If you adore the sweet and salty, yet tangy flavors of sun-dried tomatos as much as I do, then the chances of you loving this pasta salad dish is favorable. This pasta salad contains everything good in the world, kind of like "sugar, spice and everything nice" :) Loads of sun-dried tomatos, arugula, Asiago cheese, pine nuts, oregano and basil! Combine all those ingredients into one dish and what do you get? Pure love for your tummy as well as nutrition from the roasted red onions, eggplants and zucchinis.
This recipe from, once again, Esalen Cookbook, Organic and Healthy Recipes from Big Sur by Charlie Cascio was created as a pasta salad, hence not a main course meal but I found this dish works well as a pasta salad side (as it was meant to be) or a main pasta dish, and could be eaten for cooler and warmer seasons as the salad could be eaten at room temperature or served warm. And although served fresh and warm is mighty fine I prefer this pasta salad dish at room temperature, giving all the ingredients once tossed together time to mix, mingle and marry is a sure way to taste this dish's true flavor.
While this recipe is fairly simple the only thing I complained silently to myself about were the many steps (minus the prepping), roast the vegetables, make the pesto, boil the pasta, toss it all together (which by the way was no easy feat considering I used the largest mixing bowl I had and still found it a little too small)! The easiest way to go about these many steps without feeling over-whelmed and/or if you are multi-taskly impaired is to 1. Prep and roast the vegetables (the vegetables do need to cool before the final toss-up, so do this first, then follow it up by 2. Roasting the pine nuts, followed by 3. Grating the cheese, followed by 4. Making the pesto (which is okay to sit around awhile while you impatiently cook up the pasta), and then finally 5. Cook the pasta.
Ingredients for pesto sauce:
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup warm water
2 cloves garlic
1 cup fresh basil, stemmed and roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh oregano stemmed and roughly chopped
1/2 cup EVO
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
Recipe for pesto sauce:
Soak the sun-dried tomatoes in the warm water for 10min, [goal is to soften up the tomatoes. The recipe never specifies whether the tomatoes are to be bought in olive oil or not, but I think either will work just fine, mine were jarred in olive oil but I still soaked them in warm water for 10min and the recipe still ended up being delicious.]
Then add the sun-dried tomatoes with the warm water it was soaking in into a food processor fitted with a chopping attachment. Add the garlic, basil, oregano, olive oil, pepper, and salt. Blend this together until you have a thick paste.
Ingredients for Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta Salad:
1 med-sized red onion, cut in 1/2inch dice
2 med-sized zucchini, cut in 1/2inch dice
1 eggplant, cut in 1/2inch dice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup pin nuts
2 cups dry orecchiette, shell, or penne pasta
1 recipe Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
1 cup roughly chopped arugula
1 cup grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese
Recipe for Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta Salad:
Toss the diced red onions, zucchini and eggplant in a mixing bowl with the olive oil and salt. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a 450 degree preheated oven, they should be slightly brown and shriveled (about 30min). Set this aside to cool.
In a heavy-bottomed skillet, pan-roast the pine nuts over medium heat, making sure to stir. [If you do not like pine nuts omit the ingredient, it'll taste just as dandy without them- I did!]
In a 2-quart saucepan over high heat, bring 1 1/2 quarts of water with 1 tbsp of salt to a boil. Stir in the pasta. When the pasta comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for another 11 minutes. Remove the pasta from the heat and strain in a colander.
Place the pasta in a LARGE mixing bowl with the roasted veg, Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto, pine nuts, arugula and cheese, and toss it all together.
*** Tip: To make it easier on myself I bought pre-packaged Arugula salad from Trader Joe's, this made things very easy as all I had to do was add the amount needed to the final tossing stage, didn't even have to chop them!