26 July 2012
Pasta salad as a main dish is something we especially enjoy during the summer months. Good at any temperature, it's the perfect picnic food. Just add a loaf of crusty artisan bread and a bottle of your favorite picnic wine.
But before we get to the recipe, I have to tell you about a fabulous item I should have gotten years ago--no, decades ago! It's a wonder I still have all my fingers. I haven't sliced or chopped onions with my eyes open since I don't know when. I just chop away, eyes closed, tears streaming down my face, hoping for the best. So far, so good.
Then one day I decided to try onion goggles (I know! If you are an onion crier like me, you must have just sighed "Yyyess, why didn't I think of that!"). When I announced I would be getting a pair for review from King Arthur Flour, my husband said "I've got some goggles you can try" and dug out some old snorkeling goggles that would have been swell if they didn't cover the nose.
Well, the KAF onion goggles do not cover the nose. They are, in fact, much like a pair of glasses, but close-fitting around the edges to keep the onion fumes out. And, boy, do they work! Funny, the onion slicing didn't take as long as usual. I slice and dice a lot faster with my eyes open!
But back to the salad ... It's really versatile. In fact, I could put the word "optional" after every item on the ingredient list. There was no local asparagus available at this time, so I skipped it. Had some frozen organic peas, so threw those in (no cooking or thawing required). You can even throw in some diced ham, chicken or leftover grilled vegetables.
What is your favorite pasta shape for pasta salad? Mine is the mezze (mini) penne. Do you have a trick for chopping onions, or are you one of the fortunate few who are not onion criers?
1-pound package mezze (mini) penne pasta
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 6-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained (or not)
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
Salt and coarsely-ground black pepper
3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 large red bell pepper, julienned
1/3 cup julienned sun-dried tomatoes, plumped in a little hot water
6 ounces baby yellow squash, halved lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
6 ounces thin asparagus, each spear cut into 1½-inch pieces
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
18 fresh basil leaves (or 0.66-ounce package), thinly sliced
1 In Dutch oven, start boiling salted water for pasta. Meanwhile, in large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and start slowly cooking sliced onion.
2 Cook pasta according to package directions; drain in colander and return to Dutch oven. Stir into pasta 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar. Add cooked onions to pasta, along with artichoke hearts. You should probably not drain the marinated artichoke hearts; I just do it to get rid of some of the garlic since I am semi-allergic to it.
3 Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet and cook mushrooms, seasoning with salt and pepper and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Add cooked mushrooms to pasta.
4 Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet and cook sliced red bell pepper and sun-dried tomatoes, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes and crisp-tender peppers to pasta, along with 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce.
5 Add 2 cups water to skillet, bring to boil, add asparagus (except tips) and cook, covered, for 1 minute. Add tips and cook another minute. Remove from water with slotted spoon and add to pasta, along with 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar.
6 Add Parmesan and fresh basil to pasta. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately at room temperature, or refrigerate for 3 hours or more to serve chilled.