Spring has arrived, and here is a fantastic way to take advantage of the fresh veggies. Serve this at your next barbecue!
Spring Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Asparagus and Mozzarella
*1 lb penne pasta
*1/2 lb fresh Mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes
*1 large bunch of scallions, about a dozen, sliced into thin rounds
*2 dozen ripe cherry tomatoes, cut in half and drained for 20 minutes in a colander to remove excess liquid
*1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
*zest and juice from 1 lemon
*1/2 lightly toasted cup pinenuts
*large handful fresh basil leaves, lightly chopped
1. Put up a large pot of salted water for cooking the pasta and bring it to a boil. Add the asparagus and blanch it until just tender, about 3 minutes. Scoop the asparagus from the water with a large strainer spoon and place in a colander. Run cold water over it to stop the cooking and to preserve the bright green color. Drain well and slice into small pieces on the diagonal, leaving the tips whole.
2. Bring the water back to a rapid boil and cook the penne until just al dente (tender but slightly firm to the bite). Run the pasta under cold water and drain very well.
3. In a large serving bowl, add the pasta, the blanched asparagus, and all the remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper, and toss well until all the pasta is well coated with dressing. Taste for seasoning. This is best served at room temperature. Serves 4 to 5 as a main course, or 6 to 7 as a first course or side dish.
4. Note: Another lovely addition to this pasta is about 3/4 cup freshly shelled spring peas. Blanch them for 1 minute in the boiling pasta water after you blanch the asparagus. Drain well and add them to the bowl along with the other ingredients.