Well the Mid-West is finally getting those hot temperatures that we’re known for, which means that my stove will be getting no love for a couple months. I just can’t think of anything worse than sweating over a hot oven after spending the entire day sweating over everything else in the house. Now, it’s only been in the 80’s for a couple weeks, but I’ve already burned my family out on salads and grilled meats, making meal planning a challenge. In the mornings I find myself standing in my kitchen staring at my stove with utter contempt, thinking How can I avoid firing you up tonight? And that’s when a brilliant idea occurred to me: why not cook dinner early before the house heats up, then serve it cold come evening? Why not turn the pasta I was planning to make into a cold noodle salad? Why not? I said, and so I did!
Pesto Pasta Salad
- 1- 1½ lbs. thin spaghetti, broken in half
- 1 bunch of asparagus, tender parts only, cut into 2″ pieces
- 2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 4 cooked chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces (see recipe below) – omit to make this dish vegetarian
- ½-¾ cup pesto (see recipe below)
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- Fresh grated parmesan cheese for serving
Cook pasta per package instructions, and at the end of the cooking time add asparagus to the pot and cook for 2 minutes. Pour pasta and asparagus into a colander and run cold water into the colander until pasta and asparagus are cool. Shake the colander to remove excess water from pasta and place pasta and asparagus in a large serving bowl. Add tomatoes, pesto, and chicken and toss to combine (now I like to use my hands because I don’t mind getting dirty and it’s easier to incorporate the ingredients without tearing the pasta, but a pair of cooking tongs will work as well). Season with salt and pepper. Either serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, for up to 2 days. Sprinkle with parmesan just before serving.
- 4-6 chicken breasts
- ½ cup dry white wine, like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
- ½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Fresh cracked pepper, to taste
- Cooking spray
Place chicken and all remaining ingredients in a large resealable plastic bag and allow to marinate, refrigerated, for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours.
Mist a large skillet with cooking spray and set over medium heat. Add chicken, cover skillet, and cook until brown on the skillet side and the chicken starts to become opaque throughout, about 5 minutes. Flip, cover skillet, and cook until the other side is brown and chicken is no longer pink in the center, about 3-5 minutes.
Transfer chicken to a plate and allow to cool before cutting. Chicken can be made and refrigerated up to 3 days prior to being added to the salad.
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 4 cups fresh basil leaves, torn
- ¼ Tbsp. pine nuts
- ¼ Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ tsp. Kosher salt
- ¼ Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Add garlic, basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, salt, lemon juice, and 1 Tbsp. oil to a food processor. Process until just beginning to come together, then while the machine is still running, slowly drizzle in remaining oil and continue to blend until smooth and paste-like. Season with pepper and more salt if needed.