Easy pasta salads... when you don't really want to cook and you certainly do not want to light the oven. This is a recipe that comes together quickly and packs all the freshest flavors that summer can offer. It takes a classic basil pesto recipe, that could be used on its own, and marries it with hearty pasta, sweet tomatoes, fresh and aged cheeses and even sneaks a bit of spinach in. Served chilled and stores well in the refrigerator if you want to get a jump on meal prep or lunches for the kids.
Pesto Pasta Salad
Approximately 2 generous cups fresh basil leaves, packed ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese or Romano blend 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts 3 cloves garlic, whole Pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper ½ - 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Directions: Begin by making the pesto. In a food processor add basil leaves, grated Parmesan, 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts (more if you prefer) and garlic. Season with a pinch of salt and some ground pepper. Add ½ cup olive oil, reserving on any additional, only if needed. Lock lid in place and pulse a few time to get pesto going. Grind until you have a smooth but think consistency. If your pesto in a bit on the dry side, add a couple extra tablespoons of olive oil and pulse again. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed and set aside. Pasta Salad Ingredients:
16 oz orecchiette pasta, cooked al dente, drained and cooled 1 ½ cups prepared pesto (see recipe above) ¾ cup mayonnaise (more or less) 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved 1 pint bocconcini mozzarella, drained and halved 2 cups baby spinach, cut into ribbons or chiffonade ¾ cup mayonnaise (more or less) ¼ cup additional pine nuts ¼ cup additional grated Parmesian Additional fresh basil, optional.
In a large bowl, add cooked and cooled orecchiette and toss together with prepared pesto and mayonnaise. Next add ¾’s of each the halved tomatoes, bocconcini, spinach ribbons, pine nuts, grated Parmesan and toss together, reserving some ingredients for presentation. Place pasta salad into a serving bowl and top with reserved ingredients and sprinkle with extra parmesan and torn basil leaves. Serve chilled.
~ Pasta salad serves six to eight.
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