Springtime Pesto Pasta Salad

By: Chelsea Cozad

This is my all time favorite Pasta Salad recipe because it is so simple and works for so many different occasions. It is perfect to make for a family gathering or makes a fabulous addition to any dinner party.

Time to make: 30 minutes

Serves 8-10

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound whole grain pasta (the tri-colored rotini is my favorite)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 3 handfuls baby arugula or spinach
  • Optional: diced mozzarella or grated Parmesan

Pesto:

  • ½ cup pepitas (if you can’t find pepitas try pumpkin seeds)
  • ½ cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta until al dente according to package directions. Before draining, reserve about ½ cup pasta cooking water, then drain and immediately rinse the pasta under cool water to prevent the noodles from sticking to one another. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, to prepare the pesto: In a small skillet, toast the pepitas/ pumpkin seeds over medium heat, stirring often, until they are fragrant and making little popping noises, about 5 minutes. Pour half of them into a bowl for later (to use them as garnish).
  3. Pour the remaining pepitas/pumpkin seeds into a food processor. Add the basil, parsley, lemon juice, garlic and salt. Process while slowly drizzling in the olive oil, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary, until the pepitas have broken down to create a mostly-smooth sauce. If the pesto is not smooth enough, try adding a little bit more of olive oil.
  4. To assemble the pasta salad, pour all of the pesto over the pasta and toss until the pasta is lightly and evenly coated, adding a tiny splash of reserved pasta cooking water if necessary to thin it out. Then add the cherry tomatoes, arugula, remaining toasted pepitas, and any optional add-ins.
  5. Toss again to combine, then season to taste with pepper. If the pasta needs a little more flavor, add salt or lemon juice to taste, or if the flavors are too bold, let it rest or put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes, and add a little splash of olive oil if necessary to tone down the rest.
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