I'm not necessarily a fan of pasta salad - there's something of the cheap and cheerless all day salad bar about it that I found repelling. They can be stodgy and gluey and generally nasty. Other times I think if they are well made, without overcooking the pasta and using fresh and interesting ingredients and decent olive oil to dress it, then they are 'a good thing', especially in the summer. Cool, simple, quick to make they are really good with barbecue's or as a substantial side dish that won't weigh you down too much.
Even though it is the middle of winter in this wet bleak January I'd been thinking about making pasta salad but a more wintery version. I wanted to hint at the joys of summer but bring warmth and comfort and a little sparkle to a mid week supper. The result was seriously good - warm, filling, slightly golden from the turmeric and with a delicate lightness from the herbs. So fabulous in fact it would even go well in the summer.
Pasta & White Bean Salad
400g tin of cannellini beans
200g little pasta shells
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 small red chilies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tspn ground turmeric
1 tspn nigella seeds
1 tspn brown mustard seeds
Small bunch of mint, finely chopped
Small bunch of coriander, finely chopped
Juice of half a lemon
Drain and rinse the beans. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water till just al dente, then drain and rinse.
While the pasta cooks, heat the oil in a small pan very gently then add the chilli, garlic and spices. Stir over a low heat for a minute or two till it smells deeply wonderful.
Mix the beans, pasta and warm spiced oil and allow to cool to room temperature. Stir through the chopped herbs and the lemon juice. Taste and add any salt or pepper or a little more lemon if needed.
And that's it - the whole thing takes only as long as the pasta takes to cook and you end up with a beautiful golden salad flecked with red and green that is a real joy to eat. A proper January treat.