I’ve made probably 84,000 pasta salads in my life, and I’m guessing you have, too. The old standby is a short, tube-shape or elbow noodle drowning in Hellmann’s with little pieces of cucumber and tomato bobbing along infrequently. We can all admit this is nothing more than a vehicle for mayonnaise, and I’m totally okay with that. Mayo on Wonder Bread was my favorite snack to sneak when I was a little fat kid. It definitely has its place on the picnic table, especially alongside spicy barbeque; it’s a basic macaroni salad that is cooling and comforting. Lately though, I can’t get enough olive oil. It just might be my favorite food. In this pasta salad, the fruity fat from the oil is really nicely balanced by acid from both vinegar and lemon juice. The recipe also includes lemon zest for extra, well, zest. Cooking the shallot and garlic makes the flavors more round, and the asparagus lends an earthiness to the dish. Definitely make it ahead, and let the ingredients marinate for hours, if not overnight, before serving at your Labor Day feast.
Orzo Pasta Salad with Asparagus and Artichoke
Adapted from a recipe on “In the Know Mom“
- 1 bunch asparagus, halved lengthwise and diced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 shallots, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 12 ounces orzo pasta, cooked to al dente and cooled
- 15-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
- 1-1/2 cups sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, julienned
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup olive oil
In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring saucepan full of water to a boil. Remove from heat, add asparagus, and blanch for 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, heat one tablespoon oilive oil in a small saute pan. Add shallots and garlic, and saute for 1-2 minutes, or until tender. Drain the asparagus, and rinse with cool water to halt cooking.
In a large bowl, combine cooked orzo pasta, asparagus pieces, sautéed shallots and garlic, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomato, and lemon zest. Toss to combine.
In a small bowl or container, whisk together lemon juice, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper. While continuously whisking, slowly pour olive oil into the vinegar. Once emulsified, stir the dressing into the salad. Move to the refrigerator for at least 5 hours for flavors to combine. Serve cold.