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Asparagus Pasta Salad

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Asparagus Pasta Salad

Asparagus Pasta Salad.

© 2012 Ashley Skabar

This springtime pasta salad is perfect for those first warm weather day picnics and potlucks, and it transports well for school and workday lunches.

One of the best things about pasta salads is that they are versatile, so be creative and go with your cravings! Feel free to add additional seasonal vegetables, herbs, and nuts that you have on hand; I am often inclined to toss a bunch of fresh spinach in with my salad (if you decide to do this, just add the spinach into the mix before tossing with the dressing), and sometimes I add dried fruits, smoked tofu, or cherry tomatoes just to keep things interesting!

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

  • For the Dressing:
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 T. finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 t. dried oregano
  • 1/4 salt
  • For the salad
  • 1 lb. uncooked rainbow pasta spirals
  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus spears, cut into 2-3" pieces, hard ends removed
  • 1 cup crumbled store-bought dairy-free cheese of your choice or homemade tofu ricotta
  • 3/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds (raw or roasted and salted)
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • Fresh lemon zest, for garnishing
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, for serving

Preparation:

1. Prepare the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, chopped fresh chives, fresh lemon juice, dried oregano, and salt until well mixed. Set aside.

2. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente*, according to the manufacturer's instructions. Drain the pasta in a colander under cold running water. Run under cold water for 1-2 minutes, or until cool enough to touch. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

3. In about 1 inch of simmering water, cook the asparagus for 3-4 minutes, or until tender-crisp and bright green. Drain and run under cold water until cool enough to touch. Shake off the excess water and add the asparagus to the pasta. Toss in the crumbled dairy-free cheese or tofu ricotta, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, and grated carrot until well mixed. Whisk the dressing once more until combined and add to the pasta mixture, stirring to distribute evenly.

4.Cover the salad and chill for 30 minutes, or until cold. Garnish with fresh lemon zest, and serve with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve cold.

*Cook's Note:

    Al dente is a fancy way of saying that your pasta should be firm, but not hard. Pasta salads prepared with noodles that have been cooked for too long will end up slimy, while pasta salads with noodles that are too firm will be just that--too firm. Aiming for somewhere in between these two extremes is the best way to make sure that your pasta salad is the best it can be.

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