romesco-style pasta salad with summer squash & smoked almonds
until next year, pasta salad!
Is summer really coming to an end? I’m almost in denial, though I’m also one of those people who loves the cooler weather: hot coffee, sweaters, butter-slicked stuffed pastas… But before we bid August farewell, here’s a grand finale to our summer pasta salad series. To recap, we started in May with a robust and satisfying avocado number, bolstered by butter beans and feta; in June, we kept it classic with my take on Italy’s pasta fredda—tuna, arugula, olives, and veggies—with an unexpected kick from Calabrian chilies; last month, we headed to the American south with sweet corn and a Cajun buttermilk dressing to complement any backyard barbeque. Today, I’m going a bit off the rails, taking inspiration not from Italy but from Spain, and particularly the nutty, vinegary romesco sauce.
Romesco and pasta are, to me, an obvious match. The traditional recipe comes from the city of Tarragona in Catalonia, and consists of nuts (usually almonds and/or hazelnuts), tomatoes, peppers, garlic, bread, olive oil, and vinegar. These are then processed into a thick paste, one with a bit of texture, not unlike pesto. And while there are strong opinions on what makes a traditional romesco, there are also plenty of variations in consistency, spice, and acidity. There’s also an overlap in the flavor profile and ingredients of gazpacho, Spain’s hallmark summer soup, which makes this dish feel even more appropriate for the end of summer.
This is by no means a typical romesco. It’s not even an Americanized romesco, which swaps the traditional dried peppers (usually ñora or choricero) for roasted red bells. Instead, I’ve created something more pasta-salad-friendly, a tangy sauce-meets-vinaigrette with far less prep time: store-bought roasted peppers and tomatoes, no breadcrumbs, and repurposing the nuts as a crunchy, salty garnish. Of course, if you have a little extra time and want to roast the peppers and tomatoes yourself, you have my full support (I’ve included instructions for that below).
As for the rest of the components, use whatever end-of-summer vegetables you like. I’ve opted for summer squash, something I’ll admit I rarely choose, but in their peak-season ripeness bring welcome, balancing sweetness (I’d also recommend roasted broccoli or broccolini florets—they pair beautifully with romesco). I’ve finished the dish with smoked almonds and creamy burrata, which might often be deemed frivolous but to me is essential here (cubed fresh mozzarella or a mild, creamy feta are good alternatives). You can watch a video of how it all comes together at the end of the recipe, too.
Thank you all for joining me on this pasta salad journey. I’m excited for fall—pasta prime time is coming up quick!
Romesco-Style Pasta Salad with Summer Squash & Smoked Almonds