Ever since the night I came home meaning to make pasta and discovered I had less than a cup of every variety known to man in my cupboard (see Italian Sausage Risotto entry), I've been meaning to make up a pasta salad to use up some of these tail ends. Why pasta salad? Well, as a salad is a more casual affair it would go better with the messiness of mixed pasta shapes. Also, the remainders of pasta were all of a kind to go well in a salad: elbow macaroni, shells and rotini. (After all, if you get to the end of your spaghetti, you just buy more, right? No need to match the exact size and shape as it's all more or less the same.)
I'm sorry the photo doesn't make this look more appetising, but you'll have to trust me: it turned out pretty tasty. I'm just including the photo so that Chef Barrett doesn't start complaining about the lack of visuals!
In composing this salad, I tried to make it as flavourful as possible as I usually find pasta salads much too bland. It was pretty tasty last night at dinner, but the salad hadn't chilled properly. I'll find out at lunch time if I really succeeded!
Pesto Pasta Salad
1/2 fresh basil leaves (I really should have used more, but it already halved the leaves on my poor plant)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 clove of fresh garlic (the last of my last head, alas!)
2 tomatoes, chopped
3/4 cup sweet corn
2 Tbs capers
1 small tin of anchovies, less the chef's due (about 15 anchovies)
1 Tbs frozen chopped parsley (use fresh instead if you have enough)
1 Tbs frozen chopped parsley (ditto)
3 tiny spring onions (because I was grilling their brothers and they were too small and I didn't want to waste them!)
1/3 cup sunflower seeds (I intended to use toasted pine nuts, but didn't have any in the cupboard)
3/4 cup to 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 cups pasta (rotini and large shell pasta)
freshly ground pepper to taste
Start the pasta cooking in a large pot of boiling water. If the shapes vary greatly in size, you may want to put in the largest a few minutes before adding the others.
Put the basil in a mortar with a pinch of salt and the clove of garlic. Grind with the pestle until you have a paste. Add the olive oil to this paste and mix. Set aside and prepare the rest of the ingredients (chopping tomatoes and onions, grating cheese, etc.)
When the pasta is just barely done, drain it and toss it with the basil/garlic/olive oil dressing. Add the extra basil and parsley and chill for ten minutes or so in the fridge. Add the tomatoes, corn, capers, onions and anchovies and continue cooling. When the pasta has cooled at least to room temperature, add the cheese and sunflower seeds and toss. Taste for salt, pepper and Parmesan. Serve!
The mix of pesto, anchovies and sunflower seeds gave the pasta quite a bit of flavour. If you have any other fresh vegetables, I am sure they would also go very well in this salad. I think the only change I would make next time is to add more pesto, but then you would probably want to reduce the anchovy and sunflower seed content (and possibly replace the latter with toasted pine nuts, which have a less pronounced flavour). As it was, though, the salad more than fulfilled my goal of NOT BEING BLAND. Which is just as well, as I made a mountain of salad and will be eating it for the rest of the week...