August 7, 2012 Pasta Salad with Sun Gold Tomatoes, Green Beans and Pesto Dressing

Pasta salad, that ubiquitous summer take along for picnics, barbecues and potlucks doesn’t have to be boring. This particular one was made with fresh ingredients from our garden and a spicy pesto vinaigrette. I picked very sweet and fruity Sun Gold tomatoes and a combination of our second growth of bush beans with the first of the pole beans. I chose penne rigate as the pasta, not just because it was the only acceptable pasta shape we had on hand but the ridges would nicely hold the bits of pesto. The dressing is a slightly deconstructed take on pesto, the toasted pine nuts are added to the salad separately rather than part of the dressing to give the salad some extra crunch. Sun gold tomatoes are a relatively new favorite of ours. They are a tangerine-orange cherry tomato developed in Japan where consumers prefer a tomato that is sweet rather than tart. The recipe is just a canvas to fill in with your own summer ingredients. Choose grilled slices of zucchini, chunks of pepper, cubes of cooked eggplant, or a different variety of tomato. Walnuts would be a good choice to replace the pine nuts and a Grana Padano could replace the more traditional  Parmigiano Reggiano. Just be sure to use freshly grated cheese, not pre grated or the stuff that comes in a green can!

Pasta Salad with Sungold Tomatoes, Green Beans and Pesto Dressing

Created using the Fine Cooking pasta salad recipe maker

Serves eight


For the Vinaigrette

  • 1 1/2 c lightly packed basil leaves
  • 1/2c extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c or more fresh, finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3T red wine vinegar
  • 2T fresh lemon juice
  • 2t  finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2t finely grated lemon zest
  • 1t kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the salad

  • kosher salt
  • 1 lb green, purple and wax beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 1/2 lb small chunky pasta
  • 1T olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups of cherry tomatoes, halved (l love using my Cutco steak knife for this)
  • 3T pine nuts, toasted
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions for the Vinaigrette

  1. Put the basil, olive oil, Parmigiano, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic and lemon zest in a blender. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Directions for the salad

  1. In a large pot bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil over high heat
  2. Drop the beans into the boiling water and cook until they are just crisp-tender, about 4-5 minutes. Remove beans from pot with a slotted spoon and place in colander. Rinse with cool water and transfer beans to a baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain and cool.
  3. Return the water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente, following package instructions. Drain the pasta thoroughly in a colander and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Toss the pasta with the olive oil to prevent sticking.
  4. Transfer the cooled pasta to a large serving bowl. Add beans and cherry tomatoes and toss. Add just enough vinaigrette to moisten the pasta, do not over dress. Add the pine nuts and toss again. Let the salad rest for 20 minutes or so to allow the flavors to blend and then taste the salad again. If needed, add a little more vinaigrette, salt and pepper. Grate a little extra cheese on top if desired.












The little green bean at the bottom left of the picture will eventually turn as purple as the blossoms!











Sun Golds at various stages of ripeness.

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I love to cook, garden, entertain and celebrate holidays with family and friends in Bucks County Pa. I was an off-premise caterer for over 20 years with events ranging from ten to four hundred guests.

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