Inspiration always strikes with just a few choices, doesn't it? Left with a few spoonfuls of fresh pesto, a small hunk of mozzarella, about 3 handfuls of farmer's market arugula and enough roasted asparagus in a jar to round out a dinner, I started thinking green pasta. By the time the water boils and the pasta is cooked, you can prep all the accompaniments. And when I realized I'd prefer to serve it cooled to room temperature alongside a glass of white wine on a humid May evening, I decided that that was in order. So I dallied in the process, not bothering to keep the dish warm, instead popping it, covered in the fridge for a few minutes, before placing it on the table while I washed the pot and pan and made it look like nothing had happened in this kitchen. Things always taste better when you've already cleaned up the mess.
And that is the beauty of the pasta salad.
A few notes on this salad that set it apart from the old P & V (pasta with veggies): you're going for the green in triplicate here which delivers lots of punch in flavor: pureed in pesto, chopped in asparagus and torn in arugula. Salt your water well and save a little to thin out the pesto with so you can coat the pasta. Feel free to of course throw in more pesto if you have it but I just wanted it to be 1/3 of the equation. I think fresh mozzarella and a little diced tomato make everything cool even cooler especially since it won't melt into the sauce here.
Green Dinner Pasta Salad
serves 2 heartily, 4 as a side
1/2 lb fusilli
3 dollops pesto*
10 asparagus spears
pinch red pepper flakes
Few chives, diced
Few swipes lemon zest
1/2 inch of a white part of a scallion, chopped
cracked black pepper
3 handfuls arugula
2 inch hunk fresh mozzarella
1/2 small tomato, diced
Cook pasta according to package directions in salted water. Reserve a bit of water, drain pasta, toss a glug oil with it and let it cool on a sheet pan, spread out. Mix some of the water, just a bit at a time, with the pesto to thin it a bit. you're looking for a yogurt consistency.
Meanwhile toss asparagus with salt, oil and roast in a 400 degree oven, about 15 minutes, until tender, toss with red pepper flakes, then let cool and chop into thirds.
In a large serving bowl, combine chopped asparagus, chives, scallion, zest, a spoonful of pesto, half the pasta. Stir, then add a bit of the arugula, then more pasta, more pesto, until you've used everything and then add 1/2 the mozzarella. Squeeze a bit of lemon and olive oil over it, coarse salt if desired, toss once more, and finish with tomato, reserved cheese and pepper. Let stand at room temperature or chill.
(If you do chill long, you may need to pour in a tad more oil or pasta water to loosen the pasta a bit)
For Pesto: Combine a cup chopped basil leaves, a small handful chopped toasted nuts and a few spoonfuls oil, a squeeze lemon and blend in a food processor or immersion blender. Season with salt and add a handful cheese if desired (I didn't here)