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THE KITCHN: Smoky flavor adds complexity to this pasta salad

By Nealey Dozier, TheKitchn.com

Entree

9:30 AM EDT, September 30, 2013

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I am obsessed with the prepared foods section of gourmet markets and grocery stores. Not because I buy anything from behind the fingerprint-smudged glass, but because I use the never-ending ingredient combinations as a source of culinary inspiration. There are always dozens of chicken salads, tuna salads, pastas and grains to choose from, each culling different tastes from around the world. And while the store-bought versions usually fall flat, it doesn't mean those same flavors won't translate into a delicious dish made at home.

Recently, a reader requested "copycat" recipes from the Whole Foods salad bar, and I jumped at the chance. After cruising the Whole Foods website for inspiration, I settled on "Sinful Smoked Gouda Pasta." (Yes, I am the stereotypical Southerner who goes straight for the recipe that uses mayonnaise. I do not apologize.) The flavors seemed classic, but what really sold me was the smoky spin. The choice was a home run!

Pasta salad is a particular favorite of mine (you can never have too many in your arsenal), and this version -- with smoked gouda, roasted red peppers, and artichoke hearts -- is rich, creamy, and one of the best I've made yet.

Not only is this salad easy, but it is jam-packed with flavor. Fire-roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, smoked gouda and fresh herbs amp up the ingredient list, but it's the creamy dressing that knocks it out of the park: the smoky heat from adobo sauce infuses it with loads of char-grilled flavor. The flavors are more complex than any pasta salad I've tasted!

Is this recipe a little decadent? Perhaps. I've seen (and made) worse. But it sure is delicious. It definitely has a wow factor that will impress any discriminating party guests, and that is the result I am always after.

Pasta Salad with Gouda, Red Peppers and Artichoke Hearts

Serves 8-12.

For the dressing:

1/2 cup mayonnaise or plain Greek yogurt

1/4 cup olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, pressed

2 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 heaping tablespoon adobo sauce from canned chipotles

2 teaspoons honey

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

For the pasta salad:

1 pound (16 ounces) gigli or penne pasta, cooked al dente (see recipe notes)

1 (12-ounce) jar fire-roasted red peppers, rinsed and chopped (1 heaping cup)

1 (6-ounce) jar artichoke hearts, rinsed and chopped (heaping 1/2 cup)

3/4 pound (12 ounces) smoked gouda, cubed (see notes)

Fresh herbs, such as basil or Italian parsley, roughly chopped

For the dressing, combine mayonnaise, olive oil, garlic, vinegar, adobo sauce, honey and salt in a small bowl, and whisk thoroughly. Season generously with black pepper.

For the pasta salad, toss the cooked noodles, peppers, artichokes and gouda together in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the top and mix to combine. Allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving, or cover and refrigerate overnight (allow 30 minutes to warm to room temperature before serving). Taste and adjust any seasonings, if necessary.

Recipe Notes

Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain, shaking to remove excess water. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of olive oil and toss to coat. Spread noodles on a sheet pan and transfer to refrigerator to cool.

Smoked gouda can be purchased from the deli/meat department of a well-stocked grocery store.

(Nealey Dozier is a writer for TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to kitchn@apartmenttherapy.com.)