What's On the Side: Pesto Pasta Salad

For the long Memorial Day weekend, D and I packed up the car, and, along with Leroy, made the eight-hour trip up through the UP, across the Mackinac Bridge, and down to D's family's cottage in northern Michigan. As usual, I brought with me a ton of books and magazines to read (I'm forever behind on all my magazine subscriptions), and this time I also brought along my slow cooker and a cooler full of groceries. (Yes, they have grocery stores in northern Michigan, but I'm the first to admit I'm a bit picky about where my food comes from (read: how it was raised/grown).)

My food duties over the weekend included making sweet potato homefries and crispy bacon as part of our breakfast on Saturday and pulled pork (cooked in the slow cooker) sandwiches for dinner on Sunday. Along with the pulled pork sandwiches I served a pesto pasta salad, inspired by a recent post by Joy the Baker. I also meant to serve some baked beans with the sandwiches, but completely spaced on doing so, which I discovered when I pulled the can out of our grocery bag while unpacking upon our return to Wisconsin. Whoopsies! Good thing I did remember to serve the veggie potato chips on the side as well!

This pasta salad is quick to put together, and most of the time is spent waiting for the pasta to cook. Of course, this is not wasted time, as you can spend it prepping the other ingredients, chopping the olives, tomatoes, and pistachios, and slicing the cheese. I'm a huge fan of pistachios (the shelling of which does quite the job on my manicure, sigh) so I was totally into the addition of these salty and crunchy nuts to the mix. The sweetness of the tomatoes works wonders with the savoriness of the olives, and the pesto sauce helps to meld all the flavors together. And if you know anything about me, you know that I love cheese. Fresh mozzarella is one of my favorite things, and it adds just the right amount of creaminess to this fresh summertime salad.

Pesto Pasta Salad (printer-friendly version)
makes 8-10 servings

4 cups dried chiocciole pasta
4 tablespoons basil pesto
1 pint organic cherry tomatoes, sliced in quarters
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced
1/4 cup shelled salted pistachios, chopped
1/2 cup fresh small mozzarella balls, sliced in quarters
fresh basil, for garnish

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt, then add the pasta and cook according to the manufacturer's instructions. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Let the pasta cool slightly.
2. Stir in the pesto until the pasta is evenly coated. Stir in the tomatoes, olives, pistachios, and mozzarella. Garnish with fresh basil and serve.

(adapted from this Joy the Baker recipe)