For me, pasta salad is not seasonal. Pasta, both hot and cold, has a place on my table throughout the seasons. Admittedly, a pasta salad is less likely to turn up in February. But if I happened upon one, I cannot imagine a context in which I would say no to it. So yes, I am serving you this Smoked Gouda and Pear Pasta Salad deep into October and I’m not the least bit sorry about it. I did, of course, intend to post it at some point in September as a bridge recipe between summer and fall but did that happen? No. Late summer and early fall are always a time warp for me but that’s unimportant. What is important is this salad, while seasonally questionable, is very good. Like, very very good and you should make and eat it good. So let’s get into it.
The name of this salad doesn’t begin to describe it. Well, I guess it does. It mentions two of the most prominent ingredients but this bad boy has a lot more going on. This salad features torn green kale, tender pieces of cappelletti, caramelized slices of Delicata squash, hickory smoked almonds, and pomegranate arils in addition to the smoked gouda and Bosc pears. And I haven’t even touched on the incredible pickled shallot dressing complete with a kiss of whole-grain Dijon mustard. This salad is loaded with bold characters and yet they manage to share the stage without overpowering one another. I will file this under happy accident because that is exactly what this is.
Okay, let’s talk about putting this Smoked Gouda and Pear Pasta Salad together. This is an extremely straightforward process. No funny business here. Everything kicks off, predictably enough, with preheating the oven to roast the squash. I used Delicata squash because it’s my personal favorite in terms of taste and texture and you don’t have to peel it. But having said that, you can use any squash you wish. I have made this recipe using butternut squash and it went very well. Slice the Delicata squash nice and thin and arrange it on a baking sheet. Add more olive oil than you think you need and sprinkle the squash with a good amount of salt. Roast for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Keeping the slices thin will encourage the squash it caramelize and almost candy. It’s really delicious and worth the slightly fiddly knife work.
With the squash in the oven, let’s get to pickling. Now, these pickled shallots aren’t really pickles. No, in this recipe the word “pickling” means leaving thinly sliced shallots in the vinegar while you prepare the rest of the salad before adding the other dressing ingredients. It’s not much of a pickle, it’s more of a suggestion of a pickle. This is my go-to salad dressing, by the way. I make this simple vinaigrette more than anything else in my repertoire. It’s good on every green imaginable. So if you’re stumped on what to do with a package of arugula or a head of lettuce on its way out, I highly recommend tossing it with this dressing.
With the squash roasting and the shallots pickling, we can put some water on for the pasta. Cook your pasta according to the package’s directions. As I mentioned, I used cappelletti but you can use whichever short pasta shape you prefer. Rotini is another good choice or even penne. You want the pasta is be a little on the underdone side and you want to dress it while it’s still hot. The pasta will take on the flavor of the dressing more readily if it’s hot when the two meet.
So once your pasta is close to done, pile the kale into a large bowl. Add the remaining dressing ingredients to the pickled shallots and drain the pasta. Immediately add the hot pasta to the bowl with the kale. Add the dressing and toss. The heat from the pasta and vinegar and oil from the dressing will encourage the kale to wilt and tenderize, which is a very good thing when dealing with something as fibrous as kale. You can leave the salad to hang out and get acquainted while you finish prepping the rest of the ingredients.
When ready to serve, pile the kale and pasta concoction onto a platter. Top the salad with the squash, pear wedges, cubes of smoked gouda, pomegranate arils, and smoked almonds. I prefer to build and serve my salads this way so you know what you’re getting with each scoop. I like to serve this salad immediately, I like the lingering heat from the pasta and the squash. But you can chill it until you’re ready to serve. Just be aware as the salad chills, it will lose some of its flavor, so have some extra dressing handy just in case.
And that’s everything you need to know about this Smoked Gouda and Pear Pasta Salad. A hearty, festive, and fully loaded pasta salad that is surprisingly seasonally appropriate.
Smoked Gouda and Pear Pasta Salad
- 1 Large pot
- 1 colander
- 1 Large baking sheet
- 1 delicata squash seeds removed, sliced thin
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp olive oil divided
- 2 shallots thinly sliced
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 250g (9oz) uncooked cappelletti
- 2 cups green kale stems removed, torn into bite-sized pieces
- 1 tbsp whole-grain Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 Bosc pears cut into wedges
- 170g (6oz) smoked gouda cut into cubes
- 1/2 cup smoked almonds
- ⅓ cup pomegranate arils
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Arrange the squash slices on the baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and transfer to the oven. Roast for 15-20 minutes or until golden.1 delicata squash, 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp olive oil
- Once the squash is in the oven, place the shallots in a bowl and add the red wine vinegar. Set them aside to lightly pickle.2 shallots, ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Generously salt the water and add the pasta. Cook until just barely al dente.250g (9oz) uncooked cappelletti
- Drain the pasta and immediately transfer to a large bowl. Add the kale. Add the remaining olive oil to the shallots and vinegar and add the Dijon mustard, salt, and honey. Whisk to combine and pour the mixture over the pasta and kale. Toss to coat. **1 tbsp whole-grain Dijon mustard, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tsp kosher salt, 2 cups green kale
- Transfer the pasta and kale to a large platter and top with the pear wedges, smoked gouda, smoked almonds, and pomegranate arils. Serve immediately.2 Bosc pears, 170g (6oz) smoked gouda, 1/2 cup smoked almonds, ⅓ cup pomegranate arils