Knowing that I would be getting my newest Kitchen Aid attachment this week (the one that makes 6 different pasta shapes), I wanted to include on the menu, something fun I could do. This pasta salad popped into my head and I knew I hadn't made it in a while, so I decided what the heck. So I break out my attachment, I had pasta dough in the fridge that I made on Sunday, I was all set to go. I chose my fusilli plate, put in the dough, and waited for my pasta to start coming out; which it did and it was great, I just wasn't prepared for how much it would yield (ie. not that much). Thankfully I had a half pound of whole-wheat penne in my cabinet, so I was able to supplement with my fresh stuff, and it was absolutely perfect. So now I know what to expect, I can prepare accordingly for next time. Ok, back to this unbelievably delicious pasta salad. There is no mayo in this which makes it a perfect salad to make ahead of time and take to picnics and backyard BBQues. Oh, and did I mention, I do everything in one pot. Here's how I did it:
Pasta Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto:
3 tbsp sun-dried tomato pesto (I used homemade, but you can buy this in the store)
1 organic red pepper
1/3 cup organic pine nuts
1 cup organic asparagus, cut into about 1 inch pieces
12 ounces organic pasta (see Tips below)
salt & pepper to taste
Directions: Place your pesto in a large bowl and set aside. Start to roast your pepper. Click here to see how I roast my peppers. While the pepper is starting to char, take your pasta pot and put it on medium-high heat, NO WATER YET. You are going to quickly toast the pine nuts. Add the pine nuts to the pot and stir them around a bit. You want to stay with these and watch them. They will burn quickly. This only takes about 3 minutes or so, until they are golden brown. Remove the pine nuts and add the bowl with the pesto. Set aside. Now you are going to add several cups of water to your pot and bring to a boil. Your pepper should be close to being done. Just set that aside to steam.
Once the water is boiling, add the asparagus and cook for about 30-40 seconds. You are not looking for well done. Remove the asparagus, and put them directly in the bowl with the pesto and pine nuts. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and set aside. If you are using boxed pasta, you can add that to the pot now as it will take about 10-11 minutes to cook, which is the perfect amount of time for the pepper to steam. If using fresh pasta, it takes about a minute to cook, so I would wait until your pepper is ready. Once that is sliced and ready, add it to the bowl with the pesto, nuts, and asparagus. Once your pasta is done, reserve about 1/4 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta very well. Add to the bowl with the pesto mixture and stir well to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
I usually make this about 2 hours before I want to serve. I prefer it room temperature. This is the reason to reserve the water. You can add a little right before you serve just to make it slightly creamy. This can be served hot, and as such, you would serve this immediately. You can make it the day before, store in the fridge and serve it cold. Whatever you desire. Enjoy!!
Tip: So you might be wondering why I didn't include my recipe for sun-dried tomato if I used a homemade one. The truth is, I really just kind of threw some things in the blender. I had about a half cup of sun-dried tomatoes in my fridge, not packed in oil. When I went searching for pesto recipes, all of them said use tomatoes packed in oil. So the day I made this pesto, I took the tomatoes, put them in a bowl, and added about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of olive oil and let them sit all day. About 8 hours later, I added the tomatoes with oil, about 1 cup of fresh of basil, 2 tbsps or so of pine nuts, 4 cloves of garlic, a little salt & pepper, a couple tbsp freshly grated parm, and a tsp or so of fresh lemon juice. I blended it until it was well mixed. Tasted it and added a little more salt and pepper and a little water, about 1/4 cup or so. It was quite thick. At this point, I put it in an airtight container and stuck it in the fridge. I ended up with about 1 cup of pesto and as you can see, I only used 3 tbsp for this salad. But that's ok, pesto keeps really well. Will last about a month in the fridge. Just stick a little post it on with the date so you don't forget.
One more quick note on the pasta. I usually use bow-tie pasta for this, you read the story and my attempts at the homemade fusili, I ended up supplementing with about 8 ounces whole-wheat penne. The take away point, most pasta's would work fine. I would not use spaghetti, or fettuccine, no long noodles. Penne, ziti, bow-tie, fusilli, rotini, that's what I would stick with.