This Ditalini Pasta Salad is loaded with English peas, sugar snap peas, and cubed mozzarella and tossed in a lemon dijon dressing. Its bright taste and presentation make it the perfect side dish all year long.
Ditalini is one of my favorite pasta shapes. They are tiny little tubes most common in soups, such as in Pasta e Fagioli. They have a nice al dente bite and hold their shape well because of how small they are. A strong shape is important for pasta salad, which must stand up to all the other ingredients. Longer less stable shapes, such as penne, can get crushed.
Though other sturdy pasta shapes such as corkscrews, orzo, and and the new elusive Cascatelli often work well in pasta salad, ditalini works best for this one. I love how its tubular shape catches the dressing and makes for a more flavorful bite. Plus they're around the same size as the peas, which looks uniform and visually appealing.
This Ditalini Pasta Salad calls for 16 ounces of cubed fresh mozzarella. 16oz may sound like a lot, but it's really perfect. Cut it into small cubes so it stays combined with the salad, rather than falling to the bottom.
English Peas and Sugar Snap Peas
It's common for ditalini pasta salad with peas to call for one type of pea. However, the contrast in shape and texture between English peas and sugar snap peas makes for a more interesting eating experience. To put it simply, two peas are better than one. You may have noticed already, but no one loves peas more than I do.
How to Make Pasta Salad
There are a couple important things to remember when making pasta salad, because pasta salad is markedly different from hot pasta dishes.
Salty Pasta Water
The first thing to remember is to heavily salt the pasta water. Because you'll be rinsing the pasta later, you want it to soak up as much salty water as it can while cooking so it still tastes good, and not bland.
Why Rinse the Pasta?
You don't have to rinse the pasta when making pasta salad, but there are a couple reasons I choose to do so. Firstly, it helps get rid of excess starch, which soaks up a lot of dressing and can make the salad dry. Secondly, it stops the cooking, so the pasta stays just as firm as you want it, not mushy.
The alternative to rinsing is to lay out the pasta on a baking sheet and stir it every few minutes to prevent sticking, until it cools. It should be completely cool so it doesn't melt the mozzarella cheese. However, this method doesn't fix the starch issue.
Blanching the Peas
Blanching is a very easy and quick way to cook vegetables and then immediately stop their cooking so they do not overcook. You can read more about blanching in my Italian Green Bean Salad Recipe, which is another excellent side salad to bring to BBQs and potlucks. See below.
Additionally, my Lemon Shrimp Risotto with Peas calls for blanching peas directly in boiling stock, similarly to this Ditalini Salad Recipe, which calls for blanching the peas directly in the pasta water. See below.
Italian Green Bean Salad
Lemon Shrimp Risotto with PeasPrint
A bright, summery pasta salad that's just as flavorful and refreshing as it is beautiful.
For The Ditalini Pasta Salad
- 1 lb Ditalini Pasta
- 16 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into half-inch cubes
- 5 oz sugar snap peas, (About 1 heaping cup)
- 5 oz English peas (about 1 cup)
- 10 mint leaves, chopped
- 10 basil leaves, chopped (Use one or the other if you don't want to buy both)
For the Dressing
- 1 Tb dijon mustard
- The juice and zest of 1 lemon
- ½ inch ginger, grated
- ½ cup plus 2Tb olive oil
- ⅛ cup white balsamic vinegar
- Boil a large pot of water and season it heavily with salt. (Note 1)
- Cube the mozzarella and slice the sugar snap peas. Set them aside.
- Prepare an ice bath in a bowl (Note 2)
- When the water boils, add the Ditalini to the pot and stir to prevent sticking. Then place all of the peas (English and sliced sugar snap) in a sieve, and lower the sieve into the pot so that the peas cook in the water but remain in the sieve. (see note 3) Set a timer for 2.5 minutes, then remove the peas and place directly into the ice bath.
- Continue to boil pasta per package instructions, or until it reaches your desired doneness. When the pasta has finished cooking, dump it through a colander in the sink. Rinse with cold water, just until pasta is cool. Place pasta in a large mixing or serving bowl.
- Strain the peas, removing any remaining ice cubes, and patting them dry with a paper towel. Add peas, mozzarella and herbs to the bowl with the Ditalini.
- Make the dressing by whisking together the lemon juice and zest, grated ginger, white balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, olive oil, and a big pinch of salt. Toss with the ditalini salad.
- Taste for seasoning! It may need more salt than what you put in your pasta water or dressing. You can refrigerate this salad until ready to serve it. Right before serving, taste it again. Pasta tends to soak up liquid, so add a splash more olive oil, vinegar, or lemon if you think it needs a lift.
- We need the pasta to soak up salty water in order for it to be tasty, especially since we have to rinse the pasta after cooking it. Taste the water before adding the pasta to make sure it tastes salty.
- Place ice and cold water in a bowl big enough to hold the English and sugar snap peas
- Use a sieve deep enough to submerge the peas into the water. OR make sure you fill the pot to the top with water to fully submerge and cook the peas.
Keywords: ditalini pasta salad with peas, ditalini pasta salad, ditalini