Pasta Salad: the Comeback Kid

I will admit it–I was very skeptical of Jennie’s challenge.  The first thing that came to mind was the “Suddenly Salad” mixes.  Remember those? It might be okay in a pinch (if I’m feeling generous) but certainly nothing to get excited about.  So I started over, in my favorite starting place: what do I have in the fridge?  And then I had my answer!

Thanks to the Arkansas Sustainability Network’s Local Food Club, I am overrun with vegetables.  Seriously, the abundance is almost obnoxious: armloads of the most luscious fresh herbs, eggplants, squash, onions, carrots, cucumbers, greens, tomatoes….well, you get the idea.  So, a vegetable pasta salad was most definitely in order.

I decided on grilled zucchini, pattypan squash and yellow squash, with roasted red peppers, sungold cherry tomatoes, bocconcini style fresh mozzarella, and a basil-garlic vinaigrette. Oh, and pasta too.

I took the completed salad to a Father’s Day barbecue and braced myself for it to be ignored.  But it was far from ignored–it was eaten eagerly by everyone there and some even went back for seconds.  Apparently I am the only person who had an unreasonable pasta salad bias.  Now, even I have seen the light:

Grilled Vegetable Pasta Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

1 box farfalle or other sturdy pasta
1 pound summer squashes
1 red bell pepper
olive oil for grilling

1 pint sungold cherry tomatoes
1 pint bocconcini style fresh mozzarella

1/2 cup fresh basil, divided
2 tbl. fresh oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dijon mustard
3 tbl. red wine vinegar
1/3 c. good olive oil

Begin by putting a big pot of water to boil and heat your grill to medium high.   Slice your squashes lengthwise into 1/4 in. planks.  Brush the squash with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.  When water is ready, cook your pasta according to package directions.  Rinse with cold water and chill.
Grill the squash about 3-4 min. on each side, or until they look roughly like this:

Roast the red pepper on the grill or over a gas flame until it is blistered and beginning to blacken.  Put the pepper in a plastic bag and when cool enough to handle, remove skin and seeds.  Chop pepper.

Put chilled pasta in a bowl, add red pepper.  Cut squash into 1/2 in. pieces and add to bowl.  Slice tomatoes and bocconcini in half and add to bowl.

Add minced garlic, 1/4 c. basil, oregano, vinegar, mustard to blender or small bowl.  Whisk or pulse to blend.  Whisking or blending, slowly add olive oil to emulsify.  Stack remaining basil leaves, roll tightly, cigar style, and slice into chiffonade.  Add dressing and basil to salad and toss gently.  Add salt and pepper to taste.