I am so excited to share this recipe with you because it's just such a delicious twist on basic, traditional pasta salad. It may sound odd to have a pasta salad with sweet components, but I promise you that every single ingredient comes together so beautifully and cohesively. The dressing alone is so incredibly, insanely good and addictive. (I seriously cannot wait to try it brushed and glazed on grilled chicken.) Forget about ho-hum pasta salad. I believe that this recipe will really surprise you and become a favorite during these warm summer months.
I am sure that you could easily make this a more-complete meal by serving some grilled shrimp or chicken on top of the salad. But, I have been simply enjoying this as a light lunch all throughout the past week. It seems to keep well for several days in the fridge, so I've found myself munching on it quite a bit. I've made it twice now in the past two weeks. I just can't seem to get enough.
Once again - you'll flip over the dressing. It begins with a base of store-bought teriyaki sauce. (I prefer Kikkoman Teriyaki Baste & Glaze.) Vinegar, a little sugar, some neutral oil and a few spices are whisked in to make what becomes a killer sauce. It gets poured over and tossed with pasta, spinach, Mandarin orange slices and a few other perfectly-paired up ingredients. The result is a unique, healthful, fresh and vibrant pasta salad that I hope you'll really come to love.
Serves 4 - 5.
FOR THE SALAD -
10 ounces pasta (radiatore or something similar in size)
2 cups fresh spinach leaves (roughly chopped or left whole - your choice)
1 4-ounce can Mandarin oranges, drained well
3 tablespoons sliced almonds
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1 heaping tablespoon sesame seeds, divided
FOR THE DRESSING -
1/2 cup teriyaki sauce (see paragraph above)
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse in cold water. Transfer to large serving bowl. Add in spinach, oranges, almonds, cherries, onion, cilantro and half of the sesame seeds. Set aside.
Whisk together dressing ingredients until well-blended in a medium bowl. When ready to serve salad, pour dressing over salad ingredients. Toss and garnish with remaining sesame seeds.
Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator.
Recipe inspired by Creme de la Crumb.