Frank Camorra: the power of pasta makes a classic summer salad

Poached salmon pasta salad is a lovely option for the warmer months.
Poached salmon pasta salad is a lovely option for the warmer months.  Photo: Marcel Aucar

Pasta salads are a brilliant way to eat in summer. A meal in themselves, they are endlessly versatile with a minimum of slaving over a hot stove. There are some simple rules to keep in mind: don't overdress them and don't serve them too cold, otherwise the ingredients lose their flavour. 

Ideally, it's best to cook the pasta and let it cool without putting it in the fridge. If you have to cook it the day before, take it out of the fridge an hour before serving. You can improvise with ingredients, and use up leftovers, but don't try to pack too many flavours into one salad. I always make enough to leave leftovers for lunch the next day. 

For dressings, I usually put all the ingredients in a jar, fasten the lid and give it a good shake. It's easy to pour over the salad, then replace the lid and store the rest in the fridge. Gnocchetti are small, open gnocchi-shaped pasta shapes.

Salmon, radish and gnocchetti salad                                                      

150g gnocchetti pasta

70ml olive oil

4 sprigs rosemary, leaves removed

2 x 150g salmon fillets, pinboned and skinned

8 red radishes

10 bocconcini 

1 lemon, juiced

2 tbsp whole grain mustard

1 tbsp honey

salt and pepper

150ml extra virgin olive oil

Handful of washed baby cos leaves 

Cook the pasta in lots of well-salted boiling water until well cooked – it should be just past al dente so when it cools it's not chewy. Heat a medium frying pan, add the olive oil and when hot add the rosemary leaves. When they start to crackle, add the salmon fillets and cook for three minutes on each side on a medium heat.  Set aside to cool, reserving the oil and rosemary. Cut the radishes into half-centimetre sticks and the bocconcini in half and set aside. Put the lemon juice, mustard, honey, salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil in a jar, fasten the lid and shake well.  Mix the pasta, bocconcini, radishes and a few cos leaves in a bowl and dress well. In a shallow serving bowl, line the edges with remaining cos leaves, spoon in some of the dressed pasta and break some cooked salmon over the top with some of the rosemary oil. Repeat this process with the pasta, salmon and the rest of the rosemary oil until the bowl is full and serve.

 Serves 4 

Barbecued calamari, manzanillo olives and macaroni salad    

150g large macaroni pasta

2 medium calamari tubes

160ml olive oil plus a little for the calamari

salt and pepper

2 egg yolks

2 garlic cloves, roasted, peeled and mashed

1 lemon

½ tsp Dijon mustard

1 cup manzanillo olives

2 handfuls rocket leaves

½ cup flat-leaf parsley 

1 tsp smoked paprika

Cook the pasta in lots of well-salted boiling water until well cooked, just past al dente. Heat a barbecue grill. Cut the calamari tube in half and lay it flat on a cutting board with the inside of the tube facing up. Score the calamari with a knife in diagonal lines one way then the opposite way to make a diamond pattern. Lightly oil and salt the calamari, grill it for a few minutes on each side, then cool slightly on a plate. For the ali oli, whisk together egg yolks, roasted garlic,  one teaspoon of lemon juice and mustard. Whisking continuously, add the oil, starting a little at a time, then in a thin, steady stream, until incorporated. Season to taste. Slice the calamari into 1cm strips and put in a bowl with the olives, rocket, parsley and pasta and dress well. Squeeze the remaining lemon juice over the salad and mix well. Spoon into a bowl, sprinkle with a little smoked paprika and serve.

Serves 4 

TIP

For pasta salads I go for open shaped pasta such as shells or orecchiette as they hold dressings and other parts of the salad well.