spring pasta salad – yum!

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What are my favorite two words around making dinner?

Easy and tasty! (And then easy again. :) )

This dish hits both those with the added benefit of having loads of protein in it without any meat! Bonus!

Now, I’m far away from being a true vegetarian. But I could rightfully be considered a “conscientious consumer” when it comes to protein dishes (wish that were true around sugar as well!) Glen and I tend to eat a lot of meals at home that are meatless but not worry about what we have when we’re out to dinner or dining with friends.  If they’re serving steaks on the barbey, we’re in!

I grew up in a “split family.” My dad welcomed meat dishes and my mom was – and still is – a practicing vegetarian so it’s probably no wonder that I’m comfortable in both worlds. The first ever cookbook though that I can remember all about veggie recipes was called “The Moosewood Cookbook” by Mollie Katzen. We made some yummy dishes out of that over the years! So, when www.walnuts.org offered the opportunity to try one of Mollie’s recipes out of her newest cookbook that featured walnuts in the salad, and then showcase it here on the blog, I was happy to jump at the chance!

Participating bloggers could pick a salad recipe from a variety of choices and I gave each some close consideration. In the end though, I chose this salad by Mollie because it looked . . .

Easy and Tasty! And it was!

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This pasta salad is a great one for summer time potlucks, picnics and make-ahead events since the flavors just get better overnight. I also liked that you could serve it hot or cold. Flexibility is a wonderful thing! I was intrigued too that it replaced a typical pesto of basil and pine nuts ground together with cilantro and walnuts.

I followed the recipe closely wanting to try it in its true form but it’s a recipe that can have a lot of varieties and I would shake it up some the next time. Especially, for my personal taste, I would add in more garlic and some crushed red pepper flakes for that extra ka-pow!

Make your version anyway you want but here’s a good starting place. For a bunch more great recipes featuring perfect salads for summertime fun check out www.walnuts.org. And thanks also to walnuts.org, I have a Mollie Katzen cookbook to give away! Drop me a comment here, facebook me or just dash me off a private message and I will put your name in the hat for it.

Thanks walnuts.org! Happy Virtual Salad Party everyone!

 

Spring Pasta Salad with Cilantro-Walnut Pesto

Created ByMollie KatzenChef and cookbook author, best known for her vegetarian cookbook, the Moosewood Cookbook

Enjoy this light, refreshing – and slightly different – pasta salad. It will look familiar, but taste surprising, in a very subtle way—try it hot or cold. Be sure to make the pesto well ahead of time for optimum flavor.

Ingredients

For the Pasta:

  • 8 ounces pasta (fusilli or cavatappi)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup Cilantro-Walnut Pesto (recipe follows)
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, or to taste
  • 1 small red bell pepper, brunoise or very small dice
  • 8-10  snow peas, trimmed and halved diagonally
  • Optional: additional minced vegetables: minced carrot, cucumber, and/or fennel,
  • 4 to 6 ounces fresh mozzarella – in small dice
  • Black pepper to taste

For the Cilantro-Walnut Pesto

  • 1 cup walnut halves
  • ½ teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
  • 1 cup firmly packed cilantro (leaves and smaller stems)
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Optional toppings:

  • Minced fresh cilantro
  • Halved cherry tomatoes
  • Chopped walnuts

Directions

For the Pasta:

  1. Cook the pasta according the package instructions. Drain, then toss with olive oil, salt, 4 tablespoons of the pesto, and the vinegar. Stir to blend thoroughly, let it cool to room temperature.
  2. Stir in the vegetables, followed by the mozzarella and black pepper to taste.
  3. Serve warm or at room temperature – or chill, and serve cold. Top it with additional pesto, if you like, plus any of the other optional toppings.

For the Cilantro-Walnut Pesto (Makes 1/2 cup):

  1. Place the walnuts in a blender or the small bowl of a food processor, and grind to a coarse meal.
  2. Add the garlic, cilantro, and salt, and continue to run the machine until it becomes a uniform green paste (some light walnut texture is fine).
  3. Run the machine while you drizzle in the oil. Transfer to a container with a tight fitting lid, and refrigerate until use.

 

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