penne with herbs, tomatoes, and peas

I’m not one who feels compelled to serve a starch at every meal.  I’d rather double my serving of veggies or add a hearty side salad.   I might even throw some cooked rice or lentils into a salad to beef it up a bit.  But my eaters enjoy their side dishes and I’m easily bored by potatoes.  The poor Irish.  I don’t know what I would have done.  Really?  Potatoes?  Again?

Since I had a flank steak on the grill and my green beans were cleaned and stemmed, I only needed a few minutes to throw this together right before the meat came off to rest.  You can cook your pasta ahead since it’s combined later with the hot ingredients to re-warm it.  I especially enjoyed this as a side because it was anything but “potato boring.”  There are a lot of flavors swirling around in this pasta – from heady garlic and parsley to the sweetness of basil and cherry tomatoes.  I think it would be great adapted to a cold pasta salad, as well, to make it perfect for any end-of-summer picnics you might have on calendar.  Enjoy!

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Penne with Herbs, Tomatoes, and Peas (recipe courtesy Cooking Light, June 2013)

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces uncooked penne pasta
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 ounce fresh Parmesan cheese, shaved (about 1/4 cup)

Directions:

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Add peas during last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain.

2. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add garlic; cook 4 minutes or until garlic begins to brown, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium-high. Add tomatoes to pan; cook 1 minute. Add pasta mixture, salt, and pepper to pan; cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. Stir in basil and parsley. Sprinkle with cheese.

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***Cook’s Notes:  Don’t cook your garlic for 4 minutes.  It’ll be scorched beyond belief and your pasta will be ruined.  Keep a close eye on it and throw in the tomatoes when it becomes fragrant, not brown.  Also, it’s super easy to over cook a tomato, too.  The recipe says cook for one minute, but I’d say less.  You still have to return the pasta to the dish and re-warm, which will be plenty of time for the tomatoes to heat through.  The original recipe called for regular pasta.  I substituted whole wheat to boost fiber and protein.

italian basil pasta salad

This post really needs to start with a confession:  I did not make this dish.  I bought the ingredients, but I had absolutely nothing to do with the assembly.  Not that I don’t want to take credit for it.  It was superb.  But I was off-duty enjoying a lovely, chore-free Mother’s Day.  The husband and the world’s greatest kid put this together as part of a truly relaxing, enjoyable day for moi!  No cooking, no dishes, re-fills on wine, plentiful hugs.  It was all good!

Including this pasta salad, which should go on every picnic menu you put together from now until you can’t eat another pickled banana pepper.  It deviated wonderfully from the all-too-predictable pasta salad of  yesteryear: tomatoes, broccoli, green onions, yada yada yada, slathered in Kraft Italian Dressing.  Don’t make that one again.  Make this one.  Great flavors from sweet to savory, great textures from crisp and crunchy to smooth and creamy.  When I tried it, Kat asked what I thought and I blurted out, “It’s like a fiesta in your mouth!”  I’ll probably regret that later, but at the time it caused endless giggles and was a spot on description.

Let the fiesta begin.  Enjoy!

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Italian Basil Pasta Salad (recipe adapted from Taste of Home)

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (16 oz) bow tie pasta
  • 2 c grape tomatoes
  • 7 oz mozzarella cheese pearls, halved
  • 1 medium sweet yellow pepper, diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1/2 c pickled banana pepper rings, diced
  • 1 can (2 1/4 oz) sliced ripe olives, drained (the husband used capers)
  • 4 thin slices hard salami, chopped
  • 1/2 c fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Dressing:

  • 3/4 c olive oil
  • 3/4 c red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil

Directions:

  • Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and rinse in cold water. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, tomatoes, cheese, yellow pepper, onion, pepper rings, olives (or, capers, if you’re so inclined), salami and basil.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

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Cook’s Notes:  Make this a day ahead if you can, to let the flavors really come together.