Grilled broccoli and pepperoncini pasta salad with lemony oregano dressing and fresh basil is a simple and hearty summer side dish.
I know that we dream of summer produce and all the great things we can do with it all year, but the thing is… I don’t really like cooking as much in the summer! It’s great that local summer produce doesn’t really need a lot of fuss to taste good because for the next 3 hot and balmy months, I will not be partaking in any sort of fussing!
Factor in the blurring of days as part of our commitment to staying home as much as possible, and mealtime altogether goes out the window. It’s an all day snack session sometimes. The key for me is setting aside time to clean and prep ingredients and to batch cook certain things that I can lean on for lunches all week. That’s one of our inspiration points for this pepperoncini pasta salad recipe: me not wanting to cook! 😂
Grilling every single vegetable is another strategy that I turn to this time of year. We enjoyed Bryant Terry’s grilled broccoli rabe with charred lemon spinach sauce as part of our dinner a couple weeks ago. The recipe is from his latest cookbook Vegetable Kingdom. I loved the caramelized, crisp little florets on the broccoli rabe after grilling. The flavour was slightly sweet and smoky, a perfect compliment to the bitterness of the rabe and the bright lemon in the sauce. When I was dreaming of a pasta salad with lots of briny, salty, and herbal flavours, I knew that I wanted a smoky/charred component as well.
Placing a note here to tell you that you can definitely make this pepperoncini pasta salad without a grill! Simply searing the broccoli in a frying pan before chopping it up will get the job done. Even a quick roast in the oven will work if you don’t mind turning it on in this heat. Equipment and accessibility is front of mind for me as I post new content here, so if something comes up or if you have a question/comment, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I still love my grill, high speed blender etc, but I’m trying to lean on things like this less often here.
I really hope that you enjoy the smoky, briny, salty, slightly spicy, herbal, and lemony flavours of this salad. The pepperoncini that I’m using here are the little golden, pickled ones found in jars in the same aisle as roasted red peppers (typically!). The most commonly associated pepper with this treatment (from what I could find online) is friggitelli, which is quite mild. These are also known as the golden Greek pepper. That bit of acidity, slight bitterness, and crunch really makes this salad. Honestly any time you pair pepperoncini with salty olives and some type of carbohydrate, you’re winning.
Grilled Broccoli and Pepperoncini Pasta Salad with Basil
LEMONY OREGANO DRESSING:
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon agave nectar (or other sweetener of choice)
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra
- 13 oz (375 grams) shaped pasta of choice (I used rotini)
- 1 bunch broccoli, cut into florets
- 1½ cups chickpeas (cooked, drained, rinsed)
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- ½ cup pitted olives, halved
- ½ cup chopped pepperoncini peppers (about 6 peppers)
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
- ½ cup crumbled vegan soft-style cheese (optional)
- If you don’t have a grill, a quick sear in a frying pan works for the broccoli! You could also roast the florets in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes or so.
- Dried oregano will also work for the lemony dressing. I would use 1 ½ teaspoons and just crush it up a bit with your fingers before adding.
- I finished my pasta salad with some crumbled vegan soft-style cheese (this one). This is optional!
- Make the dressing. In a sealable jar, combine the lemon juice, salt, pepper, oregano, nutritional yeast, water, agave nectar, Dijon, garlic, and olive oil. Secure the lid and shake the jar vigorously to combine. Check the dressing for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Set aside.
- Preheat your grill to high. In a medium bowl, toss the large broccoli florets with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Once evenly coated, transfer florets to the grill and close the lid. Let the pieces char on one side for about 3 minutes. Carefully flip them over and let them char on the other side for another 2-3 minutes. Once the florets are evenly charred, transfer them back to the bowl and cover with a pot lid or dinner plate, allowing the broccoli to steam for 5 minutes.
- Roughly chop the grilled and steamed broccoli and add it to the bowl with the pasta. To the bowl, also add the chickpeas, red onion, olives, pepperoncini, basil, and the crumbled vegan cheese (if using). Season the pasta salad with lots of salt and pepper. Pour the lemony oregano dressing on top. Toss everything to combine. Grab a fork and have a taste to check for seasoning. Adjust if necessary, toss one more time, and serve!
- This grilled broccoli and pepperoncini pasta salad will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days. If you’re bringing it to a gathering and want to make ahead, I’d combine all of it except for the basil and vegan cheese. Toss those in at the last minute to keep everything looking vibrant!