After the chewy, sticky mess you served last summer, you swore never again to take pasta salad to a picnic.
Forego penne for something more inventive: Take a page from local James Beard-nominated author and blogger Heidi Swanson. The satisfying vegetarian recipes in her latest cookbook, Super Natural Every Day, (like the ravioli salad below) are impressive, accessible, and always healthy.
Go on, give macaroni the elbow.
Serves four to six
⅓ c. pepitas
1 c. lightly packed cilantro leaves and stems
⅓ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, plus more if needed
⅔ c. extra virgin olive oil
16 oz. fresh or frozen ravioli (if you can find it, red pepper with chard filling, but both spinach and whole wheat are worthy options)
½ c. oil-cured black olives, pitted and torn or chopped
Fine-grain sea salt
Thyme or chive flowers, to garnish (optional)
1. Toast the pepitas in a single layer in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Toss them around every couple of minutes, until fragrant and toasty. Let cool.
2. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
3. In the meantime, make the cilantro pesto.
4. Combine most of the pepitas, cilantro, Parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon juice, and a splash of olive oil, and blend with an immersion blender (or in a food processor or standard blender) until smooth.
5. Continue blending as you gradually drizzle in the remaining olive oil, until the pesto comes together into a vibrant green sauce. Taste and add salt or lemon juice, if needed.
6. When the water boils, salt it generously, add the ravioli, and boil until they float and are cooked through, usually just 1 or 2 minutes.
7. Drain immediately and while still hot, toss with a big spoonful of the pesto. Allow the pesto to soak in a bit.
8. Add another ½ c. of the pesto along with most of the black olives.
9. Toss well, but gently, and then decide whether you want to add more pesto. Turn everything out into a large bowl or platter and sprinkle with the remaining olives, pepitas, and flowers. Serve warm or at room temperature.
10. Reserve the remaining pesto for tossing with leftovers.
Adapted from Super Natural Every Day, available online at amazon.com, $16.
|Hungry? We have more picnic recipes to stuff your basket, plus the on-the-go accessories you’ll need to enjoy your meal alfresco.|