Sunday, 18 March 2012

Deconstructed pesto pasta salad

Pasta salad has definitely always been my favourite type of salad, even though it is not exactly what one thinks of when salad is the word. Something about pasta, tossed in dressing with sun-dried tomatoes and some other standard ingredients like crunchy peppers, salty olives, tangy artichokes and creamy avocado satisfies all of my food-related needs.

When I saw that Jenny had sent me some Cannensi sun-dried tomatoes I knew they would be used for a pasta salad dish.  I am not exaggerating when I say these turned out to be the best sun-dried tomatoes I have ever had. They were just soft enough, salty and so very flavourful. I hope I can get my hands on some more when I go to visit Winnipeg over the Easter weekend. If you have no idea what I am talking about but want to know more, please see this previous post.

And so, my sixth of seven salads is a pasta salad, made with all of the ingredients that could be used to make a tasty albeit non-traditional, pesto. First I thinly sliced ribbons of spinach and arugula left over from the salads made earlier in the week. Next, in the food processor I finely chopped the sun-dried tomatoes. Separately I finely chopped crunchy walnuts in the processor. All of these elements stirred perfectly into some teeny, bow-tie pastas with small avocado cubes. No dressing was required as I simply tied everything together with the fine olive oil that was used to pack the sun-dried tomatoes. No pesto is complete without parmesan thus I topped the final dish with crumbled parmesan shavings. It was so yummy and perfect that I am afraid salad seven may be a repeat of salad six.

Deconstructed pesto pasta salad
Although this is an enjoyable combination of ingredients, it is made even better if you focus on high quality ingredients. Splurge on a gourmet jar of oil packed sun-dried tomatoes and an aged block of parmeggiano regiannio. 

1.5 cups small dried pasta (orzo, shells or small bowties)
10 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, oil reserved
1 cup spinach
1 cup arugula
1/2 avocado
1/4 cup walnuts
Freshly shaved and crumbled parmesan

1 - Cook pasta according to package directions.
2 - Thinly slice arugula and spinach into small ribbons.
3 - Roughly chop sundried tomatoes, then pulse in food processor about 5 times briefly.
4 - Separately, process walnuts in processor about 10 seconds, until chopped into a crumb-like texture.
5 - Drain pasta and rinse under cold water. Drain well.
6 - Stir arugula, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts and avocado into pasta.
7 - Drizzle several tablespoons of oil from sun-dried tomatoes into pasta and season to taste with sea salt.
8 - Serve pasta garnished with freshly grated parmesan.

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