Sunday, July 14, 2013

Summer Pasta Salad

One of my favorite memories is when my mom would grab our beaten up wicker basket, pack some PB&J, and take us out for a picnic.  It is the ultimate summer memory for me.  There is just something special about squeezing onto a too small blanket and eating on the ground in the warm sun.

This recipe is a perfect picnic meal.  It is so flavorful and packed with yummy veggies, so grab your kids, friends, hubby, or all three.  It is picnic time!  This is my Summer Pasta Salad.

Summer Pasta Salad

First, whip up your dressing.  Use the juice and zest from one lemon, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 tsp of salt, and 1/2 tsp of pepper.  Wisk it together to combine.

Cook your whole wheat penne pasta in boiling water according to the package directions.  I really love whole wheat pasta, but in this recipe I think it really adds extra depth of flavor.  Make sure to salt your water to season the pasta. comes the not so light part.  You can use less butter, but just think about how much pasta you are using.  This recipe made six servings and six large servings at that.  Use 4 TBSP of butter and melt in a large skillet over medium heat.  Is there any greater smell than melting butter?  

To make up for the butter, measure out four cups of packed spinach leaves.  You could also use arugula or kale, but I love the mild flavor of spinach.

Any variety of tomato would work, but my sweetie loves Roma tomatoes best so that is what I used here.  You could use cherry tomatoes if you want a punch of flavor or colorful cherubs for kids.  Use Heirloom tomatoes if you are a fancy pants person :)

Your butter will be foamy and smelling fantastic by this point.

Add 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts to the butter and warm through.  

Grab a big bowl or large gladware container and start tossing things in.  Drain your pasta and add it to the bowl along with the spinach, tomatoes, walnuts, and 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese.  Toss the pasta salad and allow the spinach to wilt.

But wait!!  Don't forget your dressing!  Pour the dressing over the salad and let the fresh flavors meld together.

1 package of whole wheat penne
1 lemon; juice and zest
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 tsp salt 
1/2 tsp pepper
4 cups of packed spinach
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
4 TBSP butter
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
1/2 cup of parmesan

Cook pasta according to package directions.  While the pasta is cooking, grab a small bowl and add the olive oil, lemon juice, zest, salt, and pepper.  Wisk the dressing until combined.

In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat for 10 minutes.  Add the walnuts to the butter and heat the nuts through.  In a large bowl, mix together the pasta, dressing, spinach, tomatoes, parmesan, walnuts, and butter. 

Your summer salad is now complete.  It is fantastic warm and is equally good at room temperature.  This is one reason this makes such a good picnic recipe.  So pack up some apple slices and bottles of water and head to the park.  Those swings, slides, and flower headresses await.  It is picnic time!