BBQ, picnic & potluck season is just around the corner,
here is an easy, delicious Penne Pesto Salad to take along
Some of the best foods in life: garlic, basil, sun dried tomatoes, garlic, pine nuts, goat cheese, garlic, balsamic vinegar and garlic…. Did I mention garlic??
Any time I can incorporate any or all of them in a recipe, it is sure to be a winner!
This is a recipe that was originally given to me by a good friend about 25 years or so ago. Like all of my recipes, it has changed and evolved over the years. As a matter of fact, this same friend and I went on a girl’s weekend away last month. Since it is tradition, I made the salad to take with us. While we were eating, she commented on how wonderful the salad was and wondered aloud where we had ever gotten the recipe… Um, it’s yours??? A sure sign we have been friends for way too long, our memories are slipping!! Either that or I made a lot of changes to the original recipe...
Anyone who knows me and has seen me cook knows that I never use an actual recipe more than once without changing it and adding to it after that. I love creative cooking!
The original recipe called for chunks of ham instead of tomato, way less garlic and no balsamic vinegar. Since one of my kids is allergic to pork and another stopped eating beef and pork for about 9 or 10 years, the recipe was altered out of necessity for our family but feel free to add the ham back in if that is your taste preference, it is wonderful with chopped chicken too. I added more garlic and tried balsamic because…. well, the more the better!
Penne Pesto Salad
1 – 12 ounce box Ronzoni Smart Taste Penne Rigate pasta – cooked and drained
2 cups fresh basil, washed with stems removed
½ cup Pine Nuts, lightly toasted (walnuts can be substituted)
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated or in small chunks
4-6 cloves garlic (depending on your taste preference)
¾ cup First Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil (the best for you!)
½ cup White Wine Vinegar
2 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
8 ounces cooked ham or chicken, chopped (OPTIONAL INGREDIENT)
8 ounces Swiss cheese, cut into bite size chunks
1 box/package/basket Cherry or Grape tomatoes – fresh from the garden or produce stand are always best!
Balsamic Glaze (optional garnish to drizzle over salad before serving)
Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, rinse with cold water and set aside or refrigerate. If you can’t find Ronzoni Smart Taste pasta, any Penne pasta can be substituted, I just like the Ronzoni best. While the pasta is cooking, lightly toast pine nuts or walnuts in the oven or in a frying pan, set aside to cool.
Using a blender, food processor or hand held emersion mixer, blend Basil, nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, olive oil, white wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar until smooth. If you over blend the ingredients, they will begin to thicken and lighten in color, changing the texture of the pesto sauce. Try and not over blend, but this should not change the taste of your sauce if you accidently over do it, stop blending immediately if this happens.
Chop cheese and tomatoes, add to cooled pasta, stir in about 1/2 to 2/3’s of the Pesto sauce, stir well, adding salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate pasta salad and remaining pesto sauce until well chilled (about 30 to 60 minutes or even over night). Stir well before serving. Some types of pasta will absorb a large amount of the sauce, if needed add more sauce at this point. If the salad is moist enough, refrigerate left over sauce for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 6 months for future use*
Garnish with a few chopped tomatoes for color, a sprinkle of chopped nuts and a drizzle of Balsamic Glaze.
*Left over sauce is great on pizza, over hot pasta, mixed in with Alfredo sauce for a pesto alfredo, basted on grilled chicken or steak, spread on a flour tortilla with pine nuts, goat cheese and tomatoes for a mini pizza, the possibilities are endless!