I cannot even believe I’m posting a recipe full of mustard and pickles. Two things I don’t really eat, but you guys, this Cuban Pasta Salad is so good!!!
It’s full of pork tenderloin, ham, Swiss cheese and veggies. And the dressing is so tangy and full of Cuban flavors! Buckle up for this one!
Also, I was recently told I shouldn’t say, “you guys” all the time because I’m not just talking to males. So, um, I’m sorry? I honestly never have meant it to be just males, haha I guess I’m too casual with you all.
SO! Ladies, and gentlemen, this is THE BEST PASTA SALAD RECIPE OF THE YEAR!!
A conference took me to Florida one time and wanted to try a Cuban sandwich. Uber wasn’t as big yet, and we were not close to many restaurants. I didn’t get a Cuban sandwich.
I went home a little bummed, but after having a friend from Florida live with us for a bit I decided to tackle the Cuban Pasta Salad in anticipation of summer which is right around the corner.
And my goodness, summer could not come fast enough!!!
It’s All About the Dressing
The dressing is the real star here. I’ve doubled it because I really like to taste the dressing. It’s not overkill, but if for some crazy reason you want less it’s fine to half it. But leave it as is…trust me on this one!
In fact, this whole Cuban Pasta Salad is a cinch to cut in half if your just feeding your fam. It’s made to feed a crowd as written.
What is on a Cuban Sandwich?
Remember that Cuban sandwich I wanted while I was in Florida? A typical Cuban sandwich consists of five essential things:
- Sliced roast pork
- Sliced Serrano ham
- Swiss cheese
- Dill pickles
- Yellow mustard
I mentioned that pickles and mustard aren’t usually part of my regular diet, but something about this combination just works! Like really, REALLY blow-your-mind works!
Sandwich Turned Salad
One day I had the idea to take these flavors that make a Cuban sandwich so good and turn it into a salad. I took those five essential Cuban sandwich ingredients, added some pasta, veggies and the best dressing of all time and voilà…the pasta salad you are going to make over and over this summer!
What is Orecchiette Pasta?
Pasta salads can be made with any pasta you like, but we highly recommend orecchiette for this one. Orecchiette is a type of pasta whose name comes from the Italian word for “ear” because the pasta is shaped like a small ear. The center of the pasta is a little thinner with a thicker edge. They act like little cups for the dressing, or little pockets delivering punches of flavor to your mouth.
How to Make Perfect Pasta
We have found a few tips for making the perfect pasta for pasta salads. I know making pasta seems like a no-brainer, but these three tricks will make a huge difference:
- Boil the pasta in salty water, like super salty water! It will give the pasta a great flavor.
- Cook the pasta until it is a little past al dente because pasta firms up as it cools, so you want it to be a minute or two past done but not mushy.
- Pour some of the dressing on the pasta while it is still warm. Pasta that is slightly warm will absorb the dressing pack it full of flavor.
Two Cooking Methods for the Pork
We provide you with directions for cooking the pork tenderloin in two different ways. You can use your instant pot or you can roast it in the oven. Both cooking methods take about 18-20 minutes, so it really depends on which method you prefer and if you have an instant pot or not. Ha! I don’t know that I prefer one way over the other. Both methods give you great flavor!
Can You Make This Pasta Ahead of Time?
You can make this salad up to 1-2 days ahead of time. Save the lettuce and cilantro to add right before serving. If you cut those up ahead of time, they will get wilted and start to turn brown. Everything else can be mixed together ahead of time. In fact, I like when a pasta salad has sat in the refrigerator at least overnight. That really allows the dressing to soak into the pasta. Just make sure it is stored in an airtight container.
Ok guys…er, I mean, friends, whoever makes this Cuban Pasta Salad the most times over the summer wins a prize! I might win my own prize because I plan to make it SO MANY times!
Looking for more delicious PASTA RECIPES?
- Ham Lemon Orzo with Parmesan and Peas
- Lemon Orzo with Parmesan and Peas
- Zupas Copycat Tomato Basil Orzo Soup
- Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad
- Teriyaki Chicken Pasta Salad
- Bacon Chicken Ranch Pasta Salad
- 10 Minute Ranch Tortellini Pasta Salad
- Spring Ham and Asparagus Lemon Cream Pasta
- Turkey Tetrazzini with Crunchy Honey Dijon Topping
- 15 Minute Pesto Pasta
- All our Pasta Recipes here!
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Cuban Pasta Salad
- 1 1/4 Pounds Pork Tenderloin
- 1 Teaspoon Dry Ground Mustard
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons Dry Oregano
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons Cumin
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- Juice of 1 Orange
- Juice of 1 Lemon
- For the Pasta Salad
- 20 oz. Orecchiette Pasta
- 1 1/2 Cups Cubed Ham * see note
- 2 Cups Swiss Cheese Cubed
- 1 1/2 Pints Cherry Tomatoes Halved
- 1 Cup Chopped Dill Pickles
- 1/2 Cup Red onion Thinly Sliced
- 3 Cups Chopped Packed Romaine Lettuce
- 1/4-1/3 Cup Chopped Cilantro
- For the Dressing
- 1 1/3 Cup Canola oil
- 2 Teaspoons Garlic Powder
- Zest of 2 Oranges
- Juice of 2 Oranges
- Zest of 2 Limes
- Juice of 2 Limes
- 2 Teaspoons Dried Oregano
- 1 Teaspoons Ground Cumin
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
- 1 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
- 1 Tablespoon plus 1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Teaspoon Sugar
- 4 Teaspoons Mayonnaise
- 2 1/2 Teaspoons Dijon or regular Mustard
- For the Pork Tenderloin
- You have two options for preparing the pork tenderloin. If you have an instant pot, sprinkle all of the seasonings over the pork.
- Squeeze the orange and lemon juice into the instant pot and place the pork in.
- Turn the valve to seal and close the lid. Set the time to 10 minutes at high pressure. Allow a natural release and remove the pork.
- Make sure the pork rests for 8 minutes and then slice into 1" cubes.
- Drizzle oil in a pan over medium high heat and crisp the pork cubes, scraping up any brown bits in the pan and placing everything on a plate to cool. The crispy pieces in the pan are essential, don't throw them out!
For the Oven
- Heat the oven to 400 and prepare as above. Bake for 18-20 minutes and proceed as above.
For the Pasta Salad
- Heat a large pot of water over medium high heat with a few pinches of salt so the pasta is seasoned. Cook pasta al dente, this is essential for pasta salad, it must never be over cooked pasta.
- Drain and rinse in cold water. Set aside.
- Prepare all other ingredients and add to a large bowl with the pasta.
- Add the dressing and toss to coat.
- Serve immediately.
For the Dressing
- In a glass measuring cup, whisk together all ingredients until smooth.