There's something so comforting about tiny pasta shapes like ditalini. And though little pasta shapes are often reserved for soups and sauces, such as pastina, they're excellent in pasta salads too. In this Ditalini Pasta Salad with Peas, the ditalini's cute little tubular shape is perfect for catching all the delicious lemon dijon dressing. It really makes for a perfectly flavorful bite of food.
It's also loaded with English peas, sugar snap peas, and cubed mozzarella for a super satisfying and well-rounded pasta salad everyone will love.
And yes, pasta salads in general often accompany burgers, hot dogs, large format meats, and other summer meals. But they can also accompany your lunch salads and sandwiches all year long.
And if you love this Ditalini Pasta Salad, you'll probably also love this other amazing pasta salad from my site, Lemon Arugula Pasta Salad.
How to Make Ditalini Pasta Salad (no mayo)
Like many Italian-inspired recipes, this pasta salad recipe is simple. It relies on good ingredients and techniques to achieve the most flavor out of few ingredients.
Ditalini Pasta Salad calls for just 12 ingredients, and that includes olive oil and salt! You probably already have some of the ingredients on hand
For the "Assembly"
- Ditalini Pasta: Ditalini is one of my favorite pasta shapes. They're tiny little tubes with a nice al dente bite and hold their shape well because of how small they are. A strong shape is important for pasta salad. The pasta must stand up to other hearty ingredients. Longer, less stable shapes, such as penne, can get crushed.
- Fresh Mozzarella: It's best to cut the mozzarella into small cubes, only slightly larger than the pasta. This way it won't sink to the bottom of the bowl.
- English Peas: This recipe calls for fresh, but you could easily use frozen peas. They truly make any recipe better.
- Sugar Snap Peas: Though you can choose one type of pea to make this pasta salad, it really is best with both types. The contrast in shape and texture between English peas and sugar snap peas makes for a more interesting eating experience
- Mint Leaves
- Basil Leaves: Again, you can easily just use one herb in this recipe, but I urge you to try using both together if you can. The combination of basil and mint is really nice and more complex.
For the Dressing
There's no mayo in this pasta salad. Instead it relies on a delicious lemony dijon dressing. It's so light and flavorful.
- Fresh lemon juice and zest
- Dijon mustard: Dijon mustard pairs really well with lemon. The two ingredients work together to contrast all the richness in the pasta and cheese.
- Freshly grated ginger: The freshly grated is important for this recipe. Powdered ginger doesn't have the same effect in this recipe.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- White balsamic vinegar: If two peas are better than one and two herbs are better than one, then two acids are also better than one. Lemon and white balsamic vinegar are great together because lemon is very sour, and white balsamic is a little bit sweeter.
Step 1: The first step is to boil a medium-large pot of heavily salted water. Because you'll be rinsing the pasta later, you want the water to be pretty salty. This way it can soak up some salt as it cooks, making the whole salad taste well-seasoned, not bland.
Step 2: While the water heats up you can slice the sugar snap peas and place them in a mesh sieve along with the English peas. You'll also prepare an ice bath by combining water and ice in a medium bowl.
Step 3: Once the water boils, add the Ditalini to the pot and stir it to prevent it from sticking. Then lower the sieve-full of peas into the pot so that the peas cook in the water but remain in the sieve. Set a timer for 2.5 minutes, then remove the peas and place directly into the ice bath.
Step 4: Continue to boil pasta until it's cooked to your desired doneness. Then dump it through a colander in the sink and rinse the pasta with cold water for about 30 seconds. Transfer the pasta in a large mixing or serving bowl.
Step 5: Transfer the peas from the ice bath to the pasta. (try to shake the peas as dry as possible) Then add the mozzarella and herbs to the bowl as well.
Step 6: Finally, 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. And enjoy!
- Taste for seasoning throughout. Especially when salting the pasta water and making the 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.
- Other pasta shapes: If using a different pasta shape for this recipe, try to stick to a sturdy one such as corkscrew, orzo, or stelline.
- Dairy-free: If you or one of your guests eats dairy free, simply leave out the mozzarella. Use your favorite dairy-free cheese substitute instead.
- Gluten free: simply use your favorite gluten free pasta.
- Protein-packed: Add protein in the form of grilled shrimp or chick peas. These flavors also work really well together.
Pasta Salad FAQ
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.
Is an ice bath necessary when blanching peas? Yes. Using an ice bath to shock boiled veggies is an easy extra step you should take to prevent them from turning dark and soggy. 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.
Ditalini Pasta Salad RecipePrint
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
- 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, plus more to taste.
- 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