Do you ever stumble upon a very simple combination that yields magical results? This is definitely one of those cases. The combination of bright zippy lemon, sweet summer blueberries, and fragrant thyme is a little bit unexpected and entirely delightful.
This is a dish in which less is more. These flavors are just too good to mess with! It's a combination that screams summer and feels so perfect in a versatile, picnic-appropriate pasta salad. We've really been enjoying this salad all summer long, and it's a breeze to throw together. I hope you'll love it as much as we have!
Make it Work For YOU
This is really a pasta salad that can become anything you want it to be. It's great either warm or cold, so it can easily function as a fast weeknight dinner, a potluck dish, or a picnic dish. Thanks to the robust ingredients, this is a salad that will travel well, regardless of whether you're going on a hike or just over to a friend's house. Got leftovers? They'll make a great portable lunch.
You'll see in the ingredient list that I suggest using red lentil pasta. I'm absolutely thrilled with all the great bean-based pasta options available right now, and they've completely reincarnated my love of pasta. Thanks to all that protein, this pasta easily functions as a main course; just pair it with a side salad! That said, you could certainly make this recipe with a traditional pasta if you prefer.
Want to add some green? I've tossed arugula into this pasta with great success; it adds a nice peppery element, and makes it feel like a whole meal.
This pasta salad is entirely make-ahead friendly, which I love! You can prep the whole dish ahead of time, a day or even two days before. Just keep the blueberries and pistachios aside until you're ready to serve, since both will get soggy if they sit. When you're ready to eat, you can reheat the pasta if desired, or keep it cold if that's more your speed.
Tip: Get the Best Ingredients
One important tip about this dish. The flavors here are really simple and there aren't many ingredients. Therefore, I highly suggest getting the absolute best ingredients you possibly can, since there isn't anywhere to hide in this minimalist, clean flavor combination. Make sure you get some really nice, fragrant lemons. Fresh thyme is a must! Use a robust, flavorful olive oil rather than a flavorless one meant for cooking. And definitely get some super-sweet summer blueberries (the ones shown here were grown by my parents!).
This is a good time to talk about salt. It's such an important ingredient! I absolutely love fleur de sel, which is a very flavorful, flaky sea salt used for finishing dishes. Please do yourself a big favor and get some, it adds such depth to any dish. The flaky texture makes it an ideal finishing salt. It's definitely not the same thing as the coarse-grained sea salt you buy in a big can, which is crunchy and harsh and not very appealing as a finishing element.
Having second thoughts about the health of olive oil and salt? They're actually both really important and good for the body, when used in moderation. You can read more about the health benefits of both here, in a collaborative recipe I worked on with a nutritionist.
Let's Talk Ingredients
Here's what you'll need for this recipe, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.
Pasta. I like to use a short cut of pasta here. I love red lentil (or green lentil, or chick pea) for the great protein. Shown in these photos: the adorable and oh-so-fun "Galaxy" red lentil pasta from Tolerant Foods! Look for an option with just one or two ingredients: lentils and salt!
Olive oil. Choose something super-robust and flavorful; you want a finishing oil rather than a cooking oil.
Flaky sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper. See my thoughts above on the magic of fleur de sel.
Pistachios. I love pistachios in this dish; they're delightful with this flavor combination. If you'd rather not buy them though (they can be pricey!), pine nuts or almonds would also work well. Roasted and salted will have more flavor than raw.
I was reluctant to share this recipe because I was afraid it was too simple. But sometimes simple is okay, right?? We love these streamlined, clean flavors so much and I hope you will too.
This pasta salad can be so many things. It can be hot or cold, a whole meal or a side dish, a picnic dish, a potluck contribution, or just lunch for the week. And thanks to those simple flavors, it can pair with pretty much anything summery and/or Mediterranean, which makes it such an easy option for fitting into a more complex meal. This is exactly why I find myself coming back to this dish again and again!
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
12-oz box of short-cut red lentil (or equivalent) pasta
2-3 tbsp high-quality, flavorful olive oil
Zest and juice of two lemons
Leaves from 8-10 sprigs of fresh thyme
Very generous flaky sea salt (e.g. fleur de sel) and freshly-ground black pepper
Few big handfuls of blueberries
Handful of roasted salted pistachios
Cook your pasta according to the box directions.
While the pasta is cooking, combine the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, fresh thyme, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl.
When the pasta is done cooking, drain it, then transfer it immediately to the mixing bowl while still hot. The residual heat from the pasta will help release the flavorful oils from the lemon zest and thyme.
Gently toss in the blueberries and serve immediately, for a hot dish.
OR, cover the pasta and put it in the fridge for a cold dish. In that case, toss in the blueberries just before serving.
When you're ready to serve, transfer the pasta to a serving platter. Garnish it with a few additional blueberries and another generous grind of salt and pepper, plus a generous sprinkling of pistachios.