Years ago, while visiting my aunt in California, I remember her giving me a bowl of fruit salad and telling me to guess what was in it. Now, I need to say that some in my family are known for practical jokes, and my aunt was certainly no exception, so I was a bit cautious.
I took a spoonful of the mystery substance and stuck it in my mouth, not sure what to expect. The texture was, well, odd! I couldn’t place my finger on what it was. First, I thought it was cottage cheese, it had that sort of texture, but that wasn’t it.
I could taste pineapple, whipped cream, mandarin oranges, and coconut, but there was something else that I couldn’t place. What was it? Finally, after several bites and wrong guesses, my aunt divulged the mystery ingredient – pasta! Pasta? In my fruit salad? No way!
There is a little pasta called Acini di Pepe which is, well, like small pasta pellets. These tiny pellets cook up to be about the size of a BB and add a soft, chewy texture to the salad and heartiness.
Another unique component to the salad is a custard made from pineapple and mandarin orange juices. The custard adds another layer of fruitiness and acts as a binder for the pasta and other ingredients.
Now, the recipe as my aunt gave it to me is just fine, but, of course, I have to tweak it a little to make it more interesting and unique. Over the years, I have added chopped walnuts and granny smith apples to mine, which give it another textural element since it usually is a mostly soft salad.
This salad is a combination of flavors and textures like no other. The sweetness of the whipped cream and marshmallows work perfectly with the tartness of the fruit. Combine that with the pasta, and you have a beautiful summer salad or a great addition to your next potluck.
The great thing about this salad is its adaptability. Simply adding nuts and apples gives it more crunch, or you could add bananas and grapes, and it would have an entirely different flavor profile; the possibilities are endless.
Go ahead, make a big bowl, and challenge your family and friends to guess what the mystery ingredient is. I bet they can’t unless, of course, they read this story.
1 Cup Acini di Pepe Pasta
2 Cups Crushed Pineapple
2 Cans Mandarin Oranges
1 Large Granny Smith Apple peeled and chopped small
3 Tbsp flour
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Mini Marshmallows
2 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 cup Coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
Boil pasta with one teaspoon of salt for 15-20 minutes or until done. Drain, rinse with cold water and let cool completely.
Drain pineapple and oranges, reserving liquid. Mix fruit liquid, sugar, flour, and eggs in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously until thick. DO NOT OVERCOOK, or eggs will scramble. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
Place heavy cream in a freezing bowl and whip at high speed. Add one tablespoon of sugar 1/2 way through beating, and once stiff peaks have formed, set aside.
After pasta and custard are cool, gently fold fruit and custard into pasta. Fold in whipped topping, marshmallows, walnuts, and coconut.
Cover and let chill overnight.