Black Pepper Pasta Salad with Prosciutto, Asparagus, and Romano

The first day of July – you would never know it where I live.  As we hear about the record heat across the country, it didn’t even come close to 70 degrees today.  I guess I should not be complaining, but seriously – is summer ever going to come?  I know I sound like a broken record, but last year, summer never did come.  People are starting to freak out around here that we will never see summer again.  I actually worry more about finding the perfect pasta salad.  Did I just write that?

With the 4th of July right around the corner, everyone is thinking about BBQs.  Since I made this potato salad the other week, I have been hooked – I think I have made it at least 2 times since then, and plan to make it again on the 4th.  So basically, my quest for the best potato salad is done.  Now I am on to pasta salad.  I usually prefer a non-mayonaise pasta salad, but I saw this one in Cooking Light, and had to give it a try.  I love asparagus and prosciutto together, and just thought it would make a wonderful pasta salad.  I have to say, for a mayo-based salad, it was delicious.  There was a lot of flavor in every bite – the prosciutto definitely helped there.  But the combination of tomatoes and asparagus with the pasta and prosciutto was right on.  It made a darn good side dish.  I will not claim victory just yet, but it was close.  I guess this means I will still be on the search, but I have a really good standby until I find the one.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces uncooked cavatappi pasta or elbow macaroni
  • 3 cups (1 1/2-inch) slices asparagus (about 1 pound)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 ounces prosciutto, chopped
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 6 tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 cup diced tomato
  • 1 1/2 ounces pecorino Romano cheese, grated (about 1/3 cup packed)

Preparation

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Add asparagus during the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain and rinse under cold water; drain.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan, and swirl to coat. Add prosciutto, and cook for 6 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove prosciutto from pan using a slotted spoon, leaving drippings in pan. Drain prosciutto on paper towels. Add the shallots to drippings in pan; cook over medium heat for 1 minute or until shallots are tender, stirring frequently.

Combine mayonnaise, lemon rind, tarragon, juice, pepper, and salt in a large bowl; stir well. Add pasta, asparagus, three-fourths prosciutto, shallots, tomato, and cheese; toss well to coat. Top servings evenly with remaining prosciutto.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Black Pepper Pasta Salad with Prosciutto, Asparagus, and Romano

Israeli Couscous with Asparagus and Red Peppers

I don’t know what it is about grilling season, but I am constantly looking for great sides that can be served warm or cold next to some nice grilled meat fresh off the BBQ.  I am a huge fan of couscous – but then one day I discovered Israeli couscous…I love those little balls of pasta – they are so perfect with fresh vegetables, and make a delicious side dish that you can serve at any temperature.  I remember trying to explain Israeli couscous to my daughters one evening – I told them that they were like rice except that they were pasta.  Then I had to explain the difference between rice and pasta – and that rice is a grain, and pasta is made from semolina flour, etc…and the conversation got way too complicated pretty quickly.

I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and it reminded me that I had a package of Israeli couscous in the pantry.  The vegetables in the recipe though didn’t do it for me – they were all green.  I felt that like I needed some additional color in there, so I modified the recipe slightly below.  The fresh lemon dressing was excellent – be sure to use fresh lemon  juice for this one, it is worth it.  I served this with some nice steaks that my husband grilled, and the dinner was a huge hit – we ate every last bit of the couscous.  My favorite part of this recipe?  You can substitute whatever vegetables you have in your garden, or refrigerator.  This will be on our menu a lot this summer.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 1 1/3 cups Israeli couscous (6 to 7 ounces)
  • 1 3/4 cups (or more) vegetable broth
  • 14 ounces slender asparagus spears, trimmed, cut diagonally into 3/4-inch pieces (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Test-Kitchen Tip

To trim asparagus, hold onto the top of the stalk with one hand and bend the bottom of the stalk with your other hand. The stalk will snap, separating the woody end from the tender top.

Preparation

Whisk 2 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, 1 garlic clove, and lemon peel in small bowl; set dressing aside. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add couscous, sprinkle with salt, and sauté until most of couscous is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add 13/4 cups broth, increase heat, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender, about 10 minutes, adding more broth by tablespoonfuls if too dry.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add asparagus, sugar snap peas, green peas, and remaining garlic clove. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; sauté until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer vegetables to large bowl.

Add couscous to bowl with vegetables. Drizzle dressing over. Add chives and cheese; toss. Season with salt and pepper.

Serves 6.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Israeli Couscous with Asparagus and Red Peppers

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