This is a pasta salad, yes, but it’s much more about the vegetables—packed with a rainbow of summer’s sweet peppers, basil, garlic, cannellini beans, and buttery Castelvetrano olives. The sweet-and-sour marinating liquid for the pan-roasted, Italian-style peppers is magic, doubling as a tangy dressing for the salad. You can store the marinated peppers for up to 5 days, refrigerated, in the jar—their flavor will improve with each day.
Heat 2 Tbs. of oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the peppers and 1/2 tsp. of the salt, and cook, stirring often, until the peppers are tender and have started to blacken on the edges, 7 to 9 minutes.
In a large wide-mouth jar, combine the vinegars, garlic, sugar, the remaining 1/2 tsp. salt, and the black pepper. Gently swirl the vinegars in the jar to combine. Transfer the hot peppers to the jar, and use tongs to turn them until they are fully coated in the vinegar mixture. Let the mixture stand for 30 minutes, turning the peppers once or twice. Chop the basil and add it along with the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil. Stir the peppers well, and let the mixture stand at least 30 minutes more. (The longer you wait, the better the peppers and vinaigrette will taste.)
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the couscous until just tender, about 8 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water. Allow excess water to drain and the couscous to dry completely. Transfer the couscous to a large mixing bowl, and stir to fluff and separate the couscous.
Using tongs, evenly stir the peppers, garlic, and basil in the vinegar-oil mixture, then lift them a little at a time from the jar, allowing excess vinegar and oil to drip off. Transfer the peppers to the bowl until you have transferred all of the peppers and garlic and most of the basil. Reserve the remaining vinegar-oil mixture.
Add the beans, olives, raisins, and fennel seeds, if using, and 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt, and gently toss to combine. Whisk the vinegar-oil mixture well in the jar, and add 1 Tbs. at a time to the salad—up to about 1/4 cup—until the salad is dressed and flavorful. Stir in finely chopped basil and parsley Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl, and top with additional fresh herbs.
Make ahead: The salad will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.
This was fantastic! Definitely season each part along the way and again in the end to adjust. I probably used about 2/3 of the dressing and it wasn't sloppy, but such great flavor. I made the peppers the day before so they were really well marinated and the dressing flavored by the peppers in return. This will be made again. Maybe this weekend already. So great.
I thought originally it was bland. I added more seasoning and Feta cheese, made all the difference. I would use kidney or black beans the next time for more color. Actually, the peppers right out of the vinegar-oil mixture was my favorite.
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