Pasta Pesto Salad (Gluten-free)
Pasta salad? Not exactly paleo, but bear with me.
I know many of you – even those who follow AIP – have reintroduced occasional gluten-free grains. I have! Small servings of rice or occasionally brown rice pasta are a nice change of pace.
And really, is there anything more convenient to take to a party? I’ve taken this salad to two parties so far this summer and it holds up nicely, even now that it’s positively sizzling outside. (Thank god; I love winter, and I have loved spring, but getting some SUN on my SKIN has improved my mood quite significantly – we need the sun! Just not too much…)
This pesto is pretty much the pesto I shared with you last week, with basil and more lemon added. I like to add heat with a jalapeno but you can skip that. Pepitas show up here again, both in the pesto and a few more scattered into the salad. My favorite are the soaked, salted, and dehydrated pepitas I buy at the co-op. They’re here on Amazon too. Beware of their deliciousness. They go down real easy.
The latest party – this past Sunday – was the joint graduation block party celebration for the sons of my dear friends Zoe & Graham Francois (congrats Charlie!) and Jen & Pete Sommerness (congrats Aaron!). It was a BANNER day, 72F and sunny and dry. There were delectable meats from Animales Barbeque Company and vegetarian/vegan treats from Quang. Jen made salads, I brought this one. Zoe made a stunning cake AND homemade marshmallows for s’mores, because that’s how she rolls.
There was a fire and comfy chairs and copious bubbles and super loud music (love). The dancing started around 4:30p and continued until after 10p. Yes, more than 5 hours of dancing in our street.
It was glorious summer perfection.
The last couple of weeks I’ve been filled with borderline weepy gratitude – it’s a spring thing, apparently – for the usual suspects like my family and friends, this rather amazing life, peeks of summer, trees, flowers, long walks, dancing (pretty much all day, three cheers for cook-dancing and stand-up desks!), sunrises, sunsets. So. Many. Sun. Pictures. I think it’s one of the many benefits of having excellent (phone) cameras in our pockets now.
I say that if something moves you, definitely take a picture of it. It’s great fun to look back and see what captured your heart and imagination on random days. (Do you think I’m sundrunk? Probably. But can you blame me? It was a LONG winter this year!)
In today’s Facebook Live I talk about – yes, the sun – but no weeping, I promise. I do mention the importance of (safe) sun exposure while answering your questions about signs of inflammation and keeping a positive attitude in the face of big changes. If you’re not on Facebook, you can click this link to view it on YouTube.
Oh, I don’t want to forget again, I’ve been remiss in reminding you of the joys of Healing Green Broth in the spring and summer, when fresh herbs and greens flood the markets. You can sign up for the FREE Healing Green Broth 30-Day Challenge here – once each week, I email you a kickass bone broth recipe and a couple of flavor variations to try. It’s delicious, great for your skin, nicely energizing, filling without being heavily caloric, and FUN. #vroom
OK, pesto forth! So many greens, so many things to puree them into. 😂 Give me a (beloved) Vitamix and I can make anything green taste delicious.
Pasta Pesto Salad (Gluten-free)
Note: Feel free to sub in your favorite add-ins for the peas, roasted tomatoes, olives, and fresh mozzarella. I could imagine green beans and tuna – keep the olives – for a riff on Salad Nicoise (you could call it Fancy Tuna Pasta Salad 😉). I’m never mad at the old-school classic that includes pepperoni and pepperoncini. I thought about garnishing this written version with a pile of shattered, crispy prosciutto but ran out of time (seriously, how yum though?). Re: seasoning, you want the pesto to be well-seasoned and taste really good before you toss it with the pasta, so make sure it’s salty and lemon-y enough. You’ll need to add more seasoning to the finished dish as well, but seasoning in layers adds more depth and deliciousness than just salting/seasoning at the end. I like to make and serve this salad on the same day – the pesto loses its pretty color when stored overnight.
For the pesto:
1 cup basil leaves
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves
3 scallions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 whole minced jalapeño or serano chile (start with less if you’re sensitive to heat – you can always add more later)
1/4 cup toasted pepitas
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup olive oil (more if needed for consistency)
1 teaspoon sea salt (more to taste)
Several grinds of fresh black pepper (skip for AIP)
For the salad:
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (more to finish the salad)
1 package (1 pound) Tinkyada brown rice pasta shells
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup pitted Nicoise olives
2 cups mini fresh mozzarella balls, halved (if you can’t find those, cut regular fresh mozzarella into 1-inch pieces)
1/2 cup toasted or dehydrated pepitas
Freshly ground black pepper
For the pesto:
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse-process until pesto is a chunky puree. Taste and add more salt (and heat) if needed.
Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the pesto and cover with an airtight lid. Refrigerate until ready to use.
For the salad:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Scatter tomato halves across baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle generously with salt. Toss to coat and make sure tomatoes are spread evenly across the pan. Roast for 30 minutes or until soft and browning at the edges. Cool.
Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package instructions, although test for doneness a few minutes early. It’s important to NOT overcook the pasta and for it to be true al dente, with a slight bit of chewiness. It helps to cook the pasta in a generous amount of salted water, leaving plenty of room in the pot for the starch to boil up but not boil over, so use a bigger pot than perhaps you’re used to. Just as the pasta finishes, add peas to the boiling water (they don’t need to cook for any length of time, just heat through).
Drain the pasta and peas and rinse thoroughly with cold water to cool the pasta down. Transfer pasta and peas to a large mixing bowl.
Add olives, mozzarella, pepitas, and cooled tomatoes to the pasta. Add half of the pesto and toss to coat, adding more to your liking. Season with salt and lots of pepper. I like to add more olive oil right before serving, because the pasta will absorb quite a bit of the oil from the pesto. Serve at room temperature.