Thursday, March 25, 2010

Broccoli and Asparagus Pasta Salad

After finding a box of whole-wheat penne that had been living in the depths of my pantry for over a year, I thought that it was about time to make a fine pasta salad. It is a shame that I don't make pasta salads more often because they are literally the perfect dish. Anything can be thrown in, and it takes almost no effort or technique. I had just returned from my local Co-Op the day before with a bunch of spring asparagus and a large of head of broccoli, so I knew that they were going in. I had also bought a small chunk of spicy, deep Argentine Parmesan, which added a nutty smokiness when grated over the top of the salad. Finely chopped olives mixed with dried herbs and olive oil made a salty sort of dressing that made the entire dish wonderfully satiating for lunch. I bet this would be even more fantastic with toasted pine nuts or chopped walnuts.

But while this recipe is a good starting place, I advise to make up your own recipe, dictated by the ingredients you already have on hand.

Broccoli and Asparagus Pasta Salad

1 box whole wheat penne pasta

1 head broccoli

10 asparagus spears, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 handful spinach

1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon each of dried basil, oregano and thyme

1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

1/2 can pitted black olives, chopped finely

3 splashes of balsamic vinegar

grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Salt liberally. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally for 12 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
In a large frying pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Add broccoli florets and cook on medium until they are browned but not burnt. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Set aside in a separate bowl.
In the same pan, heat a tablespoon of oil on medium. Add onions and cook until transparent. Add asparagus and herbs. Add splashes of balsamic vinegar and cook until tender. If the vegetables seem like they are sticking add a little water to the pan.
Finally, combine the pasta and cooked vegetables in a large bowl. Stir in chopped olives and the handful of spinach.
Grate cheese over the top. Either serve hot immediately, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

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