Al Dente On The Side: Saffron pasta salad


Saffron tastes great. The problem is that it smells worse than my feet.

IMG_3545I can’t stand the smell of it. When I cracked the seal on the container to measure it out for the recipe, I started think that my feet were beginning to spoil like meat left out on the counter too long. I once forgot a bag of groceries in my truck that had a package of veal stew meat. Three days later when I went looking for something, I caught the odor of rotten meat.

It’s almost that bad.

But, the gentle flavor of the little red strands bring so much depth to a dish.

Such a strange conundrum.


The pasta salad started from the result of Saturday’s trip to the Central New York Regional Market. Our stop at Flour City Pasta’s table in the C Shed led to picking up their saffron gnocchetti, which I had never seen during prior stops at their table. While they didn’t have the stinky feet scent, the pasta had the gentle saffron flavor. After a little internet hunting, I came across this entry for a saffron pasta salad from 101 Cookbooks. It was the basis for what I came up with below.

IMG_3606Saffron Pasta Salad
Inspired by 101 Cookbooks and Flour City Pasta

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. saffron threads
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • salt, to taste
  • Juice of two lemons
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (I actually used a garlic-infused olive oil here)
  • quick squeeze of honey (probably a tablespoon worth)
  • 8 oz. dried gnocchetti or other small pasta
  • 3/4 lb. thin asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch segments

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To make the dressing add the vinegar and saffron to a small saucepan. Over gentle heat bring just to a simmer. Remove from heat (immediately) and let cool.

Place the minced garlic clove in a small mixing bowl and sprinkle with salt. Mash with the backside of a small fork. Add the vinegar and saffron, lemon juice, honey, and mustard. Whisk together, then gradually whisk in the olive oil.

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Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, salt well and add the pasta. Cook until al dente. With one minute remaining in the pasta cooking, add the asparagus. The goal is to cook the asparagus just barely, until it is tender-crisp. Drain, rinse with cold water, and shake off as much extra water as possible.

Place the pasta in a large bowl, toss with the saffron vinaigrette, and set aside or refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (or up to a day). Toss again, taste, and add a bit more salt if needed.

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