Whole Foods’ Smoked Mozzarella Pasta Salad

The awesome thing about moving around a lot is that you find you have friends in many places. After Michael finally finished training, it was interesting to meet up with friends that we met in residency, or medical school. While we were living in Las Vegas we met up with a family we originally met in Ann Arbor, MI during their fellowship. My son was so puzzled to see old friends in a new environment.  “I thought we knew them in Michigan?” he asked.

“We did,” we assured him. “But now they live in Salt Lake City, where we used to live, but they came to Las Vegas on a vacation, which is why we were able to see them.”

“Wow. That’s confusing,” he shook his head.

They had rented a house for the week and invited us over for a barbecue and swimming fun. I can’t tell you what I made to take as a side to contribute. What I do remember is that they served us this Smoked Mozzarella Pasta Salad that they picked up from Whole Foods. Mike and I absolutely loved it. Immediately I came home and felt lucky to find that Whole Foods posted the recipe online! Since then I’ve made this many times to take to picnics, potlucks, and of course, barbecues. It is creamy without being too rich and the smoky mozzarella combined with the cayenne pepper gives it the perfect kick.

While living in Las Vegas we hosted dinners with three other sets of families and they’ve all requested the recipe. Our friend Joe insists this recipe is better than what you can get at Whole Foods. (What I know is that it’s cheaper!) We are heading to Missoula in a couple weeks to visit him and his wife Chelsea and her latest text made me laugh.

Last week we were blessed to have the Reyes family come visit us here in Rapid City. We grilled chicken and veggie kabobs and I served this salad on the side. Armando asked Daisy to make sure I gave her this recipe before they left, so I’m a little late. Whoops.

The only changes I’ve made to the original recipe is that I double it! Who ever uses half a box of penne pasta, anyway? Also, the original recipe says to just mix all the dressing ingredients in a food processor (including the parsley) but that turns the dressing green and it makes for a very “peppery” flavor that we definitely didn’t like. So I’ve moved the chopped parsley to the “Salad” section instead of the “Dressing” section, and I didn’t double it. You want parsley, but you don’t want it to be the only thing you taste! This is a great dish to make the night before you’re expected to be somewhere or just the morning before you’re hosting dinner because it allows time for the pasta to cool and the flavors blend. It’s always nice to have one thing that you’ve already prepared before company arrives. Hooray for summer cookouts!

Ingredients:

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup Grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup White Wine Vinegar
  • Garlic Cloves (or 3 tsp minced)
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper (or more to taste)

Salad

  • 1 lb Penne
  • 3 cups Baby Spinach Leaves
  • 1 12 oz Jar Roasted Red Peppers (Diced)
  • 1/2 lb Smoked Mozzarella Cheese (Diced)
  • 1/2 cup Chopped Parsley

Directions:

  1. Boil water and cook penne pasta according to package instructions.
  2. While pasta is cooking dice the red peppers, parsley and mozzarella separately
  3. Combine the dressing ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.
  4. When pasta is al dente, rinse in cold water and drain.
  5. In a large mixing bowl combine pasta, dressing, spinach leaves (torn if you want them smaller) red peppers, cheese and parsley

Recipe from The Whole Foods Cookbook

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