08 June 2009

Pasta salad

Yes, yes, I know that was more than a couple of weeks. I didn't forget about the blog, I was just crazy busy. Now I'm not...actually, that's not true, but at least I've decided to take the time to start updating the blog again! It's right around 100 degrees F out there (that's ~38 degrees C), so I thought a nice, cool salad would be a good idea. I've always had a special place in my heart (stomach) for pasta salads, and here's a pretty simple one that always leaves me hungry for more. For more substance, add some cold, cooked chicken and crumbled bacon - but this sucker is actually vegetarian in the original recipe, that follows (crazy, right?)

Pasta Salad

1 package (16 oz) penne pasta
15 cocktail tomatoes
1 cucumber
1 can corn (or 2 fresh corn cobs, cooked with the corn removed from the cob)
1/2 head romaine lettuce
8 oz feta cheese, crumbled
pesto sauce

Boil the pasta until al dente. Drain and let cool. Wash and shred the romaine lettuce. Wash and quarter the cocktail tomatoes. Wash, then dice the cucumber. Drain the corn (if using a can), or wash the cobs, remove the kernels and cook them (most recipes call for a non-stick pan with a little bit of oil over medium heat until the corn is cooked). Put the cooked and now cooled pasta in a large bowl. Add about five tablespoons of pesto sauce (recipe follows below, or you can buy a jar at the grocery store) and stir until all the pasta is covered. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until combined. If you wish, add cooked, sliced chicken or turkey and crispy, crumbled bacon to the mix at this point.

Serve with freshly baked bread and a cold beer on a sunny patio (unless it's friggin' 100 degrees out, you want the shade then) for optimum results.

Pesto Sauce

2 cups fresh basil leaves (packed)
1/4 cup grated fresh Parmigianio Reggiano
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (use the good stuff if you have it)
3 tbsp pine nuts
3 garlic cloves, finely minced

You'll need a food processor for this. Start by placing about a third of the basil leaves in the processor and blend until finely chopped. Add a third of the garlic and a third of the nuts and blend again. Add a third of the cheese and a third of the oil, and blend again. Once it turns into a paste (you may have to scrape the sides of the bowl). Empty the bowl, then repeat the process until you've used all the ingredients. Combine the batches. This will last about a week in the fridge, a few months in the freezer. If you're not making pasta salad, it works really well if you just add it to freshly boiled pasta. I used to heat it with a little bit of creme fraiche and serve over spaghetti, but it's crazy expensive and hard to get creme fraiche in the US and I wouldn't want to try it with sour cream. Heavy cream is probably a better bet.