Cashew Pesto Radiatore Pasta Salad
Radiatore pasta look very similar to rotini shaped pasta but they're shorter, with a ruffled edge. Whenever I cook this particular shape of pasta, I know the dish will be devoured. There is just something about the shape of this pasta that kids love. And grown-ups who are like kids, like my Lulu, love it as well.
We planned a last-minute picnic and I needed to come up with a quick and tasty dish that everyone could enjoy. Pasta salad is always a crowd pleaser and with the help of my sisters-in-law, I threw together the radiatore pasta with a cilantro lime cashew pesto sauce, with some roasted walnuts added for texture. To this, I incorporated vegetables, specifically broccoli, bell peppers, zucchini and sun-dried tomatoes. I had bought really cute perlini mozzarella balls and I added them to the dish, because who can say no to cheese?
For the non-vegetarians, there was some smoked salmon. I like smoked salmon in pasta salad because it works so well cold and is tastier than canned tuna or boiled chicken.
Yields: 6 servings1 (16-ounce) package radiatore pasta (I used tri-color pasta)
1/3 cup walnuts, dry roasted (check tips)
3 cups cilantro (about 1 bunch), tightly packed
1/2 cup cashew nuts, dry roasted, coarsely chopped (check tips)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large jalapeño chile, roasted, skinned, seeded, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/3 teaspoon coriander seeds, freshly ground
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns, freshly ground
4 ounces perlini fresh mozarella cheese (pearl-sized bites), drained
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, coarsely chopped
2 zucchini, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
5 large broccoli florets
For the lime: Zest and juice the lime. Set aside.
For the cilantro lime cashew pesto: Wash the cilantro. Quickly blanch it for about 10 seconds in boiling salted water and transfer to an ice bath, to maintain a bright green color. Drain thoroughly of all water and pat dry on paper towels. Coarsely chop the cilantro.
In a blender (or a mini-food prep if you have one, see tips), mix the cilantro, jalapeño, cashews, ground coriander seeds, olive oil, garlic, 1/3 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper. Add the juice of half the lime. Set aside.
For the radiatore pasta: Bring about 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the radiatore pasta, bring back to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle boil. That way the pasta is cooked all the way through evenly. Cook the pasta for about 12 minutes total. Salt (with 2/3 teaspoon) the water half-way through the cooking process (it will bring out the natural flavor of the pasta and the pasta will be more tender) and keep stirring every now and then so that the pasta does not stick to the bottom. It may take longer than the cooking time that is written on the box. When the pasta is cooked (cooked inside and out but still in shape and firm), transfer the radiatore to a large flat platter. Add the remaining lime juice and its zest. Season with the remaining salt. Let the pasta cool to room temperature.
For the zucchini and broccoli: Blanch the zucchini in about a quart of salted boiling water. Cook for about 1 minute. Add the broccoli. Cook for another 2 minutes. Strain and immediately transfer the greens into a cold water bath. Pat dry on a towel. Cut the broccoli florets into small bite-sized pieces.
Assembly time: In a large serving bowl, combine the radiatore pasta, mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, diced bell pepper, zucchini and broccoli and cilantro lime cashew pesto. Toss well. Plastic-wrap the bowl, and chill it in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Serve at room temperature. Add the roasted walnuts at the last minute for extra crunch.
Little reminder on how to roast jalapeño peppers: it's the same method as roasting bell peppers. Once you know how to make them yourself, you'll never buy the ones in a jar again. To start, cut the stem off the jalapeño. Wash it, pat it dry, then brush it with oil. Place a grill on your stove and char all the skin of the jalapeño. Wrap in aluminum foil. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes. Clean the chile using a knife; the skin will come right off. Seed it, then finely chop the flesh. Voilà!
For the pesto: I've used 3 mini-food preps so far and the mini Cuisinart is definitely my favorite one. Don't get tempted into buying the slightly bigger size. I made the mistake of buying one of these larger processors because it was about the same price but I ended up returning it. The problem is that the ingredients won't grind as finely as they o in the mini. I would advise you to get the mini-prep for your sauces and the 14-cup one for your bigger jobs. There is no need to get the models in between. They'll just clutter your kitchen.
I always make extra to store in the freezer. If you make an extra batch of pesto, you can store the rest in an ice-cube tray and freeze them. I transfer the ice-cubes 3 by 3 into bags that I vacuum-seal and place back in the freezer for future use. I think it's the best way to keep the same flavor without getting freezer burn. I keep them exactly the same way I would do with extra meat tenderizer for poultry. You can store the pesto in your freezer for up to 6 months or for 2 weeks in your refrigerator.
I found perlini mozarella cheese at my local market. If you don't have any, just cut the mozzarella into pearl-sized pieces.
How to roast nuts: To release all the flavor and oil of the nuts, I like to roast them in the oven for about 10 minutes at 325°F before using them. The only nuts that I dry roast on the stove are pine nuts. They are smaller, cook more quickly and are much easier to watch and manipulate on the stove top.
The key to a good pasta salad is to have a homogeneous mixture. All the vegetables should be the same size as the radiatore pasta.
You can store the pasta in the refrigerator if you make the dish in advance. Just make sure to remove the pasta from the refrigerator and let it stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.
Published By: on August 12, 2009.
For the non-vegetarians, there was some smoked salmon.