The Only Pasta Salad Recipe You’ll Ever Need

a pasta salad full of charred asparagus, caramelized leeks, burst cherry tomatoes, toasted walnuts, olives, salami, fresh mozzarella, lots of herbs, and a garlic oil vinaigrette

serves: 6

  • Author: Kayla Howey


  • 1 lb dried orecchiette pasta
  • kosher salt, as needed
  • extra virgin olive oil, as needed
  • 4 oz walnuts
  • 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed and peeled
  • 2 leeks, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes


  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard


  • ¾ cup castelvetrano olives, halved
  • ½ lb fresh mozzarella (bocconcini), quartered
  • 6 oz genoa salami, diced
  • 3 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp chopped chives
  • 8 leaves basil, torn


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a heaping palmful of salt. Add the orecchiette and cook according to the box’s instructions. Drain the pasta, rinse under cold water, and let drain again. Transfer the pasta to a large mixing bowl and toss with a light coating of olive oil. Set aside.
  2. In a large cast-iron skillet, add the walnuts over low heat. Allow the walnuts to toast until golden and fragrant, a few minutes or so. Transfer the walnuts to a cutting board, let cool slightly, roughly chop, and set aside.
  3. Wipe out the skillet so it’s free of crumbs. Heat over medium. Add enough olive oil to just coat the bottom of the skillet. Add the asparagus. Season with a pinch of salt. Let cook until caramelized and tender, flipping often. Transfer the asparagus to the cutting board, let cool slightly, and slice into 1” pieces.
  4. To the same skillet, add a little more olive oil. Add the leeks and repeat the process. Transfer the leeks to a plate.
  5. Add the ½ cup of olive oil to the skillet. Lower the heat to medium-low. Add the cherry tomatoes. Season with a pinch of salt. Allow the tomatoes to cook slowly until they burst and are soft, about 10 minutes. Once fully caramelized, add the cherry tomatoes to the plate of leeks.
  6. Lower the heat all the way and add the garlic to the remaining olive oil. Let cook for 20 seconds. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  7. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the white wine vinegar, honey, and mustard. Slowly drizzle in all of the garlic oil, including the minced garlic itself, whisking until emulsified. Season with a generous pinch of salt.
  8. Add the asparagus, leeks, cherry tomatoes, walnuts, olives, mozzarella, salami, parsley, chives, and basil to the pasta. Drizzle in the vinaigrette. Toss really well. Taste the pasta salad and season with more salt if needed.