UPDATE!!!! The winner of the vote for “No Name Pasta Salad” is: LAURA’S TUSCAN PASTA.
I have a new pasta salad recipe to share with you. The only problem is that it has no name! It all started last month when I was starving and dropped by a local caterer, Tastefully Yours, to pick up some lunch. Staring inside the shop’s sparkling glass case, the large white bowl brimming with a penne pasta salad captured my attention. Eating the pasta in my car (No, I couldn’t wait until I got home!), my taste buds lit up from the salty accents provided by the sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, and parmesan cheese; earthy undertones of the asparagus; peppery bite of the basil; plus the tangy artichoke hearts and rich, fruity EVOO.
I forgot about the pasta until last week, when I was shopping at the local farmers market in Pleasantville, NY. Strolling past the booths chock full of organic fruits, vegetables, cheeses, breads, honeys and jams, I happened upon the Pickle Licious stand. After buying a pint of semi-dill pickles (my husband, Bob loves them), I started examining their other merchandise. Who would’ve guessed that Pickle Licious also sells artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes and black olives, the very pillar of the penne I’d had at Tastefully Yours? I bought small containers of each of these so I could concoct my own version of the pasta back home. Then I headed over to the supermarket to pick up some asparagus and whole-wheat penne.
Back at the house, I started boiling water for the pasta, then searched the kitchen and its environs for the other ingredients I needed, namely shredded parmesan from the frig and basil leaves from my plant on the back deck. Surveying the pantry, I decided some pine nuts would add a little crunch, and, after toasted, a nutty-smoky flavor. “Hmmm, and while we’re at it, a pinch of red pepper flakes, would impart a bit of heat,” I said to myself. Steamed asparagus, cut into one-inch pieces, plus roughly chopped olives, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes came next. For good measure, I added some fresh mozzarella, which I chopped into cubes.
Now that I had made the pasta, all that I needed was to have a name for it. I called up Tastefully Yours and asked them what the name of their dish was. The clerk told me, “Penne Pasta.” “Well, that’s not very creative,” I hopefully said to myself, before thanking him and hanging up the phone. When I served the dish to my husband that night, I asked him what he would call it. He came up with “Pasta Rustica.”
The next day, on a glorious fall hike in Rockefeller Park, I asked my friends Hillary and Roberta what they would name the pasta. They brainstormed and came up with “Penne Mediterraneo” and “Laura’s Tuscan Pasta.” I made the dish again for my brother, David, who was visiting from Cleveland, and he suggested “Autumn Penne.”
So, now you get to vote! Please enter your favorite choice in the comment box below. If you have an additional suggestion, please feel free to share. I promise to let you know the winning choice ASAP.
1) Pasta Rustica
2) Penne Mediterrano
3) Laura’s Tuscan Pasta
4) Autumn Penne
5) Your Choice
NO NAME PASTA
1 pound whole wheat penne pasta
1/3 cup olive oil
1 pound asparagus
3/4 cup artichoke hearts in oil
3/4 cup sundried tomatoes in oil
1/3 cup good black olives, such as kalamata, pitted
8 oz. fresh mozarella
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup basil
1/3 cup Parmesan
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Boil water and prepare the pasta according to directions.
Set up the steamer, fill the bottom with water, and bring to a boil. Trim the dry ends off of the asparagus. If the spears are thick, peel bottoms lightly with a vegetable peeler. Place them in the top half of the steamer pan set. Steam for 5 to 10 minutes depending on the thickness of the asparagus, or until asparagus is tender. Cut the asparagus into one-inch pieces.
Roughly chop the artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, olives, mozzarella, and basil. Toast the pine nuts.
Mix all the ingredients together and serve.