Lemon Relish Pasta Salad with Cheese

This pasta salad is full of flavors from citrusy lemon to tangy cheese and briny capers. Is your mouth watering all of a sudden like mine? Ah, yum! This recipe was the result of a need to feed my friends who spontaneously decided to meet Phil & I in Sedona for a day! I didn't have any meals prepared for 4 adults, so I sort of opened the fridge and started to pull out the salty briney ingredients I had on hand. Suddenly, a vision of a pasta salad hit my mind. Growing up, my mom used to make pasta salad all the time. It is such a handy large bowl of yummy carbs that is made ahead of time, stuck in the fridge and then is ready to eat off of for days.
Another fun thing about this pasta salad is the fact that it is so easy to personalize! Love olives? Add them! Got some cherry toms you need to use up? Add those too! Skip the salami if you or a friend doesn't eat meat (I actually had it on the side the first time I made it!). It is truly a super flexible, "whatever goes, goes" kind of recipe! But let's get back to this specific recipe and talk about the FULL lemon I call for. Yes, the full lemon, fruit and rind...it is a game changer that I picked up from one of my favorite cooks, Alison Roman. At first I thought it was too intense, but then I started to crave it! It gives that extra tang and acidity that a pasta salad needs. Otherwise you could use vinegar, but that's basic and almost expected. Let's surprise yourself & your guest with this lemon! 
Ok, now let's cook.
8 ounces of pasta, spirals or bowties are fun (half a box)
5-6 garlic cloves roughly chopped
2-3 lemons
1 large red onion, halved twice & thinly sliced
1-2 oz drained capers roughly chopped (about half a small jar)
1 cup of salty tangy cheese like broken up feta, knobs of parm or chunks of goat 
1/2 cup torn peppered salami
1 cup of fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley, roughly chopped
crushed red pepper flakes
salt and a lot of pepper
olive oil
1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of SALTY water until just past al dente. You want these to be the perfect bite texture for pasta salad but not mushy. Drain in colander and cover in olive oil so they don't stick to each other while you are preparing the other ingredients.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the sliced red onion, salt and pepper and cook on medium until soft and you start to see color, 4-5 minutes.
3. Add the chopped garlic and capers. Allow them to cook with the onions for about 1 minute and turn off the heat.
4. Cutting the lemon needs its own step. Cut one lemon into thin slices, in between each slice look for seeds to pick out. If you cut a seed it releases a bitter-sour-not-so-great taste so make sure you look out for those seeds. Once you've sliced your lemon, chop it up into small pieces and scoop into a bowl including any of the juices on your board. Slice the other lemon/s in half and save for juicing. 
5. Make the relish! In a large bowl add the cooked onions, garlic & capers as well as the chopped lemon & herbs. Mix it all up, salt & pepper to taste. This should taste very citrusy, salty and briny. You want a ton of flavor for this pasta salad.
7. Add the cooked pasta into your bowl of relish and mix it up. Tear the salami into irregular pieces tossing into the bowl. Top with your choice of cheese & mix again. Add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, squeeze the juice out of one whole lemon and sprinkle with a large pinch of red pepper flakes. Mix it up and salt it again and heavily pepper. Taste to see if it needs more lemon juice or salt. It should be full of flavor and taste fresh.
8. Place into the fridge for a couple hours until it is completely cold. Serve up and enjoy! It stays good in the fridge for up to 4 days and in my opinion is best the day after!
It is such a crowd pleaser. And a bit of a life hack if you make it on Sundays to enjoy for lunch through your busy work week. It is made with easy-to-find ingredients and super simple to make. Oh! Another little hot tip, I love to eat it on top of a bed of greens (baby kale or arugula) on days I don't want straight pasta carbs. Just add another squeeze of lemon and more pepper, so yummy! 
Another recipe in the books for you! I truly hope you try it and let me know if you do!
Thanks for being here!