Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pesto Pasta Salad

My mom and I traveled through Europe the summer before my senior year of college.  The trip was my college graduation present but Mom and I took the trip the year before I graduated since I had just become engaged to my high school sweetheart, and we would be getting married the summer after graduation.  Was that a run-on sentence?

Anyway, I fell in love on that trip.  With pesto. 

We traveled through the boot of Italy, eating pesto at every stop.  One time we shared a plate of pasta pesto at about 10 a.m.  We justified it, saying that we would just call that lunch.  I don't remember, but we probably ate pesto on something again for lunch a couple hours later.  And then I ate gelato.  I'm sure of that, since I made it my personal goal to eat gelato every single day we spent in Italy.  Sometimes more than once a day.

That trip was one of the most fun trips of my life.  We laughed.  A lot.  And pesto reminds me of that trip.

There are a million different ways to use pesto.  Of course you can plop a dollop on angel hair pasta, stir it up, and eat your heart out.

Or you can make this pasta salad.  There is probably nothing truly authentically Italian about it, aside from the pesto.  And the parmesan cheese.  And the pine nuts.

But it's insanely delish.

My husband, the one to whom I was engaged while I discovered my second love (pesto), loves this pasta salad.  He is happy that I love pesto because he now loves pesto, too.
So here we go: this pasta salad will make you want to go to Italy and eat pesto and gelato until you're sick (been there, done that). 

Put a pot of water on to boil.  We're going to use cheese tortellini.  A 20-oz package.  You can get this in the frozen pasta section or in the refrigerated pasta section.  It's cheaper in the freezer section so that's what I use.

Cook the tortellini according to the package directions. 

While it cooks, we'll make the sauce.  The sauce is only three ingredients that were made for each other: pesto, mayo, and lemon juice.  Leah, you won't even know the mayo is here.  Trust me.

Whisk it up.  Do not, under any circumstances, use Miracle Whip.  Miracle Whip is not mayonnaise.  I'm not sure what Miracle Whip actually is, but nothing I make will ever call for Miracle Whip.  My grandmother called Miracle Whip a low-class habit.  I think of that every time I see Miracle Whip and it makes me laugh.

Now that we have that important issue cleared up, this sauce is good for a multitude of things.  Grill some chicken and plop a dollop of this on top.  Or put it on salmon.  Or stir it into some angel hair pasta. 

Now that the complicated and tedious sauce is complete, let's finish the salad.  Put the frozen petite green peas into a colander.

They can just hang out here until the pasta is done, and then we will drain the pasta right over the peas which will cook the peas to perfection. 

Now toast some pine nuts.  But please, please don't burn them.  Like I have.  Many times. 

I did not burn these, though.  I toasted these to golden-brown perfection.

When the pasta is ready, drain it in the colander with the peas. 

Dump the peas and pasta into the bowl with the sauce.  Mix it together.

Top it with the toasted pine nuts and parmesan cheese.

Pretend you're in Italy.

Someday I will go back to Italy.  Maybe with my girls when they graduate from college. 

Until I return to pesto's motherland, I'll just keep on eating pesto that I grew in my freezer.  Someday I'll show you how to grow pesto in your freezerIt's an important skill to have.

My favorite time to eat this salad is immediately.  Or you can serve it at room temperature.  Or you can chill it and serve it cold.  If you do not serve it immediately, then hold the pine nuts until you are ready to serve it so they don't get soggy. 

This is a great lunch with fresh fruit.  For dinner, it's great with a piece of grilled chicken and some asparagus.

Hope you love it like we do!

Pesto Pasta Salad
20 oz. package cheese tortellini (in frozen or refrigerated section)
3/4 cup pesto
2/3 cup mayonnaise
Juice of one lemon
12 oz. bag frozen petite green peas
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Cook the tortellini according to the package directions.  Meanwhile, place a colander in the sink and put the frozen peas in the colander.

To make the sauce, whisk together the pesto, mayo and lemon juice.

When the tortellini is done, drain it over the peas.  Toss the peas and pasta into the sauce and mix well.  Top with the parmesan cheese.  Just before serving, top with the pine nuts.

This is good served immediately while it's warm, at room temperature, or chilled. 


Anonymous said...

Yummy! My other favorite recipe. Aletta

BWF said...

I LOVE pesto! Thank you for posting.