blender to high. Blend for 1 to 2 minutes or until a smooth cream forms. Transfer the cream to a large bowl and set aside.
Note: Ice cold water helps the fat in the garlic and cashews emulsify into a silky texture. A high powered blender will always produce a smoother, creamier texture than a food processor. If you're using a standard blender, soak the raw cashews in hot water for 30 minutes, drain, and then use.
Good and Green Herb Sauce: In a food processor add the basil, parsley, and dill. Pulse a few times to start chopping the herbs. With the food processor running, drizzle in the oil. Let it run for a few seconds until the sauce turns creamy green. Stop the food processor and add the Pecorino and Parmesan. Pulse a few times until the cheeses are completely mixed in. Add to the bowl with the cream sauce. Stir to combine the two sauces.
Note: If you're making the vegan version, skip the cheese and add in 2 Tbsp. of white miso after the oil has been mixed in.
For the pasta: Fill a large pot with 12 cups of water and 4 to 5 Tbsp. kosher salt. Bring to a boil. Once boiling add the pasta and cook for 12 to 14 minutes. Begin tasting the pasta for doneness at around 12 to 13 minutes. It should be cooked all the way through with a little bite and definitely not mushy.
Note: The pasta water is an ingredient in this pasta salad. By the time the pasta has cooked, it will be seasoned through with salt and we’ll have salted, starchy water aka “pasta water” to use in the final step of this recipe. If you're making the vegan version of this recipe with miso, salt your pasta water with 1 Tbsp. of kosher salt.
Scoop out about 2 cups of the pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta then transfer to the large bowl with the sauce. Using a rubber spatula, gently toss the pasta to coat in the sauce. Add up to 1 cup of pasta water a drizzle at a time, mixing until the pasta becomes creamy and coated. You’ve added enough pasta water when the pasta is creamy but there is no sauce pooling in the bottom of the bowl. Listen while you mix the pasta. It should sound creamy. This takes between ½ to 1 cup of water.
Add tomatoes and a few cracks of black pepper and toss again to coat.
Note: We take out 2 cups of pasta water for our future selves. If you’re making this pasta ahead of time, it will have time to absorb the sauce — a very good thing since it makes every bite even more delicious! While it’s busy absorbing flavor the pasta will lose some of its creamy texture. Use the extra pasta water to loosen the sauce to restore the pasta salad’s creamy texture.
Your Shopping List
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- Fresh dill
- Fresh basil
- Fresh parsley
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 1 fresh head of garlic
- Grated Pecorino Romano
- Grated Parmesan Reggiano
- Miso (vegan version)
- Raw cashew pieces
- 1 lb. pasta such as rotini, radiator, or Cascatelli