In the Mood for a Different Take on Pasta Salad?
Before I get started discussing the details of this dish, I want to explain why the sardines are only optional. This recipe was originally supposed to be a side dish. As I was making it, other matters continually interrupted me until I was left staring at this completed salad, but with no time left to make anything else. That’s where the sardines came into play. They turned this into a complete meal. While we love sardines, I understand there are those who do not, and this salad is delicious without them. But if you’re so inclined, I highly recommend you add them because they happen to be great in this recipe.
I began by using fregola as the base for the salad. If you’ve never eaten it, fregola or fregula, a pasta that comes from Sardinia, is shaped into little balls and is then toasted. It has a lightly toasted flavor that I like a lot. After cooking it in a big pot of salted water, draining it and spreading it out to cool I went to work on the dressing for the pasta.
Besides coriander and cumin seeds, I used anardana seeds, which have a bright, tart, and sweet flavor. Once again, I used calamansi vinegar because its citrusy sweet flavor would be welcome with the other salad ingredients. I also added a small amount of toasted sesame oil because it enhanced the toasted flavor of the fregola. I mixed it all up with the pasta and continued with the rest of the recipe.
I decided a little creaminess would be welcome and continued with the sesame flavor by whisking up a very simple tahini sauce. I only used tahini, lime juice, salt, and the residual juices from the oranges as I cut them up. The sauce had depth of flavor from the tahini and sweetness and floral flavors from the citrus juices.
After that it was only a matter of spreading the fregola onto a platter, topping it with the tomatoes, oranges, and sliced onion, a little salt, drizzling it with the tahini sauce and some olive oil, and adding the black sesame seeds and parsley leaves. It was at this point I decided to add the optional sardines. Dinner was served and it was most delicious.