Grilling season is here, and it's time to arm your culinary repertoire with some top-notch side dishes.
This week we're showcasing Tony's Veggie Bow Tie Pasta Salad, featuring the elegant farfalle noodle with a variety of fresh vegetables and an amazing honey Dijon vinaigrette. But what really makes this salad sing is Tony's generous use of fresh mint, which brings a bright dose of refreshing flavor to the dish.
An ideal summer side dish should be easy to prepare and best when made in advance, leaving us with plenty of time to enjoy the long sunny days of our northern summers. This salad is best when refrigerated overnight, or even longer, and consists of ingredients that will hold up well over time.
For the pasta, Tony chose bow tie noodles, called farfalle in Italy (far-fall-eh), which means "butterfly." Not only is the shape perfect for the season, but this type of pasta holds up well over several days of refrigeration and is easily found in our local grocery stores.
The veggies have been selected based on their seasonal availability, as well as their ability to stay crisp and fresh over time. Tony chose two small- to medium-sized zucchini, which he cut into medium-diced cubes. He kept the peel on for added color, so make sure to wash the zucchini well before using.
Carrots bring crunch and more color to the salad, and here Tony has cut them into slivers on the bias (diagonal) for added elegance. His recipes calls for 2 cups of thinly sliced carrots, which equals about 2 large carrots if buying them already packaged, or about 4 medium green-top carrots.
Tony loves scallions for their bright green color and mild onion flavor, and for this dish he used an entire bunch from our local grocers. After washing, he removed the top inch and bottom half-inch and cut the remainder into pieces no wider than a quarter inch. Bright red grape tomatoes round out the veggie mix, bringing long-lasting flavor and crispness to the salad, even when sliced in half.
Mint is wonderfully prevalent in Sicilian cuisine, and it is the defining characteristic of this dish, taking it to the next level in the world of pasta salads. To keep things simple and elegant Tony has cut the mint "chiffonade" style. In spite of its fancy French name, this technique could not be easier: simply gather about 6 to 8 mint leaves in a pile from largest to smallest, roll them up and cut into thin strips, cutting from left to right.
The honey Dijon vinaigrette brings a wonderful burst of brightness to this salad. Tony is a big fan of using honey in salad dressings, as its gentle sweetness and rich texture bring a lovely balance to the tart acidity of mustard, vinegar and fresh lemon juice.
For the oil, Tony stays true to his Italian roots and uses only extra-virgin olive oil, but for pasta salads I prefer a mixture of olive oil with canola or vegetable oil. This combination helps keep the salad loose and moist even during refrigeration. Tony recommends a ratio of approximately 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, and his recipe yields about half a cup of vinaigrette. To mix the vinaigrette, simply put all of the ingredients in a Mason jar and shake until emulsified, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
This salad is a perfect side dish for graduation parties, bridal showers and company barbecues, and pairs well with grilled shrimp or chicken, either tossed into the salad or served on the side.
Tony's Veggie Bow Tie Pasta Salad
1 pound bow tie pasta, cooked
2 small to medium zucchini, medium-diced into cubes
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved (about 1 pint)
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup carrots, thinly sliced on the bias into slivers about ⅛-inch thick
6 to 8 leaves fresh mint, chiffonade
¼ to ½ cup Honey Dijon Vinaigrette (see recipe)
Tinly sliced rounds of red onion or radish (optional garnish)
Cook the pasta until al dente according to directions on package. Drain and rinse immediately in cold water to stop cooking.
In a large bowl, combine the pasta, veggies and mint with ¼ cup of vinaigrette; taste and add more dressing if desired. Keep extra dressing on hand to freshen up leftovers.
For best results, cover and refrigerate overnight before serving. Salad will last for several days up to one week when covered and refrigerated. Garnish with thinly sliced red onion or radish.
Honey Dijon Vinaigrette
Makes: approximately ½ cup
½ cup extra-virgin olive (or 50/50 extra virgin olive and canola/vegetable oil)
2 ½ tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a Mason jar and shake vigorously until emulsified. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 11-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them email@example.com and their blog at www.thelostitalian.areavoices.com.