I've never been quite sure how I feel about pesto - sometimes I like it and sometimes it's just a bit too overpowering. But when I saw this recipe for a pasta salad with a basil pesto vinaigrette, I knew immediately that I wanted to make it. It looked like it was full of all sorts of good things - veggies that I could get from the farmer's market, baked tofu (my favourite way of cooking it...this would be a really good recipe to serve to anyone who hasn't tried tofu or doesn't think they like it!), and a sauce that promised to be amazing. And let me tell you, it definitely lived up to my expectations!
This is worth making for the sauce alone...while some pestos can be too oily or too garlicky, this one was smooth and lemony (although my garlic wasn't that fresh, so that might have made a difference. I also cut down the amount of oil by half).
I made the sauce first, and then I was tempted to skip the rest of the recipe and just eat the sauce with a spoon because it was so good...but I restrained myself to just licking it from fingers and saving the rest for the pasta!
Preparing the rest of the ingredients does require a bit of coordination - cooking each of the veggies separately, boiling the pasta, baking the tofu and toasting the walnuts. So make sure you read through the entire recipe first so that you know everything that needs to be done (that way you won't forget a step like I did...I completely forgot about the tofu until my veggies were almost done so everything had to be put on hold while I waited for the oven to heat up.) But don't worry, this recipe is very forgiving and is good to eat either warm, cold or at room temperature!
Tofu Pasta Salad with Veggies and Basil Sauce
Adapted from Smokin' Chestnut and Fine Cooking
½ lb dry pasta (I used rotini but another short type like bowties would work)
¾ lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
1.5 cups grape tomatoes, sliced
1 medium yellow squash, sliced
1 cup frozen peas
1 package firm or extra-firm tofu
¼ cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1.5 cups fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup grated parmesan
3 tbsp wine vinegar
Zest and juice of one lemon
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ tsp kosher salt
To make the dressing, blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor and keep in refrigerator until ready to use.
For the tofu, preheat the oven to 400. Drain the tofu and cut into ½ inch cubes. Place on a baking sheet lined with a greased foil sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned, flipping partway through if necessary.
For the pasta, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook for 4-5 minutes, until they are just crisp-tender. Remove beans with a slotted spoon and place on a clean dish towel to try. With the water still boiling, add the peas and cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove and let them dry with the beans.
Next, add the pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente, following the package directions.
Meanwhile, heat a bit of olive oil in a pan and sauté the sliced squash until it is softened and lightly browned. Lastly, toast the walnuts (you can use the same pan) for a few minutes, being careful not to burn them.
Drain the pasta and add it to a large bowl. Add in the beans, peas, squash, tomatoes and walnuts. Add the dressing and stir until it is all incorporated (I used the full amount of the dressing and it was just the right amount).
Let the salad sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.
Makes 4-6 servings (I got 5 meals out of it, plus a bit of random snacking from the fridge!)