Being from Spokane, I’m still not used to the fact that June is not summer in Seattle. Yesterday, it was 80 degrees in Spokane (and it’s been hovering around there all week) and in Seattle it was 62 degrees and I actually thought it might never stop raining.
Even with the nasty weather, a pesto pasta salad can be just the thing to kick you into a summery mindset.
(I’m stepping on my soap box for a brief moment): Pesto is SO easy to make at home and is SO much more delicious than store bought. You could easily buy pesto to make this salad, but I am highly encouraging you to make it yourself. There is literally nothing better than when you’ve finished the last pulse on the Cuisinart and you (safely) dip a spoon/finger/spatula in and taste that perfect blend of salty and herby and nutty – and you realize you made that fantastic combination of flavors yourself.
The first time Matt and I made this salad was when my mom mailed us a frozen tupperware full of pesto and we needed something (besides spoons) to eat it with. Now, hands down, my mom makes the best pesto. I don’t have her recipe (hint, hint?) so I made Gluten-Free Girl’s Pesto recipe (you can click here for her original post) which is awesome. Beyond (well, and including) the pesto, this is another one of those easy to tailor to your taste recipes. We put sundried tomatoes, pinenuts, garbanzo beans and peas in our pasta salad, but the possibilities are endless.
Pesto Pasta Salad
For the Pesto:
3 medium cloves of garlic, threaded on a skewer (I did GFG’s method this time, but in the past I’ve nixed the skewer and roasted the garlic for 40 minutes at 350)
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves (we’ve found the optimal amount is about 1.5 big containers of basil leaves)
2 Tbl fresh parsley (I omitted, because I’m not such a fan…you can also sub spinach for some extra nutrients and no added flavor)
7 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
Salt (lots…to taste)
1/4 cup parmesean (optional…add more salt if omitting)
For the salad:
1 package of GF pasta (I prefer the tinkyada brand – you absolutely cannot tell it’s gluten free)
1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes, finely chopped
1/3 cup pinenuts, toasted
3/4 cups peas (about 1/3 of the bag of frozen peas we had)
1 can garbanzos
For the pesto (copied straight from GFG, because she says it best):
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Lower the skewered garlic into the water. Boil for 45 seconds. Immediately run the garlic under cold water. Remove from the skewer. Peel and mince. (If you’re making pasta right after, save the water for it.)
2. Toast the nuts in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until just golden and fragrant. (Should be about five minutes.)
3. Place the basil and parsley in a heavy-duty, quart-size bag. Take out your meat tenderizer and pound those poor little herbs until they are bruised. (Ouch. That sounds bad.)
4. Place all the ingredients except the cheese in your food processor. Pulse. Pulse. Pulse. When the goop is smooth, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl, mix in the cheese, and add salt to taste. (I use sea salt, of course.)
5. Eat. And moan with pleasure.
Eat the pesto right away. If you want to keep it for a few days, cover the bowl with plastic wrap. If you want to keep it for longer, then pour the pesto into ice trays. Freeze, then transfer to a freezer bag. When you’re cooking, you can just pop in a cube of frozen pesto and watch the summer appear again.
Make the pasta, drain, put in a big bowl. Add chopped sundried tomatoes and toasted pinenuts. Add peas (defrost and drain first). Add garbanzos that have been sauteed in olive oil, salt, and garlic powder (Matt doesn’t like garbanzos in the salad, so we put them on the side and I add it to my own servings). Top it all off with the pesto as soon as possible (my reason being, if you don’t, you will eat all of it with a spoon before it makes it to your salad. I’m 100% serious. It’s that good).
When you cover the pasta salad, smoosh the plastic wrap against the surface of the pasta (instead of just over the top of the bowl) because it has a tendency to turn brown and this helps prevent that.