Tender baby button mushrooms paired with peppery rocket, gluten free pasta, and a lemony basil walnut pesto in this light but filling salad that is perfect all year round.
We drove back from the coast this morning. After one last long walk along the coast line and one last breakfast in the sunshine we farewelled Chris’s family and drove back home to join my family in a little New Year’s celebration. Jess and Trent are kindly hosting us, and I couldn’t turn up empty handed. I want to end the year contributing to the bounty of the table as a sign of the blessings of the old year and the amazing things to come in the new year. After travelling all morning though, I wanted something simple to throw together, and something that I would be happy eating for lunch in the first few days of 2015.
This salad combines hearty gluten free spiral pasta (I am partial to the San Remo brand) with a generous amount of briefly sauteed button mushrooms, fresh rocket, and home-made walnut and basil pesto. The important point to remember with pasta salad is to not overcook anything. Boil your pasta until it is just al dente. Follow the instructions on the packet of whichever brand you use, and when the time is almost up test a few pieces. If the pasta is still crunchy in the middle, cook it for longer. If the pasta is firm but cooked the whole way through then you have the perfect pasta for salad. Remove from the heat, drain, and rinse. Pasta salad is the only time I advocate rinsing pasta (the starch usually helps the sauce to stick to the strands) because it prevents the strands from clumping together. The mushrooms are likewise just cooked until golden on the outside and tender in the centre. You want them to still look like mushrooms and to hold up to a bite.
This pasta salad is perfect the whole year round. You can serve it warm during the winter months, or room temperature/cooled during the long hot summer days. I love this salad for entertaining too because you can make it up to a day ahead! Just bring to room temperature and add the rocket and pesto before serving so that the rocket does not wilt.
Mushroom and Basil-Walnut Pesto Pasta Salad
Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Serves 4-6 generously
Note: if you do not require this to be gluten free please feel free to use 250 grams dried pasta made with wheat.
- 250 grams dried gluten free short pasta
- 3 cups diced small button mushrooms
- 2 large handfuls rocket leaves
- 1 cup (packed) basil leaves
- 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
- Zest and juice 1 lemon
- 4 tablespoons grated vegetarian parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Generous pinch salt and black pepper
- Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook pasta to packet instructions. Once cooked, remove from heat, drain, rinse, and cool to room temperature.
- While pasta is cooking, spray a non-stick pan with cooking oil and sauté mushrooms until starting to turn golden on the outside and cooked all the way through. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
- To make the pesto place basil leaves, toasted walnuts, lemon zest and juice, 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, and olive oil into a small food processor (you could also use a handheld stick blender and a deep bowl) and process until a thick paste forms. You may add up to 1 tablespoon of water if required. Stir in the remaining parmesan cheese.
- To bring the salad together place pasta, mushrooms, and rocket into a large bowl. Add the pesto and toss gently until pesto is well distributed.
- Serve as a side to your protein of choice, or as a light meal.
I can imagine this salad in my lunchbox when I go back to work in a few weeks. For now though, I’m going to put on the awesome pants Mum bought me for Christmas (black with white pineapples on them!), grab my boy and a bottle of something sparkly, and celebrate the end of 2014 with my loved ones. Happy New Year my beloved readers!