There is something so satisfying about making a big batch of really good pasta salad. It can be so simple, just a few tosses of fresh ingredients while the pasta is hot, and you have an easy and incredibly flavorful dish. I will admit that pasta salads were not my favorite as a kid—they always seemed to taste bland, and like the refrigerator. No good! But I have since solved the flavor challenge.
This recipe actually came about from a recent trip to Hawaii. Ryan and I were visiting our best friends for a milestone birthday. But, the day we were flying back to Chicago, they both got stuck at work. Before we let ourselves out of their apartment to go to the airport, knowing that they were going to be home very late, I wanted to leave them a surprise dinner in their refrigerator!
After a few minutes, I found everything I needed to create a Pesto & Arugula Pasta Salad. Best of all, it only took 15 minutes and we were out the door and our friends had an easy and delicious dinner waiting for them. Needless to say, they were very happy to come home after a very long day to a ready-made meal that kept perfectly well! This is easy summer “cooking”, at its best!
Pesto & Arugula Pasta Salad
Ingredients (serve 4-6)
Fusilli – 1 pound, cooked al dente
Pesto – 7 ounces, store-bought
Grape Tomatoes – 2 pints, halved
Parmesan Cheese – 1 cup, freshly grated, Parmigiano-Reggiano recommended
Baby Arugula – 2 cups, washed and dried
Green Onions – ½ cup, thinly sliced
Basil – ⅓ cup, rough chopped, fresh
Parsley - ⅓ cup, rough chopped, fresh, Italian Flat-Leaf variety recommended
Red Pepper Flakes – ½ teaspoon
Lemon Zest – 1 small lemon, zested
Sea Salt – 1½ teaspoons
Black Pepper – 1 teaspoon, freshly cracked
After the pasta has been cooked and drained, and while it is hot, place it into a large bowl.
Immediately add all of the ingredients to the hot pasta and toss until evenly mixed.
Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.
Tip: You can make this in advance and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Before you serve it, check to see if it needs more salt, pepper, and even another handful of fresh arugula or basil mixed in. I have noticed that as food sits in a cold temperature, some of the flavor “disappears”. After all, who wants bland food?!