Monday, March 12, 2012

Balsamic Pasta Salad with Bocconcini and Roasted Asparagus

I'll never forget the first time I took my husband to Whole Foods.  "This place is miraculous" were his exact words.  And it really is.  It's nothing like the grocery stores we've become accustomed to- at which people rush around in an angry frenzy, all of them wishing they were somewhere else.  It's a place where people come to admire the fruits of mother nature- a museum for people who love food, if you will.  And if Whole Foods is a museum, then the salad bar is where the crown jewels are held- and priced accordingly.  So rather than spend a week's worth of diapers on one meal, I've taken to tasting and then recreating their offerings at home.  And this balsamic pasta salad, in my opinion, blows theirs straight out of the water. 

Words cannot express how much I love balsamic vinegar, and this salad is such a perfect vessel for it.  It's also great to make ahead of time, as the flavors only intensify, especially in the asparagus, which soaks it up so beautifully while still holding its shape.  Heaven.

Balsamic Pasta Salad with Bocconcini and Roasted AsparagusYield: 4-6 servings
(Can be made vegan by substituting nutritional yeast for parmesan and omitting bocconcini)

12 oz multicolored rotini
1 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup capers 
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup sundried or slow-roasted tomatoes
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1/2 cup sliced red onions
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan
1 cup bocconcini
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350.  Drizzle asparagus with 2 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, until fork tender.  Bring large pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to instructions on package.  Whisk together remaining 2 tbsp olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and garlic.  Add all ingredients to pasta and gently toss with dressing.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

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