I’m noticing a trend with the pasta salads that I really like: They are freakin’ packed with flavor. If I’m making a meal out of a pasta salad, it needs to be flavorful. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it needs to be really heavy. The white bean pasta salad I made on Monday was pretty light actually.
This salad is a bit heavier, but still summer appropriate. Betsy and I loved it mainly because we have a near-fetish for sun-dried tomatoes. Ok. I guess I can only speak for myself there, but I’m pretty sure we both really like them. And you can’t tell from the top photo, but there’s also some creamy goat cheese folded into the pasta which makes it really rich.
It’s hard not to love this quick and simple dish.
1) Cook pasta according to package and drain pasta and reserve 1 Cup of cooking water.
2) Process sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor, blender, or chop finely. For more flavor, toast pine nuts in a dry skillet until fragrant over medium heat, about 5 minutes.
3) Drizzle oil into the tomato mixture. Then stir in vinegar.
4) Toss pasta in tomato pesto mixture. If it seems dry, add 1/2 Cup of the reserved pasta cooking water. Taste for salt and pepper.
5) Stir in goat cheese and arugula or serve pasta on a bed of arugula with goat cheese crumbled on top.
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen 30 Minute Suppers.
This is about as simple as it gets for pasta salads. There’s barely any chopping to do which is rare.
If you’ve never used bowtie pasta for pasta salad, give it a shot. It’s climbing the ranks in my favorite pasta list. Not only is it fun, but the ridges grab hold of a lot of sauce or, in this case, sun-dried tomato goodness.
Of course, you can use any pasta for this though if you can’t find bowtie pasta. I’d recommend larger blocky pastas though. Don’t come crying to me if you try this with angel hair pasta and it sucks.
Making the Pesto
Besides boiling your pasta, the only thing you really need to make for this is the sun-dried tomato pesto. This is as simple as adding in all your sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and Parmesan cheese into a food processor and pulsing it until it’s a coarse paste. Then drizzle in your olive oil and pulse a few more times and stir in the vinegar.
But Nick. I don’t have a food processor!
Do not fret. You have some options. You could try it with a blender although it might be rough going. But honestly you can also just finely chop all your ingredients and then mix together everything in a bowl. Your final product might be a bit chunkier than mine, but it’ll still be delicious in the final pasta salad.
There’s two key ingredients to this recipe that really make it pop. First, goat cheese. When that gets folded into the pasta it gives it a creamy, tangy flavor. I liked folding it in, but you could also kind of crumble it on the finished product if you wanted.
Second, and maybe more important, is nice fresh arugula. The peppery taste of it goes great with the goat cheese and tomatoes. The arugula is maybe my favorite part of the dish, but don’t tell the goat cheese I said that.
Once your pasta is boiled, just drain it and reserve some of the cooking liquid. Toss it immediately with the sun-dried tomato pesto. If it seems a bit dry, add in 1/2 Cup of the cooking water. After everything is well-combined you can fold in your goat cheese also if you’re doing that.
Making it Pretty
I elected to not make mine very pretty. I just kind of mixed everything together because I was planning on taking it for lunch and stuff like that and it was just easier.
If you wanted to make this pretty though, you could serve the pasta on a bed of arugula with the goat cheese crumbled on top.
For my version, I chose function over form I guess.
Start to finish this dish is literally done in the amount of time it takes to boil pasta. It’s fast and tasty and keeps for days.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for the last summer salad of the week which is actually based off of last week’s poll winner!