By Chef Linda
Warm weather, cookouts…and bland, boring pasta salad? No thank you. A dish designed to please a crowd, pasta salad often falls short of its goal; a big bowl of over-boiled pasta, cherry tomatoes shipped in from the Land of No Flavor, large pieces of dull green, too-hard broccoli (BITE-sized pieces and always blanch first, friends!), doused with bottled salad dressing that loses it's flavor by the time it's served. Sun Dried Pesto Pasta Salad is the antidote.
With its bold, audacious flavor and easy preparation, this is a pasta salad designed to be a distinctive departure from tradition. A deep, rich pesto made from sun dried tomatoes stands up to the pasta, even after sitting on the picnic table. Quick roasted chick peas add texture and contrast, and tender black olives provide color and a mild briny accent. This summer, if a marauding band of hungry visitors shows up unannounced, you can rest easy knowing that your well-stocked pantry provides nearly everything you need to make this memorable dish.
Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta Salad
1 pound pasta (penne, rotini, or bowtie work well)
1 (14.5 ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or about 2 cups cooked
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus 3/4 cup
1 1/2 teaspoons, salt divided
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup dry-packed sun dried tomatoes (reduce the oil slightly if using oil-packed)
2 to 3 large cloves garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons pine nuts (or use walnuts, almonds, or pumpkin seeds)
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon yellow miso
1 (14-ounce) can large, pitted black olives, drained
Chopped fresh basil, for garnish, optional
Chopped fresh greens for serving, optional
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Cook pasta according to package directions, adding a drizzle of oil to the water to prevent sticking while cooling afterward. When done, drain pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup cooking water. Rinse pasta under cold water and place in a large bowl. Set aside. Spread chickpeas on lined tray. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, thyme, and oregano. Toss together to coat, then roast for 15 minutes, or until chickpeas are lightly browned and aromatic.
In a food processor, pulse together the sun dried tomatoes garlic, pine nuts, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, miso, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt until well blended. While processor is running, drizzle in the remaining 3/4 cup oil and blend until smooth. Pesto should have a strong flavor because it will be diluted by the pasta when mixed together.
Scoop pesto into bowl with pasta and toss to combine. If a thinner consistency is desired, add reserved pasta water, by the tablespoon, until desired consistency is achieved. Add roasted chickpeas. Crush olives with your fingers and add to pasta. Toss to combine. Line serving bowl or platter with salad greens. Arrange pasta over greens. Garnish with chopped basil. Serve immediately or chill.