Acini di Pepe Pasta Salad Recipe
Try a new noodle with this acini di pepe pasta salad. Fresh asparagus, corn, tomatoes, and pepe pasta with yogurt, dill and Parmesan dressing.
If there’s a recipe for dinner in my house in the summer, it’s basically grilled protein + cold side dish #1 + cold side dish #2 (or maybe a hot side dish like Dr. Pepper baked beans once in awhile if I’m feeling motivated, but not often).
It definitely involves pasta salad at least once, if not multiple times per week. Now, growing up in the Midwest in the 80’s, pasta salad usually meant either macaroni salad with celery/onion/mustard/Miracle Whip, or tri-colored rotini and Italian dressing.
I’m thankful that our pasta salad options have expanded in the past few decades, with all kinds of pasta shapes available at the grocery store now, and a seemingly endless array of flavor options.
This acini di pepe pasta salad recipe is filled with vibrant summer vegetables, and is a little change of pace from the more traditional pasta shapes like elbows and rotini.
How to find acini di pepe pasta at the store:
Acini di pepe pasta can be found with the rest of the pasta options in most grocery stores. If your favorite pasta brand doesn’t sell pepe, just be sure to browse the other brands, and you should be able to find it.
Here in the United States (Michigan, to be exact) the two brands of acini di pepe pasta that I most commonly find at stores are DeCecco (blue and yellow box) and DeLallo (small clear bag).
The shape is very similar to Israeli couscous (which I love to serve with pesto salmon and grilled sockeye salmon), and in the case of this pasta salad you can use the two interchangeably, if you wish.
Be careful, though, because acini di pepe pasta and Israeli couscous are not interchangeable in ALL recipes. Acini di pepe is a pasta that requires lots of boiling water, whereas couscous is often toasted before boiling, and requires much less water.
If you tried to use the pasta in place of Iraseli couscous in a recipe that cooked couscous in a traditional manner, your pasta would be very starchy and sticky. And while a certain type of couscous is the secret ingredient in my vegetable lasagna recipe, pepe pasta definitely wouldn’t work!
But again, for this particular pasta salad, you can absolutely use Israeli couscous!
What vegetables to use for acini di pepe salad:
I usually like to include as many vegetables as possible in my pasta salads (so they’re a starch and a vegetable side dish, all in one), and this acini di pepe recipe is no exception.
While the pasta is boiling, I sauté a fresh leek (also love leeks in savory oatmeal and colcannon soup) and some chopped asparagus. Cherry tomatoes (I used both orange and red ones, like with my blistered tomatoes) and fresh corn kernels stirred in at the end add even more vegetable goodness.
If asparagus isn’t your thing, try finely chopped broccoli. If asparagus IS your thing, don’t miss my balsamic asparagus.
I don’t even cook the corn kernels, because I think they’re delicious raw in this salad. But if you’d prefer cooked corn, feel free to use that.
This pasta salad has a light, fresh, creamy dressing:
This acini di pepe recipe is tossed in a light and tangy dressing made with Greek yogurt (which I also love in healthy buffalo chicken dip and Greek yogurt alfredo), shredded Parmesan cheese and dill.
Grated Parmesan is also fine, if you have that instead. And, if you’re not a dill lover, chopped fresh basil or chives are delicious in this salad. If you ARE a dill lover, extra dill can be used in my pimento mac and cheese or Greek chicken meatballs.
I’ve also been known to dress this salad with citrus salad dressing for a dairy free option.
Other types of acini di pepe recipes to try with the rest of the box of pasta:
You’ll need just 4 ounces of pasta for this acini di pepe salad. Once the pasta is combined with all of the vegetables, it really adds up, and makes a good sized portion that will serve four.
But that means that you’ll have 12 ounces of pasta left that you’ll need to use up.
And if you’re really adventurous, there is a sweet salad (kind of like ambrosia) made with pepe pasta called frog eye salad. Maybe serve that for dessert after a hearty plate of my country style pork ribs recipe?
- 4 ounces acini di pepe pasta
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 leek (white and light green parts only), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 1/2 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 cup corn kernels
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
- In large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions, then drain.
- Meanwhile, in large skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add leek and cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add asparagus and cook 5 to 7 minutes or until tender-crisp, stirring occasionally.
- In large bowl, stir together yogurt, cheese, dill, salt and pepper. Add corn, tomatoes, pasta and asparagus mixture; toss until well combined. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 2 days before serving.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 223Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 25mgSodium: 354mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 2gSugar: 5gProtein: 13g