Pasta salad is an excellent way to incorporate various vitamins and minerals into your diet. You can include whatever vegetables you want and then smother it all in your dressing of choice. Having been raised with Italian dressing on my pasta salad, I grew tired of it and wanted to try something new. Enter pesto. The result is a burst of flavor that accents the various vegetables included within and makes for an excellent, refreshing salad you can enjoy on any spring or summer day.
Pesto Pasta Salad
Yields approximately 8-10 cups
1 (14-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, drained
1 (12-ounce) box farfalle pasta (or pasta of choice)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper or seasoning of choice
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts marinated in water, drained and chopped
1 (10.5-ounce) container cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
1 (8-ounce) bag fresh broccoli, separated into small florets
3/4 cup extra-large black olives, halved
3 ounces fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 medium cloves garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 rounded teaspoon salt (adding more to taste)
Begin with tofu by pressing out excess liquid. You may either use a tofu press or wrap the tofu in cloth or paper towels and place a heavy item, such as a plate or two, on top and allow to sit for 15-30 minutes.
While tofu is being pressed, prepare pasta according to manufacturer’s directions. Drain, set aside and allow to cool completely.
Prepare pesto by first processing basil, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add olive oil and salt, and continue processing another 10-15 seconds, or until oil is incorporated. Set aside.
Slice pressed tofu into small cubes. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add tofu in a single layer and fry until golden brown on all sides. Season with salt and pepper, or the seasoning of your choice (I use a chicken-style seasoning). Set aside on a paper towel-covered plate in order to remove excess oil. Allow to cool.
Once pasta and tofu have cooled, combine with prepared pesto and remaining ingredients.