Enjoy this light, refreshing – and slightly different – pasta salad. It will look familiar, but taste surprising, in a very subtle way—try it hot or cold. Be sure to make the pesto well ahead of time for optimum flavor.
For the Pasta:
- 8 ounces pasta (fusilli or cavatappi)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup Cilantro-Walnut Pesto (recipe follows)
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, or to taste
- 1 small red bell pepper, diced very small
- 8-10 snow peas, trimmed and halved diagonally
- 4 to 6 ounces fresh mozzarella – in small dice
- Black pepper to taste
Additional minced vegetables: minced carrot, cucumber, and/or fennel
For the Cilantro-Walnut Pesto:
- 1 cup California walnut halves
- 1/2 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
- 1 cup firmly packed cilantro (leaves and smaller stems)
- Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Minced fresh cilantro
- Halved cherry tomatoes
- Chopped California walnuts
For the Pasta:
- Cook the pasta according the package instructions. Drain, then toss with olive oil, salt, 4 tablespoons of the pesto, and the vinegar. Stir to blend thoroughly, let it cool to room temperature.
- Stir in the vegetables, followed by the mozzarella and black pepper to taste.
- Serve warm or at room temperature – or chill, and serve cold. Top it with additional pesto, if you like, plus any of the other optional toppings.
For the Cilantro-Walnut Pesto (Makes 1/2 cup):
- Place the walnuts in a blender or the small bowl of a food processor, and grind to a coarse meal.
- Add the garlic, cilantro, and salt, and continue to run the machine until it becomes a uniform green paste (some light walnut texture is fine).
- Run the machine while you drizzle in the oil. Transfer to a container with a tight fitting lid, and refrigerate until use.