This Smoked Mozzarella Pasta Salad has a secret ingredient: pepperoncini! This recipe is a delicious way to celebrate summer picnic season!
I don’t know how to make a small pasta salad. Seriously. Every pasta salad that I make typically involves me pulling all of my largest storage containers out of hiding. I think it’s because most of my pasta salads start with a 16oz. box of pasta. I mean I could weigh it and make 8oz. of pasta. But then I have a random half box of pasta hanging out in the cabinet.
Then you consider all of the chopping. If I’m gonna stand there dicing peppers, celery, etc…then why not just keep on going? That way I’ll have enough pasta salad for the neighborhood picnic and enough to keep some for us! And then you throw in the fact that pasta salad is delicious…yeah, that double batch is necessary!
As we head into another fun summer filled with water balloon fights, playing on the swings in the park and a healthy amount of grass mowing, pasta salad is a requirement. Today’s Smoked Mozzarella Pasta Salad includes a secret ingredient. Well, two…although I’m not sure the smoked mozzarella can be called secret since it’s in the title of the recipe.
The secret? Pepperoncini. For years, pepperoncini were just those little peppers that came inside Papa John’s pizza boxes. (Why they include pepperoncini with their pizza is still kinda strange to me…but whatever!) But then last summer, a friend made a pasta salad with sliced pepperoncini in it. Woah! Talk about a fun twist on a classic summer picnic fare.
Pepperoncini are no longer reserved just for the antipasta platter! In fact, this pasta salad could be considered an antipasta platter of sorts. Between the pepperoncini, roasted red peppers, artichokes and olives, you’ve got the makings for one delicious appetizer plate! (I couldn’t call this pasta salad an Antipasta Pasta Salad because I’ve already made that one! It’s different than this version, but it also deserves a place at the summer picnic table.)
Picnic pasta salads often get a bad rap…and rightfully so. Too often, I find that pasta salads are covered in mayo…and that’s just not how I like to roll. So for this Smoked Mozzarella Pasta Salad I used some sour cream to cut the mayo. And then I used an extra-secret ingredient…pepperoncini juice. I often use a bit of vinegar in my pasta salads, so I figured why not use some of the pickling vinegar from the jar of pepperoncini? Combine that with the smokiness from the mozzarella cheese, and you’ve got one delicious summer pasta salad. Picnic win!
I used orecchiette pasta as a way to mix up this Smoked Mozzarella Pasta Salad a bit. Fun fact: orecchiette is Italian for ‘little ears.’ Now you have some fun trivia to bring to the summer picnic along with this tasty pasta salad. Enjoy!
Do you have a favorite summer pasta salad?
Smoked Mozzarella Pasta Salad
For the Pasta Salad
- 16 oz. orecchiette pasta
- 2 green peppers diced
- 3 stalks celery diced
- 1 cup pepperoncini thinly sliced
- ½ cup red onion thinly sliced
- ¼ cup roasted red peppers diced
- 1 14-oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
- 1 7-oz. jar small green olives, drained
- 3 cups baby spinach chopped
- 12 oz. smoked mozzarella cheese cubed (see note)
For the Dressing
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup fresh parsley chopped
- ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese grated
- 2 Tbsp vinegar
- 2 Tbsp pepperoncini juice
- 1½ tsp garlic minced
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp sugar
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper optional
- Cook pasta according to package instructions. Rinse and drain the pasta in cold water.
- Transfer pasta to a large bowl and add peppers, celery, pepperoncini, onion, red peppers, artichokes and olives. (Note: Reserve the spinach and mozzarella until later.)
- Refrigerate for 2-3 hours, or until cold.
- Meanwhile, make the Dressing by whisking together all ingredients until well combined.
- Before serving, add Dressing, spinach and mozzarella cheese; stir until well combined. Keep salad refrigerated; serve cold.