Here’s a pasta salad good enough to stand on it’s own as a meal. Your family will love it and so will you!
The Perfect Pasta Salad
This is the perfect pasta salad! There’s many reasons I think that way about it too.
The first reason is that you can use leftover pasta. Now, that’s a boon because there aren’t too many things you can use those leftovers for.
Secondly, it’s also a perfect vegetarian (but sadly not vegan due to the cheese) main dish. It’s got nuts and seeds so you’re getting your full whack of protein.
Lastly, it’s totally delicious and you won’t miss the meat! The pasta salad may be made entirely vegan with either a vegan cheese substitute or leaving it out entirely.
Delicious Vinaigrette Dressing
This dressing is to die for. It’s so delicious!
Making the dressing is pretty easy if you have a regular blender. The dressing needs to be emulsified and an old-fashioned blender is the best way to do it. When you come to the point of adding the oil in a slow, steady stream, you will have to remove the little glass thing in the lid. What I do is wad up some paper towels and hold them over most of the opening leaving a little open space where I can pour the oil. Now, it’ll be a little bit messy, but you’ll have an even bigger mess if you just leave the top open. Been there, done that. I suppose you can use an immersion blender too–but I have not tried this. Theoretically you can add all the ingredients and you don’t have to stream the oil with this appliance. Not sure if it works so I’m not recommending it, even though I’ve made mayonnaise with it and it sets up fine.
Another little trick to get the vinaigrette to emulsify easily is to add a teaspoon of dijon mustard. You don’t taste it, but it works wonders for setting up anything that has to be emulsified.
Get Seedy And Go Nuts
Toasted sesame seed adds a wonderful flavor to this salad. I toast my own, but I do believe you can buy them already toasted. Making your own is easy–just add the amount you want to toast in a small skillet over medium heat. You have to keep shaking the pan so nothing burns and it will take about five minutes.
I used cashews in this because I love the flavor. I toasted those too. Put them on a baking sheet in a 350 oven for 5-10 minutes. Toasting adds great flavor, but you don’t have to do this if time is of the essence.
- 8 oz penne-OR-any tubular pasta, uncooked
- 1 lb fresh asparagus, cut in 1-inch pieces
- 2 tbs olive oil
- ¼ tsp salt
- 3 cups fresh baby spinach
- 2 tbs toasted sesame seeds
- 1 cup coarsely chopped cashews
- ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup chopped green onions
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 5 tbs white wine vinegar
- 2 tbs soy sauce
- 1 tsp toasted (dark) sesame oil
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- Cook penne per package instructions. Rinse and drain; set aside.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lay the asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with the 2 tbs olive oil; toss to coat. Sprinkle with the ¼ tsp salt.
- Roast asparagus for 8-10 minutes, or until it's crisp/tender. Stir after 5 minutes. Set aside and let it cool.
- Place all dressing ingredients except for the oil in a blender. Pulse a few times to mix. With the blender running, add the oil in a steady stream. FYI you have to remove the little glass thing in the lid so to prevent making a mess, cover most of the hole with a paper towel while you're adding the oil
- Mix the pasta, spinach and sesame seeds in a large bowl. Toss in dressing and top with the cashews and cheese.